GEORGE Galloway's career history reads like an index of controversy. He leaps from frying pan to fireand backagain, yelling "Look at me!", and as much as he thrives onthe adrenaline, the stress and ugliness of this world is increasingly showing through on the face of the man his foes ironically dubbed "Gorgeous George". There is a "catch me if you can" game being played here and it's remarkable how he is constantly drawn to the edge, so he can look into the abyss of failure and come back again.

Perhaps there is something haunted about George Galloway. His career appears to be a classic tragedy of power and ambition that we will have to watch unfold to its climax. As in Hamlet, one can perhaps detect a darkness and something deeper at work here, something that draws him towards the chaos of Lebanon, Palestine, Romania and Iraq, and something perhaps that draws chaos to him.

The lifeblood of his career has been the media, and his relationship with it is deep and complex, almost obsessive. He fights journalists and newspapers as if he hates the profession, yet more than almost any other politician he seems to believe his own press. Here, we present some of the highlights of a life sparring with the media.

THE SIN BIN At 21, Galloway's faced his first PR disaster. Unlike the dapper figure he cuts now, friends remember the then assistant secretary of Dundee City Labour Party looking like a scruffy student. He would refer to himself as "impecunious" and was so reliant on the Labour Party that he had to use a bedsit in their offices at 1 Rattray Street, in the city centre. He wanted a decent council flat, but there was a long waiting list in a city of more than 6000 official slums. It surprised some, therefore, that this unmarried 21-year-old should be allocated a three-room flat. It would prove to be a millstone around his neck.

The first couple of times Galloway had applied for somewhere to live he'd been told he was too young, but it was reported that he persisted and went back to the housing department for a third time. On this occasion a Labour colleague put in a good word for him too. That was in July 1976 but again he was refused, because the rules were that no single man under 25 qualified. A month later it was reported that Galloway's colleague went back and asked for advice, direct to the department, explaining that Galloway was now cohabiting with his girlfriend, Elaine Fyffe. Council guidelines made no distinction between a married couple and an unmarried one, so Galloway had to fill in a form and be patient. A few weeks later he was allocated a place in a popular modern tower block called Bucklemaker Court, in Hilton.

However, instead of a quiet move in, there was a photo shoot in the flat for the Sunday Mail, to promote Galloway for the forthcoming local council elections. It was a typical act of self-promotion, which ended up being a PR disaster. The picture paints a thousand words. The couple are sitting next to each other: Galloway in a casual sweater looks relaxed but determined. Fyffe looks like she's just sucked on a very sour lemon. It may just be a bad picture, but she appears so unhappy to be photographed that one wonders what was said immediately afterwards. If her instinct had been that this was a bad idea, she would have been right, because it stirred up outrage. Local folk stuck in their insanitary slums after the hottest summer for decades claimed they smelled a rat. "Constituents complained about Galloway," says then councillor Jim Duncan. "They were on the waiting list, wanting to be rehoused and he was suddenly in a nice flat, in his early 20s and not married. Their reaction was that we were all corrupt in the council."

Duncan complained to the director of housing, saying he was not satisfied with the answers he'd got about the allocation. In reply, it was stressed that no-one abused their position, or exerted any pressure, while Galloway's friends claimed the row was politically motivated. There is no suggestion that Galloway personally intervened, or acted improperly in any way, but the row took off. Though the council rules treated unmarried couples the same as married ones, the town's moral guardians did not. There was outcry that two people "living in sin" could be allocated a spacious council flat ahead of other more "righteous" folk. Under extreme pressure, Galloway and Fyffe quickly announced that they were "to be married within the month". This amused his political colleagues (Graham Ogilvy, Jack Martin and others), who claim that they had often heard him denounce marriage and religion as part of his Marxist philosophy.

Then, in a final twist, Galloway said he didn't want the flat after all. Perhaps he was embarrassed to have been so fortunate, or felt others were more needy. Maybe he'd decided that it was an election loser, or perhaps Fyffe and their families were so upset by the publicity that he thought it wasn't worth the hassle to keep the place. Anyway, he backed out of it, but the damage had been done and the tale of the Marxist, his girlfriend and their nice council flat was used by his opponents to undermine him in elections the following May.

Galloway was denounced from the local pulpit on the Sunday before the election. The Irish priest Basil O'Sullivan (now Canon O'Sullivan) described him as "living in sin" and "lying down like the beasts of the field". Sensational coverage in local papers rekindled all the bad publicity over the flat allocation.

In the election campaign, Galloway was tireless on the stump. But it was hard to get his message of no cuts and no rent rises over to people who seemed to have written him off already. The results were devastating: Galloway had turned a majority of 800 into a loss of 79 votes.

THE BEIRUT BLUNDER Although never a student at Dundee University, Galloway hung around there, playing snooker in the National Union of Students bar and chatting about politics. Crucially, he made friends with some young men from the Middle East, Palestinians and Iraqis. When the university's Friends of Palestine Society decided to plan a fact-finding trip to Beirut, Galloway was suggested as a potential delegate.

Galloway describes his first meeting with the society's Sa'ad Jabaji in reverential terms, giving the impression that that this was the key moment in the story of George Galloway the international statesman, champion of the Middle Eastern underdog, prophet of Blair's undoing in Iraq. It was as if Jesus had been alone in the wilderness; so was Galloway alone in the Labour Party office, Rattray Street, Dundee. Then there appeared a beautiful vision of a man, who transfixed him with tales from another world.

"I was alone in the Labour Party office and would normally not have answered the door," he later recalled, " but I did for some reason and there was a very handsome young man, who looked like Omar Sharif to me, and he spent the best part of two hours mesmerisingly describing the situation of the Palestinian people."

On the Beirut visit, in summer 1977, Galloway and the rest of the party were shown around "Fatahland", a buffer zone in southern Lebanon between the fighting factions, where they witnessed the hardship endured by homeless Palestinians and saw some tit-for-tat shelling. It was a dangerous trip and the group of 25 or so visitors were guarded at times by young PLO men carrying AK47s. The visitors got on very well with their armed escort and at one stage Galloway suggested they have a picture takentogether.Theresultsmakeinteresting viewing. The two guards look a little bemused, presumably not used to British political activists wanting to be pictured next to PLO gunmen just a few years after the Munich 1972 massacre. Galloway, though, is smiling as if he could be on the Costa del Sol, about to order paella and a round of drinks. When the picture surfaced in the press a few years later he was certainly left with egg on his face. It was an example of how he often seems to present PR coups to his opponents.

THE SEX SCANDAL In June 1987, following four years as general secretary of the charity War On Want, Galloway finally made it to Westminster, as Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead.ThefollowingSeptember,atapress conference held to announce his controversial departure from War On Want, he was cornered by a journalist into admitting his adulterous relationship with a woman who was standing for the charity's management council.

Daily Record journalist Brian McCartney asked him: "Obviously, there is some interest that you travelled to Greece in the company of presumably someone else, presumably a female. Is that the case?"

"Actually,"Gallowayreplied."Itravelledto Greece and was in Greece with lots of people, lots of people."

"You know precisely, George, what the question is."

"Well, I think you should state it. I think you should state it. I travelled to, and spent time in, Greece with lots of people, many of whom were women "

Fair enough, nothing controversial there. He still seemed to be giving nothing much away. Then, remarkably, he carried on uninterrupted: " some of whom were known carnally to me. Some of whom were known carnally to me. I actually had sexualintercoursewithsomeofthepeoplein Greece "

War On Want chair Simon Fanshawe at this juncture looked like a rabbit caught in headlights. He had instantly frozen and looked like he might never move again. Roadkill on the Galloway highway.

Galloway carried on: "... and if the British public and BBC Scotland think that's of interest they are welcome to broadcast it."

Reporter John Nairn carried on: "You mean while you were in Greece, or previously?"

"While I was in Greece, actually. While I was in Greece, actually. But whether the Scottish public are interested in that kind of garbage I have my doubts."

Fanshawe moved ever so slightly and uttered something about "that being a moot point". In front of him all the journalists, tabloid or broadsheet, BBC or STV, good, bad, ugly or indifferent, thought they'd died and gone to heaven. George Galloway MP had just admitted having sex with people on a trip to Greece.

Years later Galloway told Colette Douglas-Home of the Scotsman: "I said I had sex with more than one woman in a futile attempt to take the heat of Lilian Grewar."

When Galloway was interviewed by Clive Anderson for BBC Five Live at Christmas 2005, he claimed he had not had sex with more than one person in Greece and that he had been misreported. He explained that he had been referring to past sexual liaisons with delegates, not multiple ones in Greece.

Whatever he meant, whatever the details of his sex life really were, thenextday'spaperswerefullof"BonkingforBritain"-typestoriesand cartoons of Galloway with semi-naked girls, cavorting around the office of War On Want. While it was trivial stuff on one level, some contrasted Africans starving while Galloway was having a whale of a time, quaffing bubbly and chasing women.

THE SADDAM SALUTE In 1994, George Galloway made perhaps the most controversial of all his foreign visits, and certainly conducted his most controversial meeting. It was with Saddam Hussein, and despite its brevity, no more than 10 minutes, it has taken up thousands of column inches and hours of airtime.

His political opponents have cited his greeting to Saddam as proof that Galloway is not just for the Iraqi people, but also on the side of Saddam himself; Galloway has always been keen to point out that he did not support the Iraqi dictator. What is often quoted is the rather verbose section where Galloway says: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability. And I want you to know that we are with you hatta al-nasr, hatta al-nasr, hatta al-Quds until victory, until victory, until Jerusalem." When this is juxtaposed with the photo of the two men shaking hands, or if you see the video clip of them facing each other, about three feet apart, it appears to be a very personal, if formal, address. Galloway claims that this quote has been taken out of context and is part of a longer salute to the Iraqi people, not just the dictator.

Galloway's speech was translated for Saddam, so how do we know exactly what Saddam heard from the translator, Saad-Oun al-Zubaidi? According toAnasal-Tikriti,afriendofGalloway'sand spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain: "I understand Arabic and it was taken completely out of context. When he said you' he meant the Iraqi people, he was saluting their indefatigability, their resolve against sanctions. Even the interpreter got it right and, in Arabic, says salutes the stand of the Iraqi people'."

So it seems likely that Saddam thought Galloway was addressing the entire Iraqi people (including Saddam himself, of course) when he said "your courage, your strength and your indefatigability".

THE TOUR-DE-FORCE In May 2005, Galloway flew to America to give testimony before the US Senate Committee on the oil-for-food programme. His performance was a masterstroke. It was designed to push all the right buttons with the media. He even invoked America's anti-communist witchhunts (conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee and Senator Joseph McCarthy), by beginning: "Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf."

Galloway's performance will be remembered long after the issues have been forgotten, simply because it's a piece of great theatre. To most it wasn't about right and wrong, or politics, or Iraq, it was just one man versus the machine. When Galloway reviewed his own performance in his book Mr Galloway Goes To Washington, he wrote: "I can only say that God gave me wings that day." He flew, but some may wonder if, like Icarus, one day he will get too close to the sun.

THE BROTHER OF ALL GAFFES Publicity is the oxygen of every politician's career, but George Galloway has filled his lungs at more than usually regular intervals. On occasions he has been in danger of hyperventilating, but it was the media and general public who were rendered dizzy and incoherent when, around six months after his Senate Committee triumph, he turned up on Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother.

In the course of the 21 days he lasted in the house, he was made to wear a wig, dress up as Dracula, dance in a revealing leotard and pretend to beacat.Evenclosecomradeswereforcedto concede it was a mistake. He has made precious little political capital out of his appearance, but when the dust settled it did look like a watershed for him. Celebrity Big Brother can be seen as marking the end of his time as an MP of any serious intent. While Galloway will continue to argue for what he believes, it is more likely now this will be with callers into his radio phone-in on TalkSport, or perhaps as a polemical TV host or newspaper columnist. Even as the ink dries, there may well be another controversial incident in the pipeline. His enemies will throw up their hands and make as much political capital out of it as they can, while his friends will admire him for his guts and lack of compromise.

Apoliticianmaytakeonacausethatis unpopular, or so much against the current thinking of the government or establishment, that they start to get a Jesus complex, to think that they are a lonely voice of righteousness on a path to martyrdom, or that in some way they are already on the cross, suffering for us all. Some leaders also start to confuse themselves with the movement that centres on them. They think they have become the movement and to criticise them is to criticise the cause. Is there an element of this in George Galloway's makeup? Perhaps. He may still feel he is at the centre of the anti-war on terror campaign, but Blair is now history and soon Bush will be too. Galloway may well become just a small voice drifting into the wilderness, whose calls we will occasionally hear, like echoes, reminding us that a lot of people once cared enough to march against going to war in Iraq.

This is an edited extract from Gorgeous George: The Life And Adventures Of George Galloway, published by Politicos, £19.99