Just a few thoughts.
1) All politics is local
I don’t think you can understand Bradford West without having lived there. Places are different, and the difference is more than demographics. We don’t know, say, why there were race riots in Oldham but not in Keighley. This is why none of us saw this, why the media spent all last week going on about pasties and petrol scares. The Guardian‘s Helen Pidd was the only national reporter at the count. Galloway blindsided us. No one took him seriously until it was too late.
Asian people told Pidd they were sick of the Mirpuri mafia running everything. Labour’s candidate was seen as a timeserver and a product of the local political class. Local governance in every city and town is a small political game run by mediocrities with a sense of entitlement and too much time on their hands. This is why most people are repelled by politics in general, and in a way, it’s good that Bradfordians have struck a blow against the reality of localism – except that they voted for a demagogue of the totalitarian left.
2) All In It Together, Baby
Galloway attributed his win to ‘massive dissatisfaction with the political system in this country and the main political parties and their leaders… They support the same things, the same wars, the same neoliberal policies to make the poor poorer for the crimes of the rich people.’ He also described his victory as the ‘Bradford Spring’ – disgraceful, really, since Galloway has always been a supporter of Arab dictatorships, not Arab revolutionaries. In any conflict between Middle Eastern tyrants and populations he is cheering on the secret police.
The far left line that this represents a victory over the hydra-headed pasty-eating neoliberal hegemony is debateable, to say the least. George Galloway’s triumph is unlikely to lead to anything except more TV work for George Galloway. True, there is widespread and passionate antiwar sentiment in the public and the working class. But much of it isn’t pacifist or anticapitalist. The objection is that we are spending all our money on foreign wars. It is the same reason people are against international aid and immigration. Almost everyone is in favour of withdrawal from Afghanistan. The arguments tend to concentrate on lost British lives and wasted British money – which is no small matter – and few voices are speaking out for the Afghans that we are preparing to leave in the Taliban’s less than tender loving care. Antiwar thought in this country is not ‘let’s ban cluster bombs’ but ‘not worth the bones of a single British grenadier.’ In that sense, Galloway’s triumph was a victory for the silo nation.
3) Will you stand by Papa Georgie?
You cannot write Bradford West off on an ethnic vote. Galloway’s crowd have a point when they say it’s racist to do so. The turnout and majority are too high to be explained by communalism alone. Bradford is not 60% Muslim.
What is indisputable is that Galloway campaigned on religious and sectarian lines. The Galloway campaign was a hardcore version of Bethnal and Bow, adapted for the austerity age. His team were the predictable entourage of Islamists and far left thugs, and their literature speaks for itself. Galloway could be the first Western politician since the Volstead Act to campaign on his teetotalism. His supporters put out an attack line smearing the Labour candidate as an alcoholic. Typical sentence: ‘If [Labour candidate Imran] Hussain can’t get his Labour colleagues to help him out canvassing, he might have to rely on his trusted pals John E Walker and Jackie Daniels to give him a hand.’ This barely rises to the level of Homer Simpson’s campaign for Springfield’s Sanitation Commissioner.
Hussain was cast as a New Labour Uncle Tom. In his letter to prospective constituents, Galloway wrote that ‘God KNOWS who is a Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not.’ Got that? Anyone who claims that sectarianism has no part in this result is absolutely out of their minds.
Sectarianism goes beyond the totalitarian left. Galloway is known for it, because his strategies are big and obvious. But it is also a mainstream issue. Look at Phil Woolas. Look at Liam Byrne. Tories in Bradford West distributed anti-immigration literature to predominantly white areas. The mainstream has always been happy to tell white working class racists what they want to hear, and enjoy the benefits. They paid the price in Bradford, and we will all pay the price unless things change.
Conservatives complain that Britain is dividing on tribal lines. Maybe it is. In part at least, this is because of the communitarian, Big Society rhetoric and policy we have had for years from political and spiritual leaders of the left and right. It is because of the poisonous lie that the family, the group, the church and the community is more important than the rights, needs, cares and safety of human individuals.
Update: Papa Georgie appears to have forgotten which constituency he represents:
Welcome to the 6000 new followers. I will try to live up to your expectations. Shattered but happy after the Blackburn triumph.
Bradford, Blackburn, Northern mill towns, it’s more or less the same, right?