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March 30, 2012

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Strategist

This is a monster landslide for George, he is indeed a legend, he richly deserves it, and he will use the platform he has now been given well.
But I've got to say, a strategy for winning Bradford West and a strategy for winning a UK General Election are two different things. I bow to no-one in my hatred and disdain for New Labour, but they knew that the vast majority of the white working class didn't give a fuck about what we did to Iraq, and the 2005 Gen Election result proved that.

john b

"he will use the platform he has now been given well"

Curious call. He didn't last time. He was an unbelievably shit constituency MP, and he devoted his time to going on Big Brother and looking like a dickhead.

Agree on Iraq. Outside of political wonks, Trots and Muslims stirred up by rabble-rousers, nobody gives a monkey's, and quite rightly so.

Martin Wisse

Explain the one-two million marchign in London before the War on Iraq then.

dsquared

Actually Galloway's last use of a similar platform pretty nearly destroyed RESPECT, with the SWP as collateral damage.

they knew that the vast majority of the white working class didn't give a fuck about what we did to Iraq, and the 2005 Gen Election result proved that.

Iraq hadn't properly gone to shit until 2006. I mean, it was obvious early on, but there were still whataboutallthegoodnewsers and schoolpainters well into 2005. It was certainly never a vote winner for Labour.

dsquared

Although I must make clear that I think Jamie's theory of the central problem of the Parliamentary Labour Party being "a deficit of awesomeness" is well worth investigation.

ejh

Agree on Iraq. Outside of political wonks, Trots and Muslims stirred up by rabble-rousers, nobody gives a monkey's

Well, also large numbers of natural Labour supporters, quite a lot of Labour members and ex-members, all sorts of people really.

they knew that the vast majority of the white working class didn't give a fuck about what we did to Iraq, and the 2005 Gen Election result proved that.

I don't think this is the case. It is true that it didn't change most people's voting habits, because it wasn't their priority. This is often true: there's a large spectrum between not giving a stuff and thinking it very wrong but still thinking your vote needs to go a certain way.

bert

Anyone see this coming?
I certainly didn't, and there was essentially zero national reporting on it beforehand.
I remember they used Oona King's jewish background against her, although of course that was one factor among many. Miliband similarly vulnerable?

bert

Agree strongly with johnb on Galloway's merits as an MP and as a human being, btw. Reaching for antisemitism as an explanation for a foolish, damaging vote. Alternatively, is this the first British case following a continental pattern of the economic crisis boosting the extremist vote?

ejh

there was essentially zero national reporting on it beforehand

One hates to suggest that this was, in any way, because Bradford is some distance north of Westminster.

(In all seriousness, I'm sure by-elections used to be much better reported in my youth than they are now. Is this middle-age talking?)

CMcM

Galloway isn't my favourite leftist, not by some very long margin. ('Questions of character' have always surrounded him - my view of him has always been coloured by a long, drunken and private conversation with a former War on Want employee back in the 1980s*). But I think it ungenerous to suggest he bears primarily responsible for the SWP implosion a few years back: they managed that mainly off their own backs I'd say.

there's a large spectrum between not giving a stuff and thinking it very wrong but still thinking your vote needs to go a certain way.

Spot on. & I'd say it's a reasonable rule of thumb that very, very few people primarily vote on foreign policy issues. Not even wars.

Right now I'm havering between thinking this is a very ethnically/geographically specific result which tells us nothing about the general state of British politics and wondering if a case might be made for seeing it as being of a piece with the currently good polling results for Die Linke and the Front de Gauche


*a conversation I have no intention of ever repeating m'lud. No siree.

bert

One hates to suggest that this was, in any way, because Bradford is some distance north of Westminster.

In all seriousness, I've no doubt that's part of it. But in normal circumstances, a challenger would actively court national attention. Here, Galloway was running beneath the radar, concentrating on local networks to turn out support. And the Labour machine didn't want national attention on the fact that it appears to be fucked.

dsquared

I remember they used Oona King's jewish background against her

I think you misremember. There might have been some of that floating round but GG himself runs a very tight ship with respect to anti-Semitism, presumably at least partly because he knows how vulnerable he makes himself by banging on about Palestine all the time. In fact, The Blessed Oona was by no means averse to a bit of pandering-to-the-Muslims herself; she first crossed the radar of Harry's Place when on a trip to Israel she compared Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto. They do not like being reminded of this.

ajay

Curious call. He didn't last time. He was an unbelievably shit constituency MP, and he devoted his time to going on Big Brother and looking like a dickhead.

Agree - he was, I think, one of the worst if not the worst MP of that parliament in terms on constituency service, attendance in the House etc.

But I really can't see Galloway as a Harbinger of the Left Resurgent, CMcM. He's more like the British Ron Paul.

Guano

"Agree on Iraq. Outside of political wonks, Trots and Muslims stirred up by rabble-rousers, nobody gives a monkey's ..... "

Perhaps a slight exaggeration? The scale of spin and lying was breath-taking and gave an interesting insight into how our political system actually works. I suspect that quite a few people who were willing to accept tha nose-peg argument decided that a tipping-point had been reached and that they could not vote for either of the two mainstream parties.

"... nobody gives a monkey's, and quite rightly so."

Would you care to expand on that? Are you saying that it isn't important that the UK took part in alarge-scale military action and none of the various justification panned out, but that doesn;t matter at all?

Phil

I'm havering between thinking this is a very ethnically/geographically specific result which tells us nothing about the general state of British politics and wondering if a case might be made for seeing it as being of a piece with the currently good polling results for Die Linke and the Front de Gauche

Bit of both, I think. It's a very individual result, but people are starting to get seriously fed up with the government, & Labour's doing little or nothing to attract them.

Galloway was running beneath the radar, concentrating on local networks to turn out support. And the Labour machine didn't want national attention on the fact that it appears to be fucked.

And, in the land of respectable political commentary, everybody hates Galloway. You think they hate Livingstone? That's nothing to what they think about Galloway.

I'm not crazy about the guy myself, also for reasons that go back to War on Want. He shut the shop where I used to volunteer, which was selling a lot of literature, hosting a lot of meetings and generally doing good work, on the grounds that it was making a loss; what's worse, this was during the miner's strike (which, as older readers will remember, began when the government announced the closure of "loss-making pits"). I think he's the loosest of cannons, and the trouble with loose cannons is that they can end up pointing the wrong way.

But I think this is a brilliant result.

chris williams

. . . And also that the breathtaking scale of lying to the people and to Parliament about an issue of such importance wasn't a factor?

I know I'm an outlier, but I'm not voting Labour again, largely because of this. The UK killed thousands of a people in a war of aggression, and while I accept that many or most Britons don't care enough about this to change their votes, I'm fucked if I'm ever going to argue that this is a welcome state of affairs.

bert

Dan, I think I'm indecent, and proud of it. The idea of Oona King as a martyr to any cause isn't for me (lisping lightweight loyalist about sums it up). She turned out to be a weirdly unresolved figure - half black, half white, always talking about rave culture back in the day, and with a strange sideways link to the US civil rights movement that never really amounted to anything.
On the antisemitism thing, I take your point about Galloway self-policing. That wasn't something his supporters did, though. Although the context in which I've heard it come up most obviously and unashamedly is in conversations about Imran Khan. In one jump, Jemima leads directly to sinister international finance and related conspiracies.

belle le triste

I had alway assumed there'd be a sharp leadership struggle in the SWP when Cliff stepped down: there wasn't, and -- given the way internal discussion works (or worked, it may be better now, it may be worse) -- that to me meant that they were due a split, the more explosive the longer the problem went unaired. I think RESPECT ended up being the proximate cause, because it was time-consuming, resource-draining and divisive within the party, in a pre-established context of extremely poor division-management. Quite apart from the question of being in a coalition with non-lefties, I think having charge of a constituency party revealed quite how bad many swuppies are at day-to-day constituency and/or parliamentary politics (which, fair enough, they have a declared hostility to in the first place). Neo-Leninist intellectual arrogance* being what it is, being made to seem credulous and naive, as well as completely incompetent at a task you actually never signed up for (and had been taught to despise) was causing a lot of unventable intra-party resentment, which had to come out some time, and eventually did.

Galloway was an add-on problem: he was quite uninterested in anything like standard SWP party discipline -- unstartlingly, given his history in the labour party -- and was similarly uninterested in divvying up his personal parliamentary pay-cheque for the good of RESPECT funds. He is never not a one-man show: the UK party system can accommodate a few of these, now and then, but they're very rarely harbingers of anything larger, I don't think.

*Over the years I have had friends in the party, that I'm still very fond of, and I'm reasonably well aware this arrogance is with some people largely an inculcated habit of "sharp written tone", and that the public stance doesn't reflect the private person. But of course that's another fissure in which resentment can gather...

Phil

I voted Labour in 2010, I have to admit. But that was because I reckoned they needed every vote they could get, and because I wanted to get rid of a Lib Dem MP.

The evidence for people holding left-of-Labour views on Iraq may be obscured by the fact that lots of those people voted Lib Dem in 2005, thus ultimately making the Coalition possible. Translating opinions into votes is a problem of political credibility, really - which is why you tend to get radical views either being appropriated by non-radical parties (with the Lib Dems a particularly gross example) or championed by people even their friends call "larger than life" (Galloway, Sheridan, Scargill...). It takes a bit of an ego to persuade people that you personally can make a difference.

CMcM

A test case of quite how unusual this result might prove in the medium-long term may be about to present itself:

while Bradford West in an highly unusual seat in many ways, and the result here is not likely to be reproduced in many other seats, one seat that does have a similarly high level of Muslim voters is Birmingham Hodge Hill, the seat of Liam Byrne who may be resigning to stand as Birmingham mayor if he wins the Labour nomination.

I was always a straight down the line anti-war Indecent type, but that bundle of issues were never the ones that cut my formerly umbilical emotional link to Labour. No, that would have been 'public sector reform'.....& so the Greens won yet another driving, smoking, drinking anti-hippy voter

Phil

Jonathan Freedland on whether the war mattered (April 2005)

Me on Jonathan Freedland (also April 2005)

Phil

Galloway was an add-on problem: he was quite uninterested in anything like standard SWP party discipline

Nor should he have needed to be - he didn't join the SWP. Whether or not it would or could have worked out, I thought there was a lot of sense in his critique of the way Respect was run & the proposals he & his allies developed on how to do it differently. It's just a shame the bust-up didn't happen a lot sooner (e.g. before the founding of Respect).

Phil

One final point - you could have got 5/1 on George to win yesterday. I seriously considered putting a tenner on, but inertia prevailed (I've never set foot in a bookie). Wish I had now. There were odds on his percentage of the vote, too. I don't know what you could have got for 50+%, but I know it was high.

belle le triste

Nor should he have needed to be - he didn't join the SWP: oh, true, but what I was getting at was this. GG's willingness to go loudly, publicly and bruisingly head-to-head with any given senior SWP figure, over any given issue, will have to have rankled with party members who also had issues with the same senior figure, even if quite different issues, and nowhere to argue them out. So his presence nearby and his political manner were an added cause of internal friction, despite his not being internal.

chris y

Although I must make clear that I think Jamie's theory of the central problem of the Parliamentary Labour Party being "a deficit of awesomeness" is well worth investigation.

Labour have had a deficit of awesomeness since Gaitskell took over. Indeed their USP for the last 60 years has been that they are the safe pair of hands of last resort for when the Tories fuck up completely. I would contend that this does apply to Blair, given the alternatives.

I can't see any reason for Miliband to break with this tradition, since he can sit on his hands and watch the Tories fuck us all over in ways he would have been under pressure to do if he'd been in office, and then come in and tell us it's a fait accompli he can't do anything about.

ajay

I was going to say that the US Senate wouldn't have reacted well to a foreign prime minister standing in front of them and insulting their country, but then Bibi did it and they absolutely lapped it up.

bert

People are describing this as a victory for the left?
In the context of the community he now represents, the vote Galloway turned out is deeply, deeply conservative.

Have a read of Kenan Malik.

Phil

I would contend that this does apply to Blair, given the alternatives.

I think Blair's USP was that he was an awesomely safe pair of hands; not only would he not frighten the horses, he'd polish their hooves every single day and bring them to the horse dentist. The real secret of Blair's success was finding a way to articulate "the Labour Party is now no threat whatsoever to the status quo" in a way that actually had a positive appeal. To quote something I wrote back in 1997 (and have been quoting ever since), "the fervour for ‘renewal’ coexists with a passion for ‘realism’: a fierce disdain for anyone advocating reforms which would actually redistribute power or wealth. Ultimately the two enthusiasms seem to spring from the same source: the convulsive, triumphant abandonment of all those things Kinnock and Smith spent years edging away from".

Phil

Bert - Galloway does seem to have made some fairly cynical appeals to the Muslim vote, e.g. by advertising himself as a teetotaller. But his politics are primarily anti-imperialist - and he's been publicly critical of Bradford Labour's cronyism and exploitation of extended-family networks. This isn't a case of rational universalism vs the big bad sectarian communalist.

CMcM

Wot Phil said.

I note the Guardian thinks it worth highlighting this:

"A common theme was frustration at clan politics in Bradford, known by the Urdu word Bradree, meaning relation or family, which here has become a byword for exclusivity. Many felt that too many important decisions were taken in Bradford by a small number of Pakistanis who came from Mirpur, a small town in Kashmir, and who had carved up the most important Labour party positions between them over the years.

The Labour candidate in the byelection seemed to many to fit exactly into that mould. Imran Hussain, a 34-year-old barrister from Bradford with Mirpur heritage...

To repeat: I am really not a Galloway fan. But if his election actually represents a break with the 'community elders telling the rest of the community what to do'(and grabbing all the power for themselves whilst doing so) phenomenon then that's a Good Thing

ajay

True, CMcM, but it's worth noticing that the previous MP was a Sikh, so Bradford (or even North Bradford CLP) can't have been completely in the Mirpuris' pockets.

jamie

check out his election literature:

http://politicalscrapbook.net/2012/03/bradford-west-tory-vote-collapse/

that 'bring our boys home' line is non-sectarian, populist, *actually* popular and the one thing a respectable politician is not supposed to campaign on. Otherwise, it's so trad left I can hear the dixieland jazz band tootling away in the background.

belle le triste

I'm really REALLY unconvinced by Malik's co-optation of CLRJames in that essay, and actually by his general overall characterisation of the New Left.

Guano

I'm still interested in knowing what John B meant when he said "... nobody gives a monkey's, and quite rightly so."

Meanwhile thanks to Phil for his links.

bert

Just as well I didn't link to Brendan O'Neill in the Telegraph. Apparently he's the editor of an independent online phenomenon.

Pointing the finger at multiculturalism is also part of a wider European debate, not all of which needs to be swallowed whole, to put it mildly. I'm casting around for an explanation. I see the election literature Jamie links to. And he's right that there's none of the identity politics that Respect absolutely reeks of. That said, Respect reeks of it - I don't see how you can say otherwise.

One minor clarification, when I say deeply deeply conservative I don't necessarily mean establishment.

Phil

HP Sauce (ka-ching) are running this as... well, how do you think they're running it? The links are actually worth following; yes, it is dog-whistle campaigning (the like of which we haven't seen in Britain at a parliamentary election since, oh, 2010 at the very latest) but in both cases the message is a lot more nuanced than they're making out. But what I think is really interesting is the postscript from a commenter about Salma Yacoob. The idea that a British politician might advocate resistance to an unjust occupation, even where the occupiers are the British Army... HP seem to think she's just announced that she supports the Taliban, but it seems to me that there have always been a lot of people who hold views like that (different groups at different times, admittedly) and their public expression has been a hell of a long time coming. Maybe imperialism has receded enough from British culture for those ideas finally to be speakable. Anyone know if there's much of an Irish community in Hodge Hill?

Cian

Well Galloway is quite socially conservative. In his case its Catholic, rather than Muslim, but its perfectly genuine (and no, I'm not a fan, though the Senate speech was pretty awesome).

One of the sources for the anti-semitism in the Oona King election was Oona King. If you trust anything that woman says, well I have a mortgage backed security you might want to peruse.

Phil

there's none of the identity politics that Respect absolutely reeks of. That said, Respect reeks of it - I don't see how you caen say otherwise.

I know what you mean, but I think on close inspection the reek tends to be rather hard to pin down. If someone tells me they believe Britain should get out of Afghanistan, Israel should withdraw from the Occupied Territories and women should be free to choose to wear the hijab, is that identity politics? I hope not, because I agree with every one of those statements (I don't like the hijab, as it goes, but I don't think anyone should be prevented from wearing it). If someone told me they want to encourage women to wear the hijab, refuse all new pub licenses and tell schools to turn a blind eye to kids spending a month in the old country... but nobody ever does say those things, do they? In any case, I'd oppose the same policies whoever they came from. (It's hard to think who else would advocate modest dress, but anti-pub puritanism is well on the march, and I've heard nice middle-class parents wax lyrical about how much more their kids can learn from a good long holiday in term-time.)

ejh

('Questions of character' have always surrounded him - my view of him has always been coloured by a long, drunken and private conversation with a former War on Want employee back in the 1980s*)

I've made the point before that if you really want serious critiques of George, ignore all the stuff that comes from his ideological enemies - go to people who would agree with him about a lot of stuff and have worked with him. They tend to have interesting things to say.

CMcM

I'm confused now: was that Brendon O'Neil piece in the Telegrapgh or Newsbiscuit?

dsquared

That said, Respect reeks of it - I don't see how you can say otherwise.

Only to the exact same extent that Labour does. Complaining about identity politics in poor majority-minority constituencies is a bit like going to an orgy and complaining about all the fucking.

Guano

"Go to people who would agree with him about a lot of stuff and have worked with him. They tend to have interesting things to say."

Indeed. His first couple of years at War on Want were quite successful, because he was focused on the job and he had the gift of turning the organisation's ideas into good publicity. It all went wrong when he lost focus and tried to use the organisation as a stepping-stone to a political career. His time as an MP in Scotland wasn't too controversial and he didn't lose interest. Ironically, given his reputation for sectarianism, he was one of the few Labour politicians in Scotland who avoided the Catholic - Protestant divide.


Cian

There's a post on HP (I followed somebody's link above - it seems to have become even less relevant since the last time I went there about a year ago) that seems to argue that the problem is that young muslims don't respect the old Muslim machines in these neighborhoods. Apparently their only loyalty is to Islam, whatever that might mean.

belle le triste

The Spiked line on "universalist rationalism" is very precisely ALSO a species of identity politics, an identity politics for a particular type of intellectual, based round preferences in reading matter, films, television, certain kinds of opinions about science and rationalism, and the correct way to think, and of course a blizzard of fatwas against anything incorrect in the above. (Ditto the Decents; ditto the Brights -- actually no shortage of overlapping dittos, all aggressively confident in the absolute non-tribalism of their own politics... )

CMcM

he was one of the few Labour politicians in Scotland who avoided the Catholic - Protestant divide.

Well, yeah, he's from Dundee:

Now Leonid Brexhnev was visiting Scotland,
but longed for Kiev and the Volgas to see;
But it was too far to return to his homeland,
So we showed him the road and the miles to Dundee.

The Soviet union has fifteen republics,
Of which Russia, Siberia and Georgia are three,
But soon we'll be hailing a sixteenth republic,
The People's Republic of Dundee.

(Tune: The Road & Miles to Dundee)

bert

Am I complaining about the fucking?
I'm certainly pointing it out.
Election literature notwithstanding.

Phil

With respect, Bert, you're not pointing it out, inasmuch as you're not adducing any evidence. You're asserting that it's there, and also asserting that it's there in Respect (in its target constituencies) more than in Labour (in those same places). Also, you aren't saying what "it" actually is, or what would count as evidence of it.

belle le triste

(and not to pile on, but "reek" isn't usually considered a value-neutral verb)

skidmarx

The Kenan Malik piece is just nasty and brutish, the Brendan O'Neill boils down to "Galloway was the worst candidate, except for all the others", which does doesn't make a great hook to hang They Are All Doomed on.
I did see what seemed like genuine anti-Semitism this morning, but it was in the Telegraph rather than the Guardian, so it isn't important.

Before the 2005 victory he was 2/1 to win, my guess was that he was going to pick up the same 5,000 votes or so he did last time out. I think the idea that his message chimed with people in Bradford can be the only central explanation, perhaps with a revolt against the way Labour do politics as a distant second.

I do tend to blame Galloway for the split in Respect, and do worry that this success will encourage Respect back to an "our way or the highway" mentality when it comes to co-operation with others.

I think that the SWP might dispute the claim that it can't do constituency politics, and I think Ian Birchall's book on Cliff records that a couple of members were Labour MPs either when in the International Socialists or soon after leaving (I'll agree it's not their usual m.o.). I'd tend to agree that a split might been coming for a long time, though another ex-member thought there would be a power struggle after Cliff died, and I don't agree that that perspective was justified by what happened five years later; but there may have been an accumulation of bullshit that needed some sorting out. Against Phil I note that it was the Rees-German gang who were keenest on Respect, if the split had come earlier it might never have got off the ground.
Anyway, happy days. My uncle lived in Manningham for the last years of his life, and was always a bit wary of Muslim kids after they burned down a couple of alcohol-selling establishments during the riot, I assume it was people like him that thought their hatred for the established parties was more important that has given Galloway such a welcome victory.

ajay

The Kenan Malik piece is just nasty and brutish

And, unfortunately, not short.

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