Friday, March 30, 2012

Can the Galloway miracle outgrow Galloway?

I've come to the conclusion that I like George Galloway far more as an English politician. A year ago, I was extremely worried that he would win a seat at Holyrood, and then perversely (as he'd made clear he would) back Iain Gray as First Minister. He had also declared his intention to use his seat principally as a platform to attack the SNP and independence. In retrospect, it shouldn't really be a surprise that he underperformed after putting forward such a prospectus - where was the niche for a rebel ex-Labour politician who only wanted to provide an alternative to the SNP? Now, a rebel ex-Labour politician who wants to provide an alternative to New Labour is a different story entirely, and in all honesty I couldn't find a thing to disagree with in his victory speech last night, in spite of the characteristically blood-curdling language.

Galloway described his win as "the most sensational result in British by-election history bar none". He might have an arguable case based on the mammoth swing, and on his overcoming of the inherent difficulties of a fringe party taking on the big guns. But what really determines the importance of a by-election is whether it changes the political weather, and influences the outcome of the subsequent general election. A classic example is Govan 1973 - without that win, the SNP probably wouldn't have had the momentum to jump to seven seats in February 1974, and then the high watermark (to date) of eleven seats in October 1974. But in my view, the three most important by-elections in modern British history are Carmarthen 1966, Hamilton 1967 and Darlington 1983, because they didn't just influence the outcome of the subsequent general election - they changed the political landscape permanently. If the SDP hadn't gone into meltdown in Darlington, it's reasonable to suppose that Labour might have been pushed into third place in the popular vote in the general election a few months later, and as a result might never have returned to power. Hamilton and Carmarthen were vital because they transformed the SNP and Plaid Cymru from fringe parties into major players, which they remain to this day. Bradford West has the potential to do the same for Respect, if the party can put down roots and outgrow the cult of Galloway. It's obviously too early to tell if that will happen. But with two previously fringe parties (the Greens and Respect) now having representation at Westminster, England suddenly has an almost miraculous double opportunity to break free from the suffocating three-party centre-right consensus.

As I love nothing better than dredging up the faulty political predictions of others (my current favourite is Michael Gove declaring that "George Robertson was right!" on the day after the 2003 Holyrood election), I should probably come clean and admit that I wrote the following just 24 hours ago -

"I haven't been following Bradford West, and I was confused by all the talk of the Tories coming third - I wondered if the Lib Dems had come back from the dead without me noticing?

Silly me. But after what happened in Glasgow last year it's hard not to think that Galloway might fail to match the expectations."


However, if that makes me look a trifle daft, it's as nothing compared to the daftness of the excuses trotted out by the defeated candidates. Apparently Labour only lost "cos of Big Brother" (really? I thought that's what had destroyed Galloway's credibility forever?), the Lib Dems were "fighting for fourth place" and succeeded, and the Tories regard a 23% drop in support in a seat that was a target for them in 2010 as a disaster only for Labour. Well, I don't know about you, but I'm convinced...

Result :

Respect 55.9% (+52.8)
Labour 25.0% (-20.3)
Conservatives 8.4% (-22.7)
Liberal Democrats 4.6% (-7.1)
UKIP 3.3% (+1.3)
Greens 1.5% (-0.8)
Democratic Nationalists 1.0% (-0.1)
Monster Raving Loony 0.3%

Swing from Labour to Respect = 36.6%

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

George Galloway has a bad record in England, with an attendance rate at votes as infrequent as the Speaker & Sinn Fein

From my own experience as a constituent, basically don't bother to trouble him.

DougtheDug said...

A year ago, I was extremely worried that he would win a seat at Holyrood, and then perversely (as he'd made clear he would) back Iain Gray as First Minister. He had also declared his intention to use his seat principally as a platform to attack the SNP and independence. In retrospect, it shouldn't really be a surprise that he underperformed after putting forward such a prospectus - where was the niche for a rebel ex-Labour politician who only wanted to provide an alternative to the SNP? Now, a rebel ex-Labour politician who wants to provide an alternative to New Labour is a different story entirely...

I think you're entirely right here. In Scotland he was regarded as an independent Labour candidate who was not that independent and the only selling point he had was, "I'm George Galloway, vote for me."

The voters couldn't see the point in voting semi-independent Labour when official Labour was on the ballot paper.

The difference between the two campaigns shows up emptiness of George Galloway's rhetoric. In Scotland where there is a party which is committed to breaking up the British state and British Establishment George the unionist hugged Labour closely but in the secure playground of England where there are no radical parties committed to the break-up of the British state George could display as much radicalism as he liked.

It's an empty barrel which makes the most noise.

JPJ2 said...

Probably indicates what is surely true for many reasons, that Asians, or those of Asian extraction, are much more disaffected from England than Scots Asians are from Scotland.

Just something more for the SNP to take pride in, I feel.

Anonymous said...

Galloway’s victory tells us more about the perilous state that the Labour Party in England is in than anything else. This Bradford result is interesting for us in Scotland because this result will have an impact not only on the Scottish Labour Party (who’ve been uncharacteristically quiet over the last 24 hours) but, more importantly, on Scottish Labour voters.

Just think, an opportunist charlatan like Galloway, who couldn’t even muster 4 per cent of the vote when he stood in the 2011 elections to the Scottish parliament, has beaten Labour in one of its safest seats in England and a seat that Labour has held since 1974. More than this, Labour is in opposition at Westminster and it is ‘opposing’ the most unpopular Tory government in a generation and an unpopular Tory government that, in the last week, has been at the height of its unpopularity and still, even then, Labour could only come a distant second to the smiling satsuma. What on earth are Labour voters in Scotland to make of this?

If nothing else, George Galloway is good value for comedy gold, and he didn’t disappoint last night/this morning. In his victory speech he made a reference to his victory being a sign of what he called the “Bradford Spring”. This wasn’t comedy gold for the reason that you might expect, i.e. Galloway doing what he does best, shamelessly trying to co-opt other people’s/countries’ misfortune to advance his self-publicist agenda.

This was comedy gold for another reason. For although Galloway, in his speech, made an analogy between the “Bradford Spring” and the “Arab Spring” there was no reference in his speech to that other political “Spring” that, for opportunist populists like Galloway, daren’t speak its name. A “Spring” that must not be acknowledged at any cost. That is, the “Scottish Spring” that was manifest in the SNPs truly historic victory in May 2011. A Scottish Spring that Galloway was, of course, a hapless victim of, being seen himself by voters as part of the Britnat establishment, hence his derisory share of the vote.

I feel genuinely sorry for the people of Bradford West. Lacking a plausible alternative to the Westminster Labour-Tory coalition they were forced to vent their disenchantment with the Labour-Tory coalition by voting for a shameless self-publicist like Galloway who will give them nothing in return for their votes. But perhaps Galloway deserves pity here, too. Not content with being forced to prostitute himself out to the highest political bidder (an unedifying spectacle wherever Galloway’s ‘business’ has taken him), his idea of political ‘integrity’ is to deny political events in his own country (Scotland) as a means of ingratiating himself with the constituents of another country.

GrassyKnollington said...

Good old British establishment George heading back to Westminster with the rest of the ahem "socialists" and (coughs into hand) " dangerous radicals".

It would make a cat laugh.

Anonymous said...

I see that Galloway still persists in his denial of the Scottish Spring. In an article in the Guardian’s Comment is free today, with the subtitle, ‘Bradford’s peaceful democratic uprising that elected me comes from the wellspring of discontent that swept Britain last summer’ he continues to produce his comedy gold. What he’s referring to here – with his reference to “the wellspring of discontent that swept Britain last summer” – are the riots in English cities last summer. Like his Scottish Labour chums, Galloway would rather spin the lie that ‘Britain’ rioted last summer rather than admit that, while England rioted, Scotland voted SNP.

tris said...

Munguin tried to post this, but the blog wouldn't accept it. He mailed it to me in the hopes that I could get it posted...

The man is a carpet bagger pure and simple. After his win in Bethnal Green and Bow he thought Respect would hold on to that seat with an Asian candidate while he would go and acquire the neighbouring one of Poplar and Limehouse in 2010. In actual fact Respect lost both with Galloway coming a poor third in P&L and not building on his so called earth shattering achievement in BB&B. Clearly he was a crap MP only ever any good at being controversial and making high falutin pompous speeches. The people in Bethnal Green must have woken up to that by 2010 while their neighbours in Poplar where far too close to home to be fooled.

That left the carpet bagger without a gravy train so off he went to Scotland thinking the “I’m George Galloway” would get him the necessary 6% of the vote for a list seat in Glasgow. Scottish Asians may be happier in their Scottish skin but like all Scots they can spot a chancer when they see one, so no dice! So off down to Bradford where no doubt news of how awful he was has not filtered up for London. I don’t support any of the English based parties but fear the people of Bradford may come to regret this, unless they enjoy being spoon fed with needlessly overblown rhetoric, spiced with very little in the way of work, but plenty self advertising.

James Kelly said...

Apologies to Munguin - the Blogger gremlins strike again, it seems.

douglas clark said...

I seriously don't know what to make of this. Perhaps it is the English Spring? In the sense that they have rejected Westminster clones as an option? Which we have been doing in increasing numbers and for a long time. However, Galloway isn't a realistic alternative.

He has a single point to make, that many feel important, that the UK should stop following US foreign policy so slavishly. There are a lot of votes in that, but a persuasive political party it does not build.

What England desperately needs, IMHO, is a genuine equivalent to the SNP, where civic nationalism is the norm. This voting for fringe candidates as a 'message' is the wrong road to go down.

Just saying....