Galloway’s Bradford win cannot be a victory

George Galloway

At times politics throws some hilarity our way. The last week has been awash with examples: the ludicrous pasty fixation, the summoning of Francis Maude to once again paint the picture of evil unions and the news that George Osborne may well have sent us back into recession before his ‘granny-hating’ budget even had time to bite. But with results from the Bradford West by-election coming in after yesterday’s vote, it is about to become the most surreal and hilarious week we have had for some time.

https://twitter.com/#!/pmdiogo/status/185488366626816000

That tweet from a Labour supporter was clearly overly hopeful and ignorant of how voting behaviours have changed recently. The Conservativse and Liberal Democrats have lost support both nationally and locally, but very little of this has headed in the direction of Labour. In fact, minor parties such as UKIP, who have seen positive swings in 4/5 by-elections they have run candidates in since 2010, seem to have been the recipients of voters disinclined towards the three main political parties. Of course, no one was expecting a RESPECT victory for George Galloway over incumbents Labour, but in retrospect the inability of the party to even present a modicum of opposition rather mild contestation at the national level has clearly been a grave mistake given that this is increasingly the electorates concern.

Yet, who does Galloway’s victory reflect well upon? It would be fallacious for the left to claims this for themselves. Clearly at a time when the main national parties are haemorrhaging voters and when groups such as RESPECT become more adept at picking up votes by seeming to be a better representative than the mainstream, such results are inevitable. But it would also be hypocritical of the left to join in the celebration of Galloway’s victory. This is a man with no qualms presenting programs for PRESS TV that put out statements such as this; who has described President Assad of Syria as “the last Arab ruler” and said that Syria “is lucky to have Bashar Al-Assad as her leader”; who takes an anti-abortion stance and continuously apologises for the Iranian regime on a plethora of issues including gay rights. These are not values that the left-wing should identify with. In light of this and the fact his election platform was no more left leaning than a vague anti-cuts position, the reality is that the win can only reflect well on Galloway and not a wider leftist movement. From the victory he receives affirmation regardless of his awful politics and so in response the only position the left should take is to highlight that Galloway is someone to be derided.

Very quickly some have made recourse to the notion that he was the best alternative to Labour in this by-election. Surely by now we can recognise that this is merely the humming of a bankrupt system? Yes, Labour are a disgrace, but this in no way negates the disgracefulness that Galloway exhibits as a political representative. The very fact that this quandary appears should serve to suggest that representative democracy is neither desirable nor effective. If it can throw out Galloway as the ‘best’ option, something has gone so very wrong.

Clearly, the Bradford electorate were looking for an alternative. The vote for Galloway is an alternative, but not a ‘anti-establishment’ one as has been suggested. You do not counter the establishment by engaging with it from the inside. You do not get a better democracy by voting in the ‘best of the bad’. You do work towards something better by refusing to engage in this joke. Such a huge victory for Galloway over Labour can be laughed over, but it is also a huge disgrace.

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Galloway’s Bradford win cannot be a victory

4 thoughts on “Galloway’s Bradford win cannot be a victory

  1. Helen Lumburn says:

    ‘The very fact that this quandary appears should serve to suggest that representative democracy is neither desirable nor effective. If it can throw out Galloway as the ‘best’ option, something has gone so very wrong.’

    That depends doesn’t it? Perhaps the people of Bradford are very happy to have Mr Galloway as their MP. That would suggest representative democracy is working for them and since it is their vote, they have got what they want.

    Perhaps there is an issue, perhaps the good people of Bradford really felt Mr Galloway was the best of a bad bunch. Does that mean representative democracy is the problem? There are other hypothesis that must be considered before any conclusion can be drawn. If Mr Galloway was indeed the best of a bad bunch, then where were the good bunch? Why were they not on the ballot? Perhpas it is our society that is the problem here? Maybe people couldn’t afford to campaign as independents? Maybe there are none? What was the election policies about? Did the local media tease out of the candidates their political views? Completely? Or did the media fail to do what they are there for, which is to inform the public? If they failed, then surely the deomcratic process has a problem, not with the electorate or with the candidates but with the media.

    Perhaps, the people really did have all the information they needed to make a decision that is right for them, selected the candidate they wanted. That would imply the author doesn’t like democracy because on occassion candidates the author doesn’t particularly care for win. That is what democracy does. In a democracy, it can be quite difficult to grasp the concept that no one author has the right to decide, or the right to expect voters will aim to please that one person.

    1. Let’s start by looking at the figures. George Galloway received 18,341 votes out of a total 32,905 votes cast in this by-election. So this is 55.9% and a clear majority of votes (which incidentally, most MPs do not have) but this still means that 44.1% of people now have an MP they did not want. The electorate for the Bradford West constituency is 63,425 (according to 2010 figures) so we can say that Galloway managed to get 28.9% of the electorate to vote for him. What you have here is a situation where 71.1% of people eligible to vote did not in fact choose George Galloway as their representative in parliament.

      Yet, all of that is insignificant. Even as systems of representative democracy go, ours often throws up such ludicrous figures. My real grievance is the entire notion that someone can ‘represent’ an electorate in parliament. The people of Bradford West now have an anti-abortion, possibly anti-Semitic representative, which many of them would not agree with on these issues. Yet, whether they agree or disagree no longer matters. He is now their MP and can and will vote as he wishes in the house. You ask where the ‘good bunch’ are? There can not be such a thing – these are of course politicians we are talking about, and as the adage goes, power corrupts. The entire system ensures that this is so.

      You no doubt want an alternative. The alternative here is that we do not accept the likes of George Galloway as ‘representatives’, but that we have a starkly more direct form of democracy. I do not need politicians to (mis)represent my views and nor do the electorate of Bradford West or anyone else for that matter. So when you suggest I ‘[don’t] like democracy because on occassion candidates the author doesn’t particularly care for win’, this is only true if you correctly qualify that with ‘representative democracy’. There is no democracy at the moment, representative democracy is by it’s very nature anti-democratic and we shouldn’t not fool ourselves into pretending that representation is the only possible mode of democracy or governance.

      Your notion that this is what ‘democracy does’ is sad and narrow minded to say the least. If you glorify a broken and anti-democratic system as ‘democratic’, then of course this is what it does.

  2. Whilst your portrayal of Galloway and his politics is fair enough, and this result raises questions about the politcal system, you fail to identify the problem Galoway himself focused on in his acceptance speech. That is the fact that the Labour Party has deserted its natural constituency; the working class and the poor.

    The central aspect you overlook is class. The working class is not just facing attacks of a Thatcherite type, but a major assault on the post-WWII settlement that the ruling class and their party, the Tories, had to concede to us over half a century ago.

    If full-blooded socialist revolution is not to save the day, at the very least, the working class, and society as a whole, needs a party that will stand up for us in the establishment of a new settlement, a new social contract. The leaders of the Labour Party will not do this. They are stuck in the self-seeking carreerist politics of yesterday, competing for ‘the centre ground’.

    Whether the Labour Party can be won to this struggle, as Galloway seems to suggest, or only some elements within it being pulled by the likes of Respect and TUSC, the result tonight is part of that movement.

    1. Of course class plays it’s role, we can not escape that antagonism. But I do not think we should be looking for a ‘very least’ for the working class. Why would a proletarian party be what is needed when this has proved itself ineffectual and reactionary in the past. As I have said, parties are anti-democratic – whether they purport to represent the working class or not, the issue here is the notion than anyone can represent people who are more than capable of doing this themselves.

      Class struggle does not need to come in the form of a party when that struggle happens every day. It’s natural setting is where we are antagonistic towards capital in our daily lives and should not be misrepresented in what will only ever be the inconsequential and self-serving nature of the politics of representation.

      Whilst last night’s result may well be the symptomatic groans of class antagonisms (but not exclusively so), the result can never and should never be part of a movement that seeks to see a victory over capital.

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