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.
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.