I was surprised and not a little amused to receive publicity for George Galloway’s campaign to be re-elected for Bradford South on May 7 from his Labour opponent. Her election address indicates that she – or, more probably, her New Labour Blairite spin-doctors – doesn’t understand the first principle of political polemic.
As my old Guv’nor, Billy Smart used to say when I handled his circus publicity: “There ain’t no such thing as bad publicity, Karl. Just as long as they spell my fackin’ name right.”
She spells Galloway’s name right. Over and over she spells it. So if Galloway’s triumphant parade through Manningham and points east, with his battle bus and crowds of enthusiastic supporters campaigning through the streets had failed to remind electors that there is a General Election and there’s a party called Respect and a candidate called George Galloway who’s defending a ten thousand majority in Bradford West, then the Labour candidate – whose name escapes me for the moment – has reminded them of his existence.
What on earth does she think she’s doing?
This is the man who took on the United States Senate in 2005 and left them licking their wounds. (Check out this Youtube clip from his testimony.)
It’s like me thinking I can get in the ring with Mohammed Ali and hoping I won’t get stung. I have had my differences with Gorgeous George over the years, and my brief membership of the Respect party reminded me that when, after the miners’ strike Arthur Scargill went on to found the Socialist Labour Party, I realised that an organisation whose main asset was a political personality was no place for me.
Let me reiterate what I have said publicly and have been widely quoted in the media as saying:
George Galloway has been an excellent MP, he has helped thousands of people who came to him with their problems without ever enquiring whether they were members of Respect (which would be hard, since their numbers exceed the membership of the party), but his concerns don’t stop at the village pump. While campaigning against Wastefield and plans to close the National Media Museum, he has not forgotten the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma, and Palestine. He is not, in short, a Little Englander, but a citizen of the world.
But it’s not about him. It’s about the ensuring that David Cameron does not get back into Ten Downing Street as representative of the Bankers’ Party, which is why I have also gone on record as urging people to grit their teeth and vote Labour everywhere.
Everywhere except Scotland, where Labour’s abandonment of working class politics has disqualified them from representing anyone except those very same bankers. And everywhere else except Bradford West, where the contest between Respect and Labour should and must result in a larger majority for Galloway.
On Sunday, the Bradford Telegraph and Argus reported that Baroness Warsi, a former Tory cabinet minister, was “appalled” at the way the Labour candidate has been treated, “not just by men, but by women in the community too. I think we need to look at how we handle women who adopt leadership positions.”
“This isn’t about me saying people should or shouldn’t support her,” she was quoted as saying. “It is about the amount of vile abuse she has received on email, on websites and in public.
“Much of it has come from a cultural interpretation that has been used as a cover, predominantly by people within Bradford’s Muslim community, to vilify her.
“As a woman, even if you disagree with someone’s view then you deal with it in a way that is not offensive.”
This is an interesting Tory intervention, because she is right and she is wrong. She is right, it isn’t about whether people should or should not support her. Wrong, because her intervention is very much in keeping with the candidate’s portrayal of herself as a victim.
I can identify with her to a certain extent, because I have had to graduate from victimhood. I suffer from a genetic allergy to alcohol and have received a great deal of help from Alcoholics Anonymous in my recovery from the illness of alcoholism. But every time I am expected to announce myself at an AA meeting with the words “My name is Karl, and I’m an alcoholic” I want to shout out “No I’m NOT.” I reject that label, and indeed any label that seeks to define me or anyone in terms that contradict the humanity of our unity in diversity, as we are all vessels for God’s Holy Spirit, reflecting the many colours of the rainbow he set in the sky after the Great Flood to show Noah his love for the human race.
My alcoholism fired my work as chair of Bradford Community Health Council to improve services for addicts in the city, and it is gratifying to me that many of the widely criticised elements of my campaign have now been adopted by most of the drug service providers in Bradford. But Labour abolished CHCs and lay scrutiny of the NHS has suffered as a result.
It is not that we don’t need to know about the candidate’s personal history. Everyone in Bradford CHC, and in the governance of NHS trusts, knew I had a personal agenda. But such an agenda is only of consequence in a political campaign if she goes on to say what she proposes should be done to protect other women – and men, too, who are also victims of gender oppression, as my own history of childhood abuse demonstrates.
And please, do stop going on about George Galloway. What about Labour’s record? I have already mentioned Tony Blair’s abolition of Community Health Councils. Shouldn’t she also acknowledge that Labour was WRONG in promoting Private Finance Initiatives, which are at the root of much of present-day NHS financial problems, putting our health service in hock to the bankers, WRONG to deregulate banking, WRONG to introduce tuition fees, WRONG to invade Afghanistan and Iraq? The list is actually endless.
And what does she stand for? For or against Trident? Is she happy that the National Media Museum has outsourced its movie screenings to the private Picturehouse organisation, which is denying its staff elementary trade union rights? As Wastefield becomes Westfield, and major retailers migrate from Darley Street to Broadway, what are her proposals for preventing another city centre desert, as the boarded-up shops multiply?
She agrees with her opponent that Britain should recognise Palestine. Why didn’t she suggest they appear on a joint platform with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in this issue?
If she fails to win Bradford South, and I hope and pray that she does fail, on her own head should it be. She started the personal attacks at the first Bradford West hustings. (Personally, I think Galloway was wrong to dignify her attacks with a response, but of course he’s what his fellow Scots call “a bonny fechter”, and he’s human enough to respond to an invitation to trade blows.) Didn’t she and her spin doctors take heed of the fact that her support in the hall went DOWN following her personalisation of the issues? Just in case they have forgotten, here is Just West Yorkshire’s on graph of what happened:
There’s an old Scots folk tale which I’m sure George Galloway knows. In it, a hapless peasant says to God as he stands at the Pearly Gates: “Lord, I didna ken.” (I didn’t know.)
“Well tha kens noo,” responds the Lord.
For the Labour candidate’s sake, I hope she’ll ken weel before it’s too late.