Marsha Singh, Bradford West’s long-serving MP, stood down earlier this month due to ill-health. It was met with sadness from some and relief from others. For one person, though, Singh’s resignation was seen as an opportunity: George Galloway.
Shortly after the news, Galloway tweeted “By-Election in Bradford. Interesting.” Without any real investigation or research into the ward itself, the problems facing the constituents or the issues he’d campaign on, Galloway seemed to have made up his mind. So, like him, I’ll do what most voters do: I’ll not research my prospective MP, picking up bits in the local rag and on the grapevine, read the campaign flyer, and make my mind up using the thoughts, opinions and feelings I have about the prospective MP and his party.
Galloway’s an interesting person. “Interesting.” A Labour stalwart, he left the government over the war in Iraq and began Respect: his party… with no seats. He moved from his Glasgow seat to fight for and win Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005, but was not elected to Poplar and Limehouse in 2010’s general election. But we know him most from his meeting with the “indefatigable” Saddam Hussein, in which he toadied and linguistically licked the brutal dictator, showering him with praise. His politics are proudly socialist and he is a consistent and vocal opponent of the right, be that the Tories or the right / centre flank of the Labour Party. He’s spoken out against the British and Falkland Islanders’ position on the Falkland Islands and supports giving them to Argentina – and has said so a lot, with my best recollection being totally outdone on “10 O’Clock Live” by a journalist and a comedian. Oversees, he is vehemently against the western involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, was so against the support of rebels in the Arab Spring uprisings, and would be totally against any moves to against Iran, Syria or anywhere else. It’s here where I begin to struggle with Galloway’s “Interseting” remark.
Bradford is being asked “Why George Galloway for MP?” but maybe we should be asking “Why has George Galloway chosen Bradford West?” The swiftness of his response, without research, suggests he has some pre-conceived ideas about Bradford that would suit him and give him a reasonable chance of success. Bradford is a Labour stronghold, and the Independent Labour Party was started here. British Socialism was born and bred in the Industrial North. So, maybe, that’s why: he sees Bradford as a political and socialist breeding ground where the next movement can take hold and take off. However, Bradford has a high proportion of Muslims compared to other areas and cities. Muslims have been shown to be far more vocal in their opposition to the wars in the Middle-East, and there are groups based here in support of Palestine. George Galloway has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause. Could it be that Galloway will campaign on foreign relations to garner the support of all Bradfordians who want to see our boys home, and on his position on Palestine? Yesterday, at the opening of the wonderful City Park, many of the prospective MPs’ campaigns were out in force; Galloway’s campaign team were flying the Palestinian flag. Galloway believes in the Palestinian cause and the Iraqis’ and Afghans’ right to self-determination, as do I and as do many, even most, people in Bradford; however, did he simply choose us because, without doing a second of research or asking a single question, pick Bradford because he assumed we’d be with him on this? Once he believed that he’d have support and a people who’d give him a voice on this / these complicated issues, did he jump headfirst into the mirror pool? The flip side, though, is to say, “A place with a large number of people who agree with my core beliefs is Bradford, ergo I’ll try to get elected in Bradford and represent a large number of people.” Maybe that’s not so wrong. But is he doing this for Bradfordians, doing it for Palestinians or doing it for himself?
He is, though, in touch with local issues, and his tirade against local, regional and national government incompetence over the Odeon forced the other candidates to take a stand. If you don’t know about the Odeon fiasco, read BORG’s report here. Finally, we have someone talking the Odeon up, and forcing other people to do so, too. He understands we’re poor and that we need jobs; he understands that we’re big but underfunded; he understands that we need investment. He’s making all the right noises about the local economy and the history and the people.
But what about George Galloway the person? Surely, the most dangerous place to be in Bradford at the moment is between Galloway and a camera. Is it unfair to suggest he’d do anything to get on TV? I don’t think so. He was one of the few people the media could dredge up to talk about the Falkland Islands from a pro-Argentine stance so got his oxygen there. He’s done the rounds on satirical TV numerous times, and I’ve never been impressed. The ’10 O’Clock Live’ performance was just the latest in a long line of his appearing to be an intellectual lightweight when it comes to heavy discussions. What I can’t abide, though, was his appearance on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’. Could there be a show that does more to highlight and celebrate the worst of TV and society? And for his complicity in that, and his paw-licking, vomit-inducing performance, he should be reviled. The motives of anyone who goes on CBB must be questioned, so I wonder why Galloway has come to Bradford. Surely, it must be for the benefit of Galloway himself.
If Galloway has come to Bradford to serve himself rather than to serve Bradford, he’s nothing more than a parasite: he latches on to a host, feeds on it, then disappears once he’s had his fill and the host can nourish him no more. And that’s what I worry about. Will George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, spend all his time on issues that don’t affect Bradfordians every day? Will George Galloway MP be in it entirely for George Galloway? Will George Galloway MP improve the reputation of Geroge Galloway, increase the amount of airtime given to George Galloway and allow George Galloway to become a bigger presence on the political stage whilst doing nothing for Bradford? It’s this that makes me worry.
If I’m not to vote for Galloway, then who should I vote for? The problem is in the opposition. A vote for George Galloway is a vote for someone you know, or think you know: someone you’ve heard of. The alternative, though, is a vote for a party rather than an indivisual, because the other candidates are nobodies when compared to Gorgeous George. The Labour guy was born and bred in Bradford West, so in this Labour heartland, he’d seem a shoo-in; however, he’s ‘served’ on Bradford Council and this is no ringing endorsement, what with the derision with which our local government is held. The Tory is from Burley-in-Wharfedale, and you can’t get many areas as different to each other as Burley and Bradford West, so can she represent us? Labour and the Tories have done little for Bradford other than oversee its decline. We haven’t been as troubled by this recession only because we never got out of the last one, and the Con-Dem cuts are now starting to hurt us more than most because we’re so reliant on the public sector. The Democratic Nationalist looks like he’s stolen his manifesto from Al Murray and would cheerfully vote for The Pub Landlord for PM. The Lib-Dems? The Greens? UKIP? Pass.
So, can we vote for anyone except George Galloway? The person I’ve described above is a media-whore, a parasite, a self-interested career politician who bizarrely prefers the glare of the camera to the benches of Parliament. If you’ve read this far then you probably agree with me. George’s fans, I expect, will have sworn and moved on long ago. But they’ll miss this: I’m voting for George!
The other parties offer the same old rubbish tarted up with a different coloured rosette. Galloway offers us something far more important: the media. I worry that Galloway’s only in this for himself… but which politician isn’t? I don’t trust George Galloway… but I can’t trust any politician. The trick we have to pull off is to make the relationship less parasitic and more symbiotic. Galloway offers us a national platform. The media will listen to Galloway, or at least give him his on-screen high, more than they ever would Marsha Singh or any of the other candidates. He can put the spotlight back on Bradford. Even when we’ve had high-flying politicians, cabinet and shadow cabinet ministers in Bradford, none were as media-hungry as George, none were as likely to be wheeled out in front of the cameras as George, and none had the sharp elbows, sharp tongue or sharp, wolfish morals that George has. We just have to use them as much as he’s using us; we have to ensure that whatever George Galloway gets out of being our MP, we get as much.
So, what do I want from George Galloway, Member of Parliament for Bradford West? I want him to care more about Heaton, Manningham and Frizinghall than he does for Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan; I want him to do more for the Odeon than he does for Syria; I want him to serve Bradford every bit as much as he serves himself; I want him to make a maiden speech on the troubles in our city centre rather than those in the West Bank. I want George Galloway to be my MP.
I started with a question: Is George Galloway gorgeous, gregarious or ghastly, and the truth is he’s all those things. The ghastly things I dislike, the media-hungry, self-serving, self-politicising desperation to be seen and heard, are exactly why Bradford could find him gorgeous. We need someone with a big mouth, and there are few mouths that can compare to Gorgeous George’s.
On Thursday, we have a chance to show the Tories and Labour and Lib-Dems that if they won’t do anything for us, we won’t do anything for them. On Thursday, I’m voting for George Galloway because he’s the only candidate that can give Bradford what it needs and deserves: a voice on the national stage.