It’s been quite a week for George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, and my Member of Parliament. Much has been written about him, with over 2000 new articles appearing on Google on 20th August, the day he discussed the claims made by two women in Sweden against Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. This blog post won’t deal with that. Better people than me have written about it and the fallout is yet to come anywhere near settling.
What this post will cover is Mr Galloway’s time as MP for Bradford West and what he’s done for Bradford.
My last post was written after Mr Galloway said he felt sorry for me because I’d prefer to see him in Bradford talking about Bradford than in Manchester talking about Burma. This time, I’m writing after Mr Galloway called me “an internet stalker”, presumably in response to the two tweets I sent re Bradford / Burma and writing that post. The conversation can be seen to the side but I did get one excellent piece of advice from Mr Galloway.
In my last blog, I asked if Mr Galloway had been more prolific and outspoken about foreign issues than those which directly affect Bradford West’s population, and, especially, what has he done to improve Bradford. When these questions were directed to him (not directly by me), his replies were, erm, confused. He said, “I’m not a local councilor” – which suggests to me that he doesn’t see his role as being, at least in a large part, improving the city (excepting the fact that Bradford West would be better if the country and the world were better). He also suggested that his record on speaking up for Bradford could be checked with a quick Google search. So, that’s what I did.
In putting his name forward for the Bradford West seat, Mr Galloway campaigned on a number of issues, international, national and domestic. The latter included Bradford’s unemployment (particularly youth unemployment), the city centre (including Westfield and the Odeon) and education. On a number of occasions, he put these three issues front and centre of his campaign (so these cannot solely be the responsibility of the council and councillors). He told The Daily Politics that he would “regularly” speak about such issues in the media and be “responsible for projecting solutions to those problems in the weeks and months ahead”. I saw this as Mr Galloway’s strength from the start: I voted for him because of his ability to get into the public eye and believed, as I still do, that if used and harnessed correctly, his relationship with the media can be a great source of power and a great driver for Bradford. So, how’s he doing?
George Galloway suggested his record of getting Bradford into the media and his work for Bradford could be shown with a simple Google search. I searched from 29 March to 19 August (Google News – sorted by relevance). This threw up about 8050 results and I recorded the topic of the first 50, which fell into 28 categories. Of these, Mr Galloway had being written about more than once on 6 occasions. If Google is a good barometer, Mr Galloway is most widely discussed in reference to:
By-election victory (inc Labour’s / Milliband’s response) – 8 times Personal comments made about him (biography / opinion) – 8 times His return to Parliament – 4 times Gay rights – 3 times Suggestions he’d converted to Islam – 3 times Being banned from traveling to Canada – twice
With the exception of the by-election victory, which tended to name him before or instead of Bradford West at the head), no topic concerning Bradford solely, such as education, unemployment and the city centre, his three key areas for improving Bradford, appear more than once. Indeed, if we look at these multiple references, 5 out of 6 are, pretty much, about him and he is the main or sole focus of them (sometimes in conjunction with, but with him as the main focus over, Bradford, his party or his policies). The topics he was noted for in those first 50 did include some stories on Bradford: he is noted in a story on Bradford’s youth unemployment once; investing in Bradford once; calling for Imdad Hussain (Bradford councilor) to resign once.
What this shows is that Mr Galloway is good at getting in the news, is good at getting column inches and is good at getting the media to report stories in which he is involved. What there isn’t the evidence for is that Mr Galloway is good at getting Bradford in the media spotlight. Even with, arguably, the most high profile of backbench MPs, Bradford’s not getting in the papers. Mr Galloway’s biggest selling point, for me, was his profile and his relationship, however, interesting, with the media, and he’s not using it for the good of Bradford.
But how does he do when it comes to local news? I used the same parameters as above when searching the Telegraph & Argus website. The findings were:
Westfield – 4 times Youth unemployment – 4 times Working with Bradford Council – 3 times Retail in the city centre – 3 times Death of Marsha Singh – 3 times Bradford Bulls in administration – 3 times Making negative comments about Bradford – twice Closure of Thomas Cook – twice By-election victory – twice NHS in Bradford – twice
Mr Galloway is much better at putting his points across in the local media, with a number of his key areas being written about more than once. It’s good that he understands the problems facing Bradford, but most of the stories were him being asked to comment, rather than proactively addressing a problem and getting the issue pushed into the newspaper. An exception to this was Respect’s work on improving education within the authority. However, it’s disappointing that the paper gets a quote from him rather than a story. Where are the headlines “Galloway demands X” or “MP solves Y”? Also, the majority of stories are very negative, with Mr Galloway talking the city down. Bad news, of course, sells better, so I can understand why such stories are more prevalent; however, I hope he talks us up better to potential investors.
Finally, I searched Yorkshire’s national newspaper, the Leeds based Yorkshire Post (using the same parameters as before).
By-election victory (inc Labour’s / Milliband’s response) – 11 times Elected Mayor for Bradford – 6 times Local elections – 5 times Respect Party in the North – twice Westfield – twice Odeon – twice Death of Marsha Singh – twice Bradford’s economic decline – twice Unemployment – twice
Here Mr Galloway is better at discussing Bradford and its problems, raising the profile of the city in the county and doing a decent job. However, the greatest number of pieces relate to politics and its workings, rather than the city. Whilst the two do go hand-in-hand, where are his discussions on the bringing jobs to the city, where does he talk up the city in order to attract the investment our near neighbours get in spades, and where does he sell our city?
Overall, Mr Galloway has a knack of getting into the media, but far too often it’s all about him, and the place he’s representing is irrelevant and doesn’t get much of a look in. Time after time, article after article talks about Bradford West only because it’s where Mr Galloway represents, rather than being the focus. Mr Galloway gets into the papers with ease, but it’s time he took Bradford with him. In future, I want to read more about Mr Galloway doing something in Bradford or for Bradford or about Bradford. The media’s to blame to a great extent, to be sure, but such an eloquent, intelligent man as George Galloway has the ability to turn a journalist’s focus away from the man and towards the constituency and the issues.
George Galloway’s biggest strength is his relationship, love and hate, with the media. It’s about time some of that limelight shone on Bradford. If Bradford and Westfield, the Odeon, regeneration, education and unemployment were in the media more, falling from Mr Galloway’s mellifluous lexicon, how could we fail to get something done about those key issues, those problem areas, those stones around Bradford’s neck, which he spoke about before the election?
Mr Galloway’s great at getting in the media – but please can we come too?