George Galloway is angry. Events last week caused him to fume, rage, shake his hoary locks and take, with vehemence, with ire, with a passion normally reserved for the US Senate, to Twitter.
@jay_bfd I represent Bradford West. The City. We have been cheated by this. We will neither forget nor forgive
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) January 17, 2013
“I represent Bradford West. The City. We have been cheated by this. We will neither forget nor forgive”
What on Earth could’ve appalled the usually unflappable and unshakeable Mr Galloway? Was it the cap on benefits which will affect hundreds in his constituency? As a socialist lion, defender of the poor and the weak; as MP for Bradford West, an area with one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country; as vanquisher of Tories, berating them for “supporting the attack on the poorest members of society who [subsidise] the rich”, bellowing the call to arms: “A caring society has a duty to protect and support the most vulnerable members”, one would assume so. But, no – Mr Galloway was unable to make the five hour debate and subsequent vote as he was in Egypt (I believe).
Mr Galloway, angered and enraged, berated and vilified the route of the Tour de France (TdF).
An anger – a white hot ball of fury which burns and builds and rises and pulsates within me now as I write; superior to and surpassing Mr Galloway’s own ire in size and strength and intensity – exploded in the pit of my stomach as he told the world that “We”, citizens of Bradford, would “neither forget nor forgive” the TdF for not entering our city’s walls.
“How dare this man..?” I thought; “How dare this man..?” I think now. “How dare this man say that, think that, spread that? How dare that man presume to speak for me?” I scream inside, my maniacal inner monologue reverberating around my head like banshee in a box.
And then I have to walk away from Twitter, lay down in a darkened room and place a moistened flannel across my brow.
“Why?” you may ask. Well, as I see it, there are three reasons for Mr Galloway’s mephitic musings to enrage me so.
Divisive and Ignorant
Firstly, these remarks are divisive. “Bradford West” abhors TdF’s decision to visit up the valley; “The City” is appalled by le Tour in Keighley, Ilkley, Haworth and more. Mr Galloway’s comments drive a wedge between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and when they are more than our neighbours, more like our flatmates, such a contentious position can only cause harm in a District with its fair share of fissures.
Not content with deriding the decision, he calls foul on the payment which Bradford METROPLOITAN Council put into the pot, saying that those people – our friends and family and workmates in Airedale and Wharfedale – have “robbed” the city, as it’s Bradford West which will pay the lion’s share.
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) January 18, 2013
I was embarrassed by this. Embarrassed and ashamed. I go to The Alhambra, St George’s Hall, and The Industrial Museum – does he think people in Keighley and Ilkley don’t pay for this? His constituency got a £30m City Park – is he offering for us to pay back BMDC tax payers, because I certainly don’t have £30m kicking around and I don’t think anyone else round here does either. Bradford gets little but ignored from the government, and I know many people in Keighley and Bingley believe what little comes is spent and used in the city. The relationship is viewed by many in much the same was as that of Bradford and Leeds’, with Keighley being the Cinderella to the overbearing, greedy ugly sister. So, for ‘us’ to tell ‘them’ that ‘we’ will neither forgive nor forget their success caused my blood to boil. Vile, rude, obnoxious, short-sighted and ignorant, his divisive comments made me incandescent with rage.
Unrealistic and Unhelpful
Secondly, his desires were unrealistic. People more knowledgeable than me have said that TdF rarely visits cities in the middle of the route (though I did see it in Angoulemme a few years back) due to the logistics of blocking of a city centre for hours on end with no fixed timescale (although, of course, this happens at the finish line). Also, the route planners want speed, with wide, open shots of flying cyclists careering down roads at eye-watering velocity, allowing for big, expansive shots to justify the big, expensive TV helicopter – you can’t have that in a city.
What galled me most, though, was his lack of knowledge and understanding of just how ignored we have been. We are massive, yet unknown; we are huge, yet ignored. When a little money seeps out of Whitehall, it is lapped up voraciously by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and what droplets are left are sucked up greedily Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. I fully expected to see a route which absolutely, consciously, unequivocally avoided Bradford – because that’s what happens to us. But no, we get something. Hell, we get two days of TdF passing through our lands. We should be overjoyed because, finally, after decades of underinvestment, feeding off scraps sent north which roll from time to time from Leeds’ table, we got something – we got something big.
And Mr Galloway’s comments must make the people of Welcome to Yorkshire wonder why the hell they threw us a bone because they just got it chucked back at their heads.
Destructive and Damaging
Bradford – the city – is not on the route. I understand this. But does that mean we can’t make hay while the TdF sun shines?
Ilkley, Keighley, Haworth, Silsden are all in Bradford – and we have to make sure that Bradford is mentioned often on TV and in the news.
And where’s better than Bradford to stay for le Tour? Tons of hotel rooms, relatively cheap, excellent road, rail and air links from Europe, the North and the whole country to a number of astonishingly scenic locations which will be visited on both days. If we’re being marketers here, we’ve a sedate nightlife which will titillate on demand but isn’t loud enough to intrude once your personal partying’s done. Apres le Tour, we have museums, gardens, a World Heritage Site, and we’re the City of Film – we are the perfect place for the TdF day tripper, the long weekend visitor or the touring holidaymaker to make a base.
And George Galloway came out enraged, making out the Tour’s coming nowhere near us, that we have nothing to do with it, and we are as remote from the Tour as London Stanstead is to Bow Bells. People will come, far and wide, to se le Tour – we should all be welcoming them, attracting them, inviting them to stay in Bradford. They should stay in Ilkley and Haworth and Keighley and Silsden – because that’s where the Tour’s going. But there’ll be many, many more who will come and wonder where to stay and those places only have so many beds and restaurants and attractions, and many will want a city stay over one in a pleasant town.
If only there was a city nearby, within 15minutes’ drive or train ride where TdF trippers could lay their heads and fill their tums. There is – it just appears from Mr Galloway that it’s Leeds.
For his constituents, there are less tangible benefits, too. Forster Square and Frizinghall are 15minutes away from the action – get some kids on a train (or even better on a bike) and up to the action: let them see a world event on their doorstep. Youth unemployment is high, and what benefit a couple of days as Tour Maker could make to a kid’s CV. The Tour’s up the road, yes, but the cultural and entertainment extravaganza need not be confined there
So, why did he do it?
The answer is simple. He stated himself: “I’m trying to get us something”. And it was that tweet which made me question my bile. His heart, you see, is in the right place – but, f–k me, what an entirely wrong way to go about it.
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) January 18, 2013
George, what do you want and who do want it from? Do you want something from the people of Airedale who pay for your theatres; or the people of Wharfedale who subsidise your city centre’s Growth Zone; or from the tourist bosses based in Leeds who just threw Bradford a steak and got it slung back with a request for pepper sauce and a handjob; or from the Tour de France who, quite frankly, don’t give a shit what you want?
And that ball of anger suddenly recedes into a pip of anguish cocooned in a gossamer shawl of pity… for George… the little boy who doesn’t know what he wants or who he wants it from – he just wants something from someone and he doesn’t care who he hurts to get it.