Bradford is a Galloway-Free Zone. Were sweeter words ever written?
After the shenanigans of the election, with allegations of electoral fraud here and criminality there, a lie for a lie being the order of the day (if one is to believe the parties and, let’s face it, why would you?), the dust is beginning to settle. So, what next for Bradford and Bradfordians?
If you read my blog or follow me on Twitter, it’s obvious that I got the result I wanted: Galloway is gone. Yes, he’s rearing his ugly head saying he’ll sue Bradford, sue Shah, sue Labour, sue everyone, which might be good for the local economy as his solicitors are based in Bradford, but the decision is unlikely to change and, even in the unlikely event of a re-run, he’d be a fool to run again here.
So, now he’s gone, what did Galloway ever do for us? I think it could be more than we first appreciate – if we play it right.
Galloway did very little for us in Parliament. He spoke in just 4 debates last year, and his 11% voting record made him the most expensive non-former-PM backbencher (ie salary / votes), and it was the contention of many, myself included, that he cared more, acted more and spoke more about foreign policy than about Bradford’s issues and national issues which affect Bradford disproportionately, such as education, unemployment and crime.
The Bradford Spring
When I voted for Galloway, which I did in 2012, Bradford’s political landscape was one of ignorance and abuse. There we were, a big city, in the north, with a multi-cultural electorate and suffering from the post-industrial diseases of poor education, poor skills and poor job prospects. Labour ignored us; the Tories punished us.
The left wrung its hands and watched us decline, ignoring our kids’ failure as first London then Manchester and Birmingham got their Challenge initiatives, ignoring our City of Film and Media Museum to send Aunty Beeb to Salford, and ignoring our lack of infrastructure to give Sheffield & Manchester trams and London whatever it wants.
The ConDem coalition, well, they trimmed our funding to the bone, taking far more from Bradford and giving it to their fattened southern heartlands, a punishment made worse by 3 of 5 Bradford MDC MPs being coalition partners. Respect, such a laughable misnomer as it now seems, were the answer, and their firebrand standard-bearer was a shoo-in.
I truly believed that Bradford West and her partners within the city, so long stalwarts of Labour and painted red religiously at almost every election, would actually get something, anything, out of this slavish, parasitic relationship if once, and it needed only to be once, we bit the hand that barely fed us and said, categorically, ‘Please, sir, can we have some more?”
In short, I thought Galloway’s election would stop Labour taking us for granted.
2015 – Bradford Summer?
Fast forward on and it quickly became apparent that Labour – local, national or a mixture of the two – hadn’t learnt its lesson. I saw Naz Shah, whom I am delighted to call my MP, called “the accidental candidate”. If her election was an accident, so be it – I voted for her and am delighted thus far with the result. What is unconscionable is the execrable manner in which she came to power which was entirely despite Labour’s activities. The Labour Party put up council lambs to be slaughtered by wolfish George; picked a southerner without experience and watched her scamper back down South; then picked an unknown, inexperienced candidate who, by luck rather than judgment, had the balls to take on one of the most seasoned, vicious, uncompromising opponents in British politics… and win!
Labour threw her to the wolf and, this time, the lamb won – but no thanks to the party and entirely down to the lamb having fire in her belly and the strength to fight. For us in Bradford, the Labour Party still took us for granted. It’ll be up to Naz Shah to demonstrate that her party can deliver for us – even under a Tory government – or, as recent history demonstrates, we’ll look elsewhere.
So Galloway’s legacy hasn’t been to stop Labour taking us for granted… but maybe it is something far more important than that. Personally, I won’t put so much faith, trust and responsibility in politicians. Perhaps his greatest legacy is to teach us that we must do it for ourselves and not rely on politicians who are, like us, human, fallible and frail. Galloway, a promised panacea that turned out to be a placebo, has, maybe, taught us to do things for ourselves and use politicians as conduits, as tools, for us to use and, when they have been worn out, discarded and traded in for new.
What a legacy for George it would be if we treat politicians as we should, and make them fear being picked for Bradford West, a constituency with such active, vociferous, uncompromising, unforgiving voters that the incumbent trembles and the upstart shivers; a constituency which sends chills down the back of the media and SPADs alike; a constituency that becomes the rocks on which careers are smashed.
What a legacy it would be if George has taught us to push politicians to perform and produce or be punished.
A Toast: Cry God, Naz Shah & St George
When I raised a toast, vociferously echoed around Bradford Brewery, to “the memory of the memory of George Galloway”, perhaps it was an elegy to my trust in politicians. You see, for most of us, we say we’ll do a job, we get employed to do that job and either we do it and get paid or we don’t and we get sacked. Galloway might have poisoned my political well but politicians have the best of both worlds: five years’ guaranteed work, a golden parachute payment if you’re so shit you get kicked out and the easy get out clause of blaming the other guys don’t deliver (without anyone mentioning that, if the other lot stopped it, you failed at persuading them or your party failed at persuading enough people on it).
Naz Shah, I believe, won’t be a career politician like those that came before. I hope she’ll be so knackered serving us she returns to use the influence she’s found and friends she’s made in parliament to do other good work – for Bradfordians and others. She’s made promises to us and, if we remind her of them, I believe we can trust her to do her utmost to deliver. But we must remember that she works for us, unlike George who never failed to remind us what he’d done for us, in truth or lie, nor what we should do for him.
As for doing it for ourselves, politics is not the be all and end all. We can’t take part once every 5, 3 or 2 years and hope it’ll all turn out for the best. We have to do something if we want things changed; if we want it, take it. If we’re happy to hope what we want will fall into our laps from the Westminster table, we’ll always be disappointed.
Personally, I’ve had a think and realised a few things:
Firstly, I need to get these buggers working for me and not just taking my vote; and if I didn’t vote for them, well, they work for me anyway so I want my pound of flesh. In practice, this means that I’ll continue with fighting for fairness in education, asking again and again, over and over why London, Manchester and Birmingham all got the Challenge, and why Bradford and Yorkshire didn’t; asking again and again why, now London’s schools are the best, education is no longer top of the agenda. Want to help? Get in touch.
Secondly, I’ll try to work out more about my own political ideas and thoughts. I’ll read a bit more and, maybe, see if there are few souls who enjoy discussing politics and drinking beer, and start up politics in the pub – give me a shout if you’re interested.
Finally, and most importantly, I won’t rely on politicians. If summat needs doing, I’ll do it for me sen – and if I achieve this and Bradford achieves this, what a legacy George will have left.