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BRADFORD WEST BY-ELECTION March 31, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, European Politics.
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One suspects that George Galloway, a Scot, is not doing the cause of Scottish Independence too much good by winning, one can say without hyperbole spectacularly in Bradford West.

By-elections take place within the context of national politics and reflect the demographic composition of the electorates, but did this election have a wider significance? Andrew McFadyen for Al Jazeera reports on George Galloways’ background and his close identification with the cause of Palestine. He described his victory as “the Bradford Spring”. He observes:

Few people predicted Galloway’s triumph in Bradford.

Only one national newspaper bothered to send a reporter to the count and leading bookmakers Ladbrokes say they lost more money on the result than any previous by-election ever.

After his victory, he tweeted to supporters: “Long live Iraq. Long live Palestine, free, Arab, dignified. George Galloway MP.”

The BBC reported on the By-election outcome:

Lewis Baston records and looks at the voting results. It is a surprise to read the opinion that just over 50% of the voters turning out for a by-election is a good result. I would think the assumption of voluntary voting is that turnouts in General Elections would be in the order of 70% to 80%, or more. The low levels of support for the major parties, particularly the Labour party, suggests that they were taking their support for granted, or that they do not have active branch memberships, which if true resonates. On the face of things, given the Government policies, it is counter intuitive that the Opposition’s vote would fall.

George Galloway won by more than 10,000 votes with 55.9% whereas Labour recorded 25%, the Conservatives 8.4% and the Liberal Democrats lost their deposit. The Guardian editorial provides one interpretation, with scant respect:

A cool reading of the numbers reveals that his Respect profited from losses made across the mainstream. Labour were indeed routed, but the Conservatives surrendered a slightly larger slice of the vote, haemorrhaging four votes for every five they had had in 2010. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats, who – in the half century since their predecessor party’s win at Orpington – have been the automatic choice for that insurgent outsider role, instead broke down at the starting line, forgoing their deposit.

Having paid little heed to this contest until it was too late, Westminster’s tribes may now simply brush it off. They will reason that Respect is little more than a platform for Mr Galloway’s noisy one-man band, a peculiar mix of Marxism and mosque that might thrive in a byelection but would not convince anyone in a wider contest. They will reason, too, that this is an unusual constituency, one of a tiny handful where half the population stem from minorities, where ethnic factors loomed so large that Labour lost votes here in 1997, even as it swept them up nationwide.

And then there is the analysis of Tarig Ali who writes (via Counter Punch):

Galloway demanded that Blair be tried as a war criminal, that British troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan without further delay. He lambasted the Government and the Labour Party for the ‘austerity measures’ targeting the less well off, the poor, the infirm and the new privatizations of education, health and the post office. It was all this that gave him a majority of 10,000.

How did we get here? Following the collapse of communism in 1991, Edmund Burke’s notion that “in all societies, consisting of different classes, certain classes must necessarily be uppermost” and that “the apostles of equality only change and pervert the natural order of things”, became the common-sense wisdom of the age. Money corrupted politics, big money corrupted absolutely. Throughout the heartlands of capital we witnessed the emergence of effective coalitions: as ever, the Republicans and Democrats in the United States; New Labour and Tories in the vassal state of Britain; Socialists and Conservatives in France; the German coalitions of one variety or another with the Green’s differentiating themselves largely as ultra-Atlanticists, the Scandinavian centre-right and centre-left with few differences, competing in cravenness before the Empire.

Strangely, such analysis of the issues and implications is not to be found in the mainstream mass media who perhaps seek as part of their role to establish the consensus on the political debate and developments. Tarig Ali suggests:

British politics has been governed by the consensus established by Mrs. Thatcher during the locust decades of the 80’s and 90’s. Once New Labour accepted the basic tenets of Thatcherism (their model was the New Democrats embrace of Reaganism). These were the roots of the extreme centre that encompasses both centre-left and centre-right exercises power, promoting austerity measures that privilege the wealthy and backing wars and occupations abroad. President Obama is far from isolated within the euro-American political sphere.

And the situation is not wholly dissimilar in Australia. Robert Mann at The Drum asks: How is the current unpopularity of the Labor Government to be explained. Opinion polling provides a picture of a Government that is receiving nationally the support British Labour obtained in Bradford West:

Professor Mann suggests these results are a consequence of a sequence of strategic missteps. The more pertinent observation might be to ask why is the not the political leadership connecting with its base. I would not be surprised if the recently triumphant Queensland LNP Government may well run into the same problem.

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1. Pantomime, Pasties and Election failures, some observations and a moan « Northernheckler's Blog - April 2, 2012

[...] Bradford West By-election (wmmbb.wordpress.com) [...]


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