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01/04/2012

False Prophets

John Sentamu today wrote a concise piece in The Sun on the meaning to be gained from Palm Sunday - touching on the idea of heroes.

Which brings me to George Galloway who this week was beamed onto our television screens (the last time he had so much coverage, he was on Big Brother) being carried through the streets of Bradford on the shoulders of his supporters following election as MP for Bradford West.

Galloway started out life as a Scottish Labour MP, but resigned / was expelled during the Blair years, primarily because of his vehement opposition to the Iraq War. He took a stand, risking his political career in the process, and should be applauded for that.

Galloway then went on to found the Respect movement, a political party that basically mixes Socialist Worker fringe characters, the most embittered of pro-Palestine / anti-Israel campaigners and Stop the War Movement hardliners. It has been described as an 'unholy alliance' of old school Marxists (the types that still defend Stalin) and British-born Islamists (to be clear, we're not talking Bin Laden supporters here but we are talking about undercurrents of intolerance and sectarianism).

George Galloway is clearly a talented speaker, or at least has been in the past (I often think now, just like Jeremy Paxman, he tends to parody himself). He is a conviction politician and a maverick, and British politics should remain open to such people.

That said, he also has a shocking record as a Member of Parliament - his parliamentary attendance records as MP for 2005 placed him 634th out of 645 MPs. Similarly in September 2009, he had one of the lowest voting participation records in parliament at 8.4% as a total of 93 votes out of a possible 1,113 divisions. He reportedly argues to counter this that he has spent his time outside of the Westminster bubble engaged in activism. But the criticism still stands - an MP should first and foremost serve their local constituency in Parliament and be an advocate for resident's individual  & collective concerns. But what Galloway seems to do is use the title / status of MP to serve his own narrow agenda about the Middle East and British military inteventions, with his role as local representative for local issues not even coming second. The fact he mixed-up Bradford with Blackburn the day after his election as Bradford West MP highlights this.

Furthermore, whilst Galloway claims to be breaking the hegemony of the big three parties in England at Westminster - to be a 'people's champion' - he is far from this. Just as he plays up his Catholic faith in a sectarian way to the Glasgowegian Catholic supporters he has previously required support from, he now also plays up his so-called Muslim credentials to the Bradfordian Asians he currently requires support from - in effect, dividing people along religious lines for political capital.

I've said before on this blog that British politics needs to be less 'establishment', that we need to hear minority voices. But I don't think Galloway is a herald of either.

For further analysis, I recommend Daniel Hannan's blog post at the Daily Telegraph, coming from a libertarian Conservative position, and Nick Cohen's article for The Observer, coming from a libertarian left position.

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