GEORGE Galloway has triumphantly returned to Parliament following a spectacular win in the Bradford West by-election last week. While Galloway was being chaired by jubilant supporters after the count, all Labour could do was to speedily cancel the “victory” parade for Ed Miliband and their hapless candidate that they had planned for the next day.
For a second time Galloway has pulled a rabbit out of the hat. When Galloway was expelled by Labour for opposing the invasion of Iraq in 2003 he returned to win a seat in east London on his own Respect party ticket. Despite his defeat in the last general election he’s bounced back much to the dismay of those determined to relegate him to the margins of British politics.
All sorts of nonsense is now being said about the Galloway campaign. Miliband & Co are claiming that Labour’s problem is that it had failed to “engage” with the Bradford electorate while the racists and some of the Tories and their paid press claim that Galloway had played the “Muslim” card to get back into Westminster politics.
But Galloway’s vote didn’t come exclusively from the seat’s sizeable Muslim population. Though that was clearly a factor in the Respect campaign Galloway also won support from the non-Muslims in the seat, who are still the majority in the constituency. It is equally safe to assume that the Labour candidate, the deputy leader of Bradford Council who comes from a prominent local Muslim family, also won a significant number of votes from the Asian community.
Labour’s problem is not one of “engagement” but one of policies. Ed Miliband may still believe that Labour will be swept back to power on the backs of disillusioned Liberal-Democrats with the party’s traditional core working class vote in tow. But his mealy-mouthed “soft landing” economic answer to the slump, which is just another version of austerity, is hardly inspiring. The ruling class uses austerity to ensure that their own lives of luxury and ease continue while making workers bear the brunt of the world capitalist crisis.
Only a genuine alternative based on the demands of the unions that provide virtually all the money that keeps Labour on the road, can guarantee the loyalty of the millions who voted for the party time and time again only to see their hopes and dreams dashed by the class-collaborationist politics of the Blair clique and his “New Labour” faction.
Galloway won because he stood on a peace and anti-war platform. The Stop the War crowd-puller has consistently stood against Britain’s war against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. He’s opposed the imperialist plot to destroy Syria and he’s campaigned for solidarity with Palestine and Cuba for years. He also won because he stood on a platform “for peace, publicly owned services and a decent future for all” and “opposed to war, privatisation and unemployment”.
By-elections are by-elections and when voters know they’re not voting for a government they can, and do, use the opportunity to poke two fingers at the mainstream parties in troubled times. In the past the Liberal Democrats were good at this. Now it’s Galloway’s turn.
But the Respect party, which essentially revolves around Galloway himself, is not an alternative government in waiting. Nor is it even an alternative to Labour.
The Labour left, largely represented by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), has charted out an alternative programme for peace and in defence of the unions, progressive taxation, the “welfare state” and social ownership. This is a platform that can really mobilise millions of workers across the country behind Labour’s banner. These are the policies which can guarantee Labour victory and ensure that the Tories are defeated next time round.