George Galloway’s sensational win in the Bradford West by-election ought to be a wake-up call to all who have swallowed the line that there is no alternative to austerity at home and the waste of lives and treasure abroad. A one-off, it may be, but it demonstrates what can be done with sufficient commitment. Galloway is the first independent or smaller party candidate to have won a Parliamentary by-election from another party since Dick Taverne in 1973.
The new MP made it clear in his acceptance speech that he is above all a Labour politician, a Labour politician without the party he once knew, who wants to bring it back to its senses. He aspires to be Labour’s saviour, not its gravedigger. His ‘independence’ is a sham, his sham Respect party characterised by a total lack of respect for any long-term allegiance by its voters. His record as a constituency MP in east London was profoundly disappointing. There’ll be sound and fury enough, but what will be left when it ends?
Galloway’s anti-war rhetoric is commendable. What he has said needs to be said, and not only by him. Could he have won in Wessex? Probably not. We have a deep-rooted, unthinking sense here that the armed forces are a good thing, that their missions must be assumed to be for the best, and that any casualties are a cause for the nation to pull together and push on.
It’s an attitude we struggle to combat. Though almost everything else is cut, and cut hard, defence spending is justified to us on the grounds that it keeps the peace. So, judged against that stated purpose, every war, every shedding of blood, whether of British personnel or of their opponents, is a failed policy, one for which those responsible must be held to account. There is no victory in victory, where the opportunity for victory should never have been allowed to materialise.