Sunday, 1 April 2012

George Galloway: Bradford vs Bethnal Green (UPDATED August 2012)



Update 14 October 


The Guardian assesses the effect of his rape comments on his Bradford spring: ' He insisted his comments had not caused a setback in Bradford. "I haven't lost support in Bradford, no. The people who spoke to you, or the ones you are speaking to me about, never supported me in the first place," he said. While it is true that national membership of Respect continues to grow – having reached 2,000 now, compared with just 300 before the Bradford byelection, according to the party secretary Chris Chilvers – it is disingenuous for Galloway to claim he has not lost support in the constituency.

At the beginning of this month George Galloway said he would sue the NUS (BBC) for accusing him of being a rape denier.



Update 22 August
George Galloway's comments about rape lead to criticism by Respect party leader Salma Yaqoob. From the Scotsman: http://www.scotsman.com/the-scotsman/uk/george-galloway-s-party-leader-denounces-his-comments-about-rape-1-2479758

GG said:“Claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know. I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion. Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you’re already in the sex game with them.”

Salma Yaqoob said: "Let me be clear, as a politician and as a woman. Rape occurs when a woman has not consented to sex. George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong. There are many political issues entwined in the case of Julian Assange. These issues cannot be used to diminish in any way the seriousness of any allegations against him.”

Update 17 June 2012
Sunday Independent Interview by Robert Chalmers: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/still-standing-george-galloway-reveals-why-his-staunchly-leftist-outlook-is-still-invariably-right-7848557.html

Galloway (GG): "I'd decided after my last newspaper interview: fuck this for a game of soldiers. But I will deal as honestly as I can with anything that you have to ask"

Chalmers (RC):"Can we first address the basic suggestion that you are a Muslim: is that true?" 

GG: "The fact that there is such an infatuation with this speaks volumes concerning the attitudes to Muslims in this country. The proper way of framing that [question] would be as an accusation. I don't consider it to be an accusation. I accept that it isn't, from you. Other newspapers have voiced it as an accusation. Nobody would pursue an MP asking them if they were, er... Parsee? Yes. Or ask, 'Are you a Jew?' I have my answer and I won't move from it. I believe in God. I have always believed in God. I don't go into details of my faith beyond that. What I will tell you is that the New Statesman story is complete garbage." 

RC: "Planning to sue?" 

GG: "Well, the statement, 'George Galloway is a Muslim' is not defamatory, that's the problem."

Later

GG: "I'd appeared at an event with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. I argued that you cannot bring people into the political process without talking to their leaders. The Sun called me a traitor back then, even though, it later transpired, Mrs Thatcher and John Major were already in negotiations with those men." 

Later

GG: "When I presented, in the US Senate, my denunciation, in Hansard, of Saddam Hussein, two years previously, as a bestial dictator, people ignored that as if it never existed." 

Later

GG: "We had a life-threatening situation only three days ago. Two men smashed in the door of my house at 6.15 in the morning. They came in, presumably to begin searching. My secretary was sleeping on the top floor. My wife and I were on the second floor, behind a locked door. They went into [the secretary's] bedroom, then left: either because they realised it wasn't me in the room, or simply because it was occupied. They walked out casually, down the stairs." 

RC: "Any arrests?" 
GG: "No." 
RC: "Fingerprints?" 
GG: "No. They may have been ordinary burglars. But there are alarms, and clear signs that the property has CCTV. This happened in broad daylight."

Later

GG: "I am not a pacifist. I am a revolutionary. I am a Socialist who doesn't like Capitalism and who likes Imperialism less. I am a revolutionary and I support the armed struggle where there is no alternative."
RC: "In the UK?" 
GG: "It is not applicable here. And what I don't support is terrorism; individual acts of atrocity, for theatre. Terrorism is never justified." 

Later 

GG: "This marriage is my last." 

Later

GG: "I am not vulgar, as it happens. I know what many of that class of person think of me. It hurts. And it unnerves me a little. I do have insecurities and they are obvious to those who know me well."

GG: "I am one of 5 per cent of members in this building who never went to university. I pinch myself when I find myself in certain situations. How could someone who grew up where I did get here? I do feel uncomfortable in the presence of certain people. The gregariousness I display is an act."

Later:

GG: "I think those in power assume the current paradigm will last for ever. I believe they are mistaken. That's why I describe myself as a revolutionary. In Holland, a group called the Socialist Party is leading in the polls. They may win. They are former Maoists, for God's sake. Think about the Bradford Spring. The defeat of Sarkozy. Think about Greece, and Spain. Revolution suddenly doesn't seem quite such an outlandish idea any more, does it?"


Update 27 April 2012: The Daily Mail reports Galloway saying: "The further allegations from the New Statesman in response to my rebuttal moves the issue into the area of defamation. Jemima Khan asked me on tape about this phantom ceremony in Kilburn and I told her it was a lie and whoever told her it was a liar."

He said: "No trace of this exchange appears in the New Statesman piece, which is predicated upon it. Now that they are denying my denial it places the matter in the hands of my solicitor."

However a spokeswoman for the New Statesman said: "'Contrary to his press release, nor did he deny that the ceremony took place when it was put to him during the interview. This is also on tape. Furthermore, he failed to clarify how, by his own admission, he had a 'nikah' (a Muslim marriage ceremony), despite the fact that a non-Muslim man cannot marry a Muslim woman under Islamic law."

As far as I can tell Galloway is saying that he denied the very specific allegation about a ceremony taking place (not about converting to Islam). He is upset because the New Statesman categorically denies that he made this denial - at least not on the tape. In other words Galloway thinks the New Statesman is accusing him of saying something that was not true (that he denied the event took place). Also this allegedly defamatory allegation was made after the article was published.



Update 26 April 2012: Telegraph has Galloway denial of New Statesman story below - but not a denial that he is a Muslim, just that the ceremony that was reported by Jemima Khan didn't happen. It looks like he just wants to keep people guessing - he couldn't  sue for libel as that would suggest that being a muslim would damage his reputation and that might not go down too well with his new constituents.

Update 26 April 2012: New Statesman interview reveals Galloway has been a Muslim for 10 years.

Update 26 April 2012:  Police investigate Galloway death threats. Daily Record report claims the threats were related to Galloway's mission to clean up politics in Bradford. I don't know whether he'd claim to have achieved this in Tower Hamlets, he also has a record of not helping police with their enquiries even after he has claimed to have been taken hostage and had his life threatened (more below). There was another one in February this year in relation to a "hands off Iran" conference in Cambridge (in which a spokesperson said Galloway was used to death threats) and another one last year from the English Defence League.

Update 5 April 2012: Factcheck finds GG wanting on zero expense claims and justifies "most expensive MP" claim: Factcheck: Did George Galloway claim zero expenses?

Galloway gets married to wife 4 while still married to wife 3: Huffington Post


Blackburn Twitter Gaffe: Telegraph

Update 1 April 2012 (Not an April fool!):  According to Ted Jeory on his blog Trial by Jeory, George Galloway told him that: "Pakistanis [in Blackburn] are more sophisticated about their politics than Bengalis [in Tower Hamlets]."


Apparently he was finding the village politics of the Bangladeshi community frustrating. As Ted says, this view might not go down too well with Respect supporters like Abjol Miah in Tower Hamlets, the London borough that includes Galloway's former constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow.



Update 30 March: Galloway interview with Shaun Ley on BBC Radio 4 World at One  (interview starts 20 minutes into the programme) pressed him on an important nuance of his campaign:


SL: David Ward said this was really a fight between Labour and Respect for the Asian Vote. The white vote stayed at home?
GG: Along the lines of "No" and "No" and figures show that. Then he said it was Labour who put up Pakistani Muslim and campaigned for him on those credentials.
SL: You put out a leaflet saying "I don't  drink I'm a better Muslim candidate than the Labour candidate." 
GG: Well it was Labour who put up the Muslim Pakistani candidate...
SL: But is that a fair reflection of how you were campaigning?
GG: No... if you look at the break down of the count we won in virtually every area...

But do the figures answer this question? He was asked whether it was an important part of his campaign to appear more Muslim than the Labour Muslim candidate.

His answer was to quote figures. Don't these just show that whatever tactic he used worked? It doesn't say what those tactics were.

May be it is a bit pedantic to harp on about this issue in the face of the scale of his victory. The motives for choosing Galloway this time should become clearer as the next election draws nearer. The question of whether those motives clash may also be answered.

It will be interesting to see if he takes a trip to Mirpur in the next three years and whether such a trip will be reported?



Update 30 March: So Galloway won by 10,140 votes - he took 18,341 votes compared to Labour's 8,201. The turnout was 50.8%, the lowest for at least the last four elections.

This is a piece by a Bradfordian trying to analyse why he voted for George Galloway:

"I worry that Galloway’s only in this for himself… but which politician isn’t? I don’t trust George Galloway… but I can’t trust any politician. The trick we have to pull off is to make the relationship less parasitic and more symbiotic. Galloway offers us a national platform. The media will listen to Galloway, or at least give him his on-screen high, more than they ever would Marsha Singh or any of the other candidates. He can put the spotlight back on Bradford."

There's a General Election coming up in three years, time which Galloway will use to secure his position. He has much greater motive to do so than in Bethnal Green and Bow Galloway where he promised to stand down for a Bangladeshi candidate.

In a letter to Bradford Mosques he said: "I want to give my remaining days in the service of all the people - Muslims, Pakistanis and everyone in Bradford West."

May be the story could end happily.

In Bethnal Green and Bow:
Respect challenged Labour for council seats (he said he aimed to do this again in Bradford in his victory speech)
Then everyone started falling out with councillors from all parties swapping sides.
And now politics in Tower Hamlets is as peculiar and pointless as ever.


UPDATE 29 March 2012:  As discussed below George Galloway tends to target specific groups with specific messages that aren't necessarily meant to be heard by other groups. According to the BBC (below) Galloway said it was pure chance that his campaign posters were mostly in Muslim areas of  Bradford. Yesterday in a letter to Bradford mosques Galloway claimed to be more Muslim than than the Muslim Labour candidate. 



He wrote: "God KNOWS who is a Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not. Instinctively, so do you. Let me point out to all the Muslim brothers and  sisters what I stand for." Top of the list was the fact that he doesn't drink alcohol. 

He said  he was "increasingly angered" by Labour campaigners pointing out their candidate being Muslim and from Pakistan. 

Also it has been reported that Galloway is taking legal action against a Labour Councillor: George Galloway sues but he probably won't sue you.



UPDATE 26 March 2012: Last night on BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour (30 minutes into the programme) BBC Yorkshire's political editor Len Tingle said: "Most of his (George Galloway's) posters tend to be in the Asian areas. He says that's just fortune, his supporters put up the posters and he doesn't have any choice. When you move out into those areas where predominantly white families live you see lots and lots of Labour and Conservative posters you don't see any George Galloway ones." 

In 2005 non-Muslim voters in Bethnal Green and Bow were completely unaware of the support Galloway had gained in the Bangladeshi community or the promises he had made to win that support - as described below. 

Mainstream politicians also failed to keep tabs on Galloway's tactics. In an interview with the East London Advertiser before the 2005 election Gordon Brown refused to mention George Galloway at all. Despite it being the highest profile battle in 2005 election with daily coverage in national newspapers, voters in the East End appeared relatively apathetic with turnout only rising from 48% to 52%.

Yesterday (25 March 2012) the BBC also reported Galloway saying that five soldiers from 3 Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, on from Bradford, had "died in vain. They shouldn't have been sent there." 

Efforts by Times journalist Dominic Kennedy to find out what the Charity Commission knows about Galloway's  Mariam Appeal might also be worth watching but may not have much to do with this election (details from UK Human Rights Blog and The Lawyer).

Bradford vs Bethnal Green 

In 2005 I spent a lot of time watching George Galloway and even followed him to Bangladesh where most of these pictures were taken. But trying to understand him turned out to be a problem - once you started you couldn't stop. 

Unfortunately his reappearance in Bradford West has caused a relapse: a re-examination of his  2005 General Election campaign and the tactics he used to beat Oona King by 823 votes. 

It wasn't a happy election. I blamed Galloway but I don't know if that was fair and I can't claim  any moral high-ground when interpreting events in Tower Hamlets.  




Now Galloway is a candidate in the Bradford West by election due to take place on 29 March 2012.  

So can Bradford West be compared to Bethnal Green and Bow

Both have large Muslim populations but Bradford West was higher up the list of Muslim Council of Britain's top 10 target constituencies in 2001. 

Bradford City had the highest concentration of Muslims in the UK (15%) while the Bradford West constituency was 38% Muslim. Since then the Muslim population in the city has grown making it more attractive to politicians focusing on Muslim voters.





Bradford's political scene looks at least as complex and sensitive as Bethnal Green.

But it could be more volatile. Race riots in 2001 prompted the government to commission the Ouseley Report (published in 2005) which said the city had "witnessed growing divisions among its population along race, ethnic, religious and social class lines - and now finds itself in the grip of fear." This New Statesman piece suggested that this tension remained in 2010. 

Galloway's 2005 campaign appeared to exploit these kinds of divisions and communication failures enabling him to promote conflicting messages to different groups.


Vote fraud


This piece is mainly negative but one of Galloway's few positive campaign tactics in 2005 was his battle against electoral fraud. The effects are still being felt


Bradford has similar problems and Galloway has already issued an election fraud alert: "I am particularly concerned about fraud in the Bradford West by-election because the election is likely to be very close and it is in these circumstances that corruption most often occurs."

Divide and rule

But the negative stuff springs to mind more easily. Like the rumours that emerged about  him stepping aside for a Bangladeshi candidate. When I asked him about this before the election he told me: "I'm not going to ensure anything about who replaces me. It will be up to the members of the local constituency party to decide who, if anyone, they want as a successor when I stand down from parliament, whenever that is."

But hours after the election he told one of my colleagues: "We have a consensus in our party that the (next) candidate must be Bengali."

He also said: "If your readers don't like it, they don't have to vote for it." 

But the election had already happened and this vital promise had been hidden from the majority of his new constituents.


For your ears only...

Bethnal Green's Muslims mostly come from a specific part of Bangladesh called Sylhet. Bradford West is similar because the majority of its Muslims come from a particular area of Pakistan-administered  Kashmir called Mirpur District

In 2005 Galloway campaigned in Sylhet in Bangladesh to help his election in Bethnal Green.  Similar electioneering in 'Little Britain' in Mirpur district could help politicians in places like Bradford according to the BBC (2010)



When he was in Bangladesh Galloway told audiences: "If I'm a member of Parliament in 7 weeks time I'll be going into the High Commission building in Sylhet and Dhaka to make sure every person in it is treated with dignity and respect like in New Zealand, Australia and Canada. So I'm going to be a champion of Bangladesh in London."

As far as I know he hasn't been back to Bangladesh since 2005.

On his return to London in 2005 he was asked "Do you still intend to become a "Champion of Bangladesh" if you are elected in Bethnal Green and Bow?" 

His answer was no: "Taking a few words out of the context of thousands I delivered, publicly and privately on a recent visit to Bangladesh, inevitably leads to misrepresentation. My job is not to represent any foreign country or its interests in parliament, nor, of course, would I do so."

It seemed like no one in London was supposed to know that these promises had been made.



So it looks like he never fulfilled that promise - unless the people of Sylhet failed to keep their side of the bargain set out by Galloway:  "I'm asking you, my brothers, to telephone every relative and friend in East London, to write them a letter, to send a message, tell them what you heard here. Tell them I'm the only British member of Parliament to come here."

Human right-off


Three months before leaving for Bangladesh Galloway gave the impression that he would challenge Bangladeshi MPs on the shocking human rights record of successive governments.

He said: "I am not for the Awami League (in 2005 it was the left leaning opposition party in Bangladesh), I am not for the BNP (the then ruling Bangladesh National Party) and I am not for the Islamists. I am for human rights."

He said that he would criticise Bangladeshi politicians and their parties for human rights abuses.


However his willingness to challenge the Bangladeshi political establishment had mysteriously disappeared at his first press conference in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh  on February 27 2005.

"I work to represent the Bangladeshi Community in Tower Hamlets... I don't want to run the political affairs of Bangladesh, that would be colonialist. I don't want to interfere in the political situation in Bangladesh."

More likely he realised that Bangladeshis in Bethnal Green supported one party or the other and if he criticised either he would have upset potential voters in the UK.

Galloway has not been so restrained about interfering in Pakistani politics.

In 2007 he called for a parliamentary debate about Democracy in Pakistan in which he criticised it's then president Musharraf and said: "I have an interest in Pakistan. I hold the highest civil award that the country can bestow, the Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam, given to me at the end of the 1980s for my work for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan..."

He said his "primary concern, and that of most Pakistanis living in Britain" was a Pakistani politician called Altaf Hussain who he said was conducting "a terrorist campaign" from a sofa in Edgeware.

Geoff Hoon provided a response that didn't address any of his questions.

(It would also be interesting to know if Galloway has changed his view on the human rights problems posed by President Bashar Assad of Syria.)

Galloway and the police

A dramatic event in the 2005 election in Bethnal Green was the alleged hostage taking of George Galloway in which he claimed his life was threatened.

In August 2005 Galloway told his local paper that he had informed Tower Hamlets' borough commander Mark Simmons that Omar Brooks (AKA Abu Izzadeen) was "the ringleader of the group of fanatics who briefly held me a prisoner durning the election and threatened to hang me... he should be rigorously prosecuted for this or any other breach of our laws."

But Galloway still hasn't made an official statement to the police about the incident - (Some background).

In other words a man who had allegedly held a British MP hostage on British soil and who had threatened to hang him was left unpunished. Questions had already been raised about whether the incident was a hostage taking or if any threats had been made.






City, 43.9

Clayton and Fairweather Green, 4.8

Heaton, 25.9

Manningham, 58.9

Thornton and Allerton, 4.8%

Toller 63.6% 







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