Self-absorbed and cynical

While discussing George Galloway’s win in the Bradford West byelection, Andrew Rawnsley observes:

More grotesquely, ungorgeous George proclaims himself to be the herald of a “Bradford Spring”. It is a very advanced form of narcissism to view a byelection upset in a parliamentary democracy as the equivalent of the moral courage displayed by those who have risked their lives in uprisings against entrenched tyrannies. This bilge is especially nauseating when it flows from the same lips which once offered their owner’s warm salutations to Saddam Hussein.

Rawnsley also points out that:

Mr Galloway, who declined to offer his fusion of Marxism and Islamism to voters at the five previous byelections of this parliament, did not choose this seat at random. He took his unique brand of politics to Bradford West because it looked like a promising place to get himself back into the Commons. “All praise to Allah!” he yelled as he made a victory lap of the constituency. There was a substantial and disaffected Muslim vote, among whom anger with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq burns strongly.

Obviously, Rawnsley has much more to say but I do think these two paragraphs effectively sum up the self-absorbed cynicism at the root of everything George Galloway says and does. Self-absorbed because of his unblushing willingness to compare his safe middle-class existence to that of people taking real risks to achieve real freedoms – freedoms that would be quickly crushed by the authoritarians to which Galloway spends his time sucking up.

And cynical. Cynical because he hasn’t won some astounding victory. He has – at Bethnal Green and Bow – identified a seat where his rather unpleasant brand of dog-whistle politics can be used to exploit and exacerbate existing tensions.

Dog whistle, you say? This is what Francis Sedgemore found (via):

“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:

“I, George Galloway, do not drink alcohol and never have. Ask yourself if you believe the other candidate in this election can say that truthfully.”

As Sedgemore points out, Galloway has nothing to lose and everything to gain in adopting such tactics. He is an effective enough campaigner to get away with such an approach and, as long as nothing gets nasty before the next general election when he finds himself out on his ear again, Galloway will be gone long before his chickens come home to roost.


Nick Cohen has more:

Galloway and others on the far left believe that Muslims can replace the white working class that let them down so badly by refusing to follow their orders to seize power. In his hunt for a new revolutionary proletariat, Galloway’s politics have become unashamedly communalist. If a conservative politician were to seek to appeal to whites in the same manner, the left would scream “racist” until they ran out of breath and the BBC would go on a war footing.

2 thoughts on “Self-absorbed and cynical

  1. By elections are interesting things which rarely extrapolate well.

    A couple of thoughts spring to my mind:

    1. Rawnsley himself is being cynical and self-absorbed. If he could be bothered to look down from the high table at which he sits he might be able to see the irony of his own words.
    2. The muck raking (from a heavily right-wing) US press is nauseating. Instead of reporting actual real information we have to endure this sort of straw man personal attack. It’s depressing.

    And I say these things as someone who isn’t a particular fan of Galloway. Politicians of his sort are almost unique individuals. He’s undoubtedly smart and he’s also got canny media skills (more on that in a second), if I was a mainstream party member (e.g. tories, lib dem, New Tory) then I would be looking at that result, mix it with polls nationally and take a long hard look at myself.

    This result is amazing [to me] because Galloway had largely (as far as I am concerned) pissed his political credibility down the toilet the day he appeared on CBB – that’s before he dressed as a cat. That he has recovered to even this point is astonishing.

    You might say, “oh but come on look at the seat he won.” And I say “yeah so.” In many ways a politicians job is to identify a way to get elected. That result is just a platform for other things. Is that cynical? Of course it is but that’s the nature of the job – and it’s also extremely important in this age. Look at the Tory pledges drifting away in a fog of memory…


  2. By elections are interesting things which rarely extrapolate well.

    This is certainly true and I do think it is a mistake to read too much into this particular by-election. I’m not entirely sure how Rawnsley is being cynical or self-absorbed, though, so if there is some irony in his remarks I’m missing it.

    As for George Galloway, he is a politician that both annoys and worries me. I think his bluster (such as talking about a Bradford Spring) goes way beyond mere hyperbole and reflects a character that really does believe that he is some sort of tormented martyr – equivalent to the people in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere that have risked their lives for their freedoms. he isn’t, and the only thing he has ever risked is his next book deal.

    And he worries because of the way in which he blatantly seeks to exploit sectarian divisions to further his electoral ambitions. When Nick Griffin does this, he is rightly criticised – I don’t see why George Galloway should get a free pass.


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