Vic­tory comes with bag­gage

The Jewish Chronicle - - News -

AS THE dust set­tles on the Brad­ford West by-elec­tion it is worth re­mem­ber­ing that Ge­orge Gal­loway not only won it, but won it big. He will sit in West­min­ster as the only Re­spect MP be­cause the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple of the west of Brad­ford want him there. He did so by mo­bil­is­ing a younger gen­er­a­tion of Mus­lims against the com­mu­nity el­ders who had tra­di­tion­ally de­liv­ered the vote for Labour. The re­sult has sent a shiver through the com­pla­cent Labour heart­lands of the north of Eng­land. Mr Gal­loway’s de­scrip­tion of re­cent events as the Brad­ford Spring is an ob­scene in­sult to the peo­ple of Tu­nisia, Egypt, Libya and be­yond, but there is lit­tle doubt that Re­spect were able to mo­bilise so­cial net­works in a way the tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal blocs failed to do.

For those who naively be­lieved the sec­tar­ian pol­i­tics of Mr Gal­loway had been swept away by his de­feat in the 2010 elec­tion, the by-elec­tion serves as an im­por­tant re­minder that they are here to stay. It is toxic pol­i­tics that draw to­gether the stop-the-war move­ment, anti-amer­i­can­ism, anti-cap­i­tal­ism and anti-zion­ism. As such it has a pow­er­ful ap­peal not just to young Mus­lims, but to those who be­lieve they are the de­fend­ers of the op­pressed around the world.

It is tempt­ing to dis­miss Mr Gal­loway’s vic­tory as an aber­ra­tion based on the spe­cific pol­i­tics of Brad­ford. But this would be un­wise. There is a gen­er­a­tion of young Mus­lims who have found their po­lit­i­cal voice through soft Is­lamism and op­po­si­tion to UK mil­i­tary ac­tion, and they should not be ig­nored. As al­ways af­ter a big de­feat, Labour has vowed to learn lessons from this episode. There will be pres­sure to meet the Re­spect ar­gu­ments half way, a process which the party un­der Ed Miliband is al­ready do­ing with its dis­avowal of New Labour.

Brad­ford West will quickly learn what Tower Ham­lets found out from bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence: Ge­orge Gal­loway has just one po­lit­i­cal pri­or­ity, and that is Ge­orge Gal­loway.

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