Very disturbing news from the UK tonight – apparently, voters in the Bradford constituency have elected the extremist George Galloway back to Parliament, after a two-year merciful absence of Mr. Galloway from elective politics. I cannot tell you how horrified I am to hear of Galloway’s return. He is the personification of a political Left that justifies everything by what it is against, and nothing by what it is for. Because the Respect Coalition has only ever elected Mr. Galloway to Parliament to represent it, that party, which could have been a principled opposition to a Labour Party which has lost its way in the past, has amounted to nothing more than the worst kind of terrorist-shielding, Stalinist-friendly political movement. I say this as someone who advocated voting against Labour in 2010 and who promoted choices like the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP (depending on location in the UK) as alternatives to rewarding Blair and Brown. The one political party I did not consider for a second as a real alternative to Labour was the Respect Coalition, and that is almost entirely due to its embrace of the demagogic Mr. Galloway.
In 2008, Galloway was quoted as saying “I am on the anti-imperialist left… If you are asking did I support the Soviet Union, yes I did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life.” In 2009, he gave thousands of pounds to the Gaza government led by the terrorist group Hamas, and despite being filmed handing this money directly to Hamas leaders, denies that he gave money to Hamas – preferring to hide behind the convenient argument that Hamas was popularly elected (because terrorism is popular in the Palestinian territories). He is the voice of a Left that doesn’t care how wrong it is, so long as it is an oppositional kind of wrongness.
The article I am linking here compares the political strength of Mr. Galloway to the political strength of the French presidential candidate for the Front de gauche (FG), Mr. Jean-Luc Mélenchon. There are superficial similarities to the two. Both represent a constituency which rejects a lack of real social democratic leadership – Mr. Galloway left Labour, and Mr. Mélenchon left the Parti socialiste (PS), in reaction to a certain void of leadership in their respective parties. However, I have to draw a clear distinction between Mr. Mélenchon, who seems a fairly reasonable representative of Left opinion critical of timid social democracy, and Mr. Galloway, who is an unhinged cheerleader for totalitarianism and terrorism.
Though I suspect I would vote for François Hollande if I were allowed to vote in the French presidential elections coming up, I don’t see Mr. Mélenchon as a threat to democracy. Indeed, I think the PS should take serious stock of why it’s losing support to the FG, and why Mr. Mélenchon is gaining on the front-runners in the election.
Perhaps Labour should also take stock of why it’s losing votes to Respect and Mr. Galloway – but it’s not the same thing at all, because unlike Mr. Mélenchon, Galloway is taking legitimate frustration and channelling it into support for illegitimate and ugly causes. I think the psychology of this should therefore also be different. It shouldn’t be about responding to legitimate gripes and trying to find points of compromise and accommodation. That is how Mr. Mélenchon should be treated. It should be about responding to legitimate gripes in order to steal Mr. Galloway’s thunder and comprehensively defeat him. He is a very real threat.