Captain Galloway suppresses Mutiny!
OH DEAR! Trouble at t'sea. Swashbuckling Cap'n George Galloway has had to put down a mutiny in the crew, who heard he planned to sail off again without them. He has threatened to make them walk the plank after suspending two of the troublemakers from the yardarm.
Well, suspending them anyway.
The Bradford West MP, first elected to parliament for Labour as Glasgow Hillhead MP, later becoming MP for Bethnal Green and Bow as head of his own Respect party, returned to Glasgow for the 2011 Scottish elections, before winning his present seat in March last year. Now he is reported to be considering standing for Mayor of London.
The councillors, who were elected to Bradford council last May following Galloway's byelection victory that year, say he should resign as MP if he is serious about running for mayor of London. They may quit Respect and work as independents if necessary.
Galloway's response on Tuesday to their criticism was to suspend two councillors for disloyalty and accuse all five of "conspiring to seize executive power".
Galloway spoke about his mayoral ambitions in a media interview, saying he had a good chance against Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone. The Bradford councillors complain they were given no warning of his plans.
"It's a slap in the face for the people of Bradford," said Ishtiaq Ahmed, a mental health worker who represents the Manningham ward. He claimed Galloway spent too little time in the city. "People are always asking me: where's George? This weekend I had more than 20 calls from constituents asking me why George is talking about London and not Bradford. As councillors we have only had one strategic meeting with him in the past year... I'm always reading on his Twitter feed about his appearances in Westminster, his Edinburgh Fringe show, his tour in Scotland – it sometimes feels as though he goes everywhere but Bradford."
Galloway says he is in the constituency almost every week, running a regular MP's surgery, and he can point to his recently taking up the defence of Bradford's media museum. But this does not answer concern that his sights are set elsewhere.
Alyas Karmani, a veteran youth worker who is leader of the Respect group in Bradford's City Hall, said: "If he really wants to be mayor of London, the campaigning starts now, and I don't see how he can be a good MP at the same time. In the meantime, he's still got two more years here [until the 2015 general election] and he should be here. We want him to be more visible in Bradford. George does make himself available here, but whether it's at the level we want is debatable."http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/aug/13/george-galloway-bradford-west-mayor-london?CMP=twt_fd
Ahmed said: "Mr Galloway can't do both. If he says he is committed to Bradford then Bradford should be his priority. If he wants to run for London, he should think about stepping down as MP."
Galloway insists that he is no worse than any other MP, and asks how much time Ed Milliband spends in Doncaster. But the people who voted for him in Bradford thought he would be better than just any old MP. And with all due Respect, he does not carry the same burden of responsibility as the leader of the Labour Party.
What is most striking is the Respect MP's response to criticism:
When the Guardian contacted McKay on Tuesday morning for a response to the councillors' united criticism, Galloway suspended Ahmed and Shabbir from the Respect party. In an email Galloway accused the five councillors of attempting a power grab.
"Two of your sources for this latest attack... are already in the process of disciplinary action for factional disloyalty. They are jumping from your low bridge before they are pushed. It is a documented fact that for months now all five councillors have been conspiring to seize executive power in the Bradford party, so their motivation is more than a little suspect," he wrote.
He added: "There is high tension between the MP and them that's true. The MP's frustration with them is shared by many party members, and many of their constituents. Two of them are already facing disciplinary action and so I cannot comment on their cases meantime. All five, then unknown, were elected in the wake of my election victory. Does anyone doubt that they would never have been elected but for that? For months now they have been making concerted attempts to take control of the Bradford party, which I have strongly resisted."I don't know any of these councillors. But I do know that when I visited Bradford some years ago there was already some discontent and frustration among people who would otherwise have been Labour supporters. One of the people I spoke to then was indeed a Labour councillor. I can well imagine that such people might have seen Galloway's candidature as the chance to make a change in local politics as well voting for someone whose anti-war stand and support for international causes they admired. Looking at the councillors with whom Galloway has fallen out, they seem like genuine community activists rather than just careerists out for themselves.
Would anyone only out for self-advancement have taken their chance on joining Respect? For Galloway to jeer that they would never have been elected without his victory, shows his ego and contempt for the ordinary supporters without whom he would have stood no chance of getting in. But people who saw Galloway as a rebel standing up to New Labour leaders and US senators are now seeing how he treats anyone who rebels against himself. And if the reports are accurate, we are also seeing a political party in which the Leader can suspend people from membership, just like that. Ed Miliband must look on with envy at such powers!
I can remember when George Galloway was under fire for spending more time in the Big Brother House than in the Commons speaking up for his Bethnal Green and Bow constituents' interests. I remember seeing embarrassed SWP members trying to defend him, knowing that though they were at that time in Respect, Galloway had not been concerned in the slightest with what his fellow-members thought. Evidently some of the Respect members in Bradford have got more bottle.
I also keep seeing names prominent in the People's Assembly or this Left Unity effort, of people I remember telling us what a great leader George Galloway was and exhorting us to drop whatever else we were in and join Respect. Some put too much faith in leaders, and some are easily led.