No one saw it coming

What does Galloway's victory tell us about British politics?

Anybody wanting to follow the Bradford West result unfold was forced to rely on Twitter as journalists and politicians alike were caught unawares by the political earthquake about to take place. But Respect supporters on the ground had been predicting for the last fortnight that a shock was in the air. And for one simple reason; people are disillusioned with austerity and war, they are disillusioned with being taken for granted, and when presented with positive coherent political alternatives, they respond with enthusiasm.

Bradford is mired in unemployment and stagnation. Its voters don't think they are "in it together" with the Tories and their millionaire donors. Quite the opposite. Respect's solution on the doorstep was to argue that we need investment not cuts in order to re-energise our economy and create the growth to deliver jobs. This is not some loony-left pipe dream; it is the experience of the American economy where old fashioned Keynesian intervention is driving down unemployment while discredited Thatcherite neo-liberalism drives it up here. When the voters of Bradford West heard that argument put confidently and coherently, albeit with an eloquence that only George Galloway can summon, they responded warmly to it. Surely that is the real lesson for Ed Milliband to draw from this result.

The other lesson is that huge numbers of people are disillusioned with British politicans sending our troops to occupy other people's countries. When George said that the two soldiers killed by their Afghan comrade had "died in vain", he spoke for many people in Bradford and beyond whose views on the war are rarely if ever reflected by mainstream politicians.

Finally, the Respect vote is a call for change to the ossified political structure in Bradford. People are tired of being taken for granted. The Guardianwas the only paper to pick up on the specific way that frustration expresses itself within the Muslim community where the Labour party have for generations relied on and reinforced the corrupting influence of "Braderi" - clan networks - that so disfigures South Asian politics. The fact that Respect won in every ward in the constituency, and won by a massive 10,000 majority, testifies that that disillusionment goes way beyond the Muslim community. In the predominately white, middle-class ward of Clayton approximately 900 votes were cast for Respect compared to 40 for Labour. The resounding mandate also testifies to the unifying message of Respect which addressed the roots of disillusionment and challenges the scourges of neglect and scapegoating.

For me, the most exciting and inspiring aspect of the election was the sight of hundreds of young people and women throwing themselves into the political process. They were galvanised by a man who stands by his principles and tells it straight. A wave became a tsunami, very quickly overwhelming anything that has gone before. People poured out into the streets to exclaim support: an unusual sight in politics where canvassers usually try to cajole some interest. Very large numbers of voters in Bradford West clearly like George Galloway's distinctive message and style. They are not alone.

Salma Yaqoob is the leader of the Respect Party

George Galloway. Photo: Getty Images
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Diane Abbott tweeting the fake lesbian quote won’t detract from Theresa May’s gay rights record

The shadow home secretary tweeted a quote about lesbians which can’t be traced to the Prime Minister.

Diane Abbott has deleted her tweet of a quote that’s been whizzing around Twitter, supposedly attributed to Theresa May.

The meme suggests that the Prime Minister, when a councillor in Merton and Wimbledon in the Eighties, once said: “Curbing the promotion of lesbianism in Merton’s schools starts with girls having male role models in their lives.”


Twitter screengrab

But there is no evidence available to prove that May ever said this. The quotation was investigated by Gay Star News and BuzzFeed when it started being shared ahead of the election. Just like Dan Hannan's pictures from his country walk and erm, pretty much every pro-Leave politician suggesting the NHS would get £350m extra a week after Brexit, Abbott’s tweet was a bad idea. It’s good she deleted it.

However, this doesn’t take away from Theresa May’s poor track record on gay rights, which has been collated by PinkNews and others:

1998: She voted against reducing the age of consent for gay sex.

1999: She voted against equalising the age of consent, again.

2000: She voted against repealing Section 28, and Vice has uncovered an interview she did in her forties with a student paper when she said “most parents want the comfort of knowing Section 28 is there”, referring to the legislation stopping “the promotion of homosexuality in schools”.

2000: She did not show up to another vote on making the age of consent for gay people equal to the one for straight people.

2001: She voted against same-sex adoption.

2002: She voted against same-sex adoption, again.

2003: She did not vote on repealing Section 28.

2004: She missed all four votes on the gender recognition bill. (But she did vote in favour of civil partnerships this year).

2007: She missed a vote on protecting gay people from discrimination (the part of the Equality Act that would prevent b&bs and wedding cake makers discriminating against gay people, for example).

2008: She opposed IVF for same-sex couples, voting in favour of a child needing a “father and mother” before allowing a woman to have IVF treatment.

Since then, May has softened her stance on gay rights, apologised for her past voting record, and voted in favour of same-sex marriage. “I have changed my view. If those votes were taken today, I would take a different vote,” she said.

But your mole can think of at least one politician who’s always been on the right side of history regarding gay rights. Diane Abbott.

I'm a mole, innit.