On Monsters and Mob Rule

George Galloway’s election in the Rochdale byelection has caused shockwaves and no amount of hysteria, on all political sides. Much of the left seems confused by the veteran charismatic figures ability to damage Keir Starmer’s Labour party by brutally exposing his complicity in Israeli atrocities in Palestine, while the right is now talking about ‘mob rule’ and the Prime Minister talking of ‘forces here at home trying to tear us apart’ during a hastily arranged address in Downing Street on Friday.

Ministers are now even considering proposals to ban MPs and councillors from engaging with groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil.

The plans, put forward by the government’s adviser on political violence (who knew such a thing existed?), John Woodcock, say mainstream political leaders should tell their representatives to employ a “zero-tolerance approach” to groups that use disruptive tactics or fail to stop “hate” on marches. Woodcock, it turns out, has been funded by the Israel lobby (seeedeclassifieduk.org)

Rishi Sunak and James Cleverly, are due to discuss the proposals as part of a review conducted by Woodcock. There is even talk of preventing people entering the county and evicting people out of it. It’s all a bit wild.

It’s worth reflecting on what’s going on here.

Certainly Galloway’s victory is an embarrassment and a bloody nose for Starmer’s Labour, whose response to the shock defeat has been a mixture of the hyper-defensive and the patronising. But it’s highly unlikely that Galloway’s Worker’s Party of Britain can do much to unite the huge and vibrant Palestine solidarity movement. This is not a Unity candidate. Galloway only ever has a constituency of one.

If the British establishment’s response has been a deeply authoritarian one, shaken by recent events and running out of any shred of credible defence for their (in) actions, sections of the left have been guilty of jumping on Galloway’s success without a second glance at his track record of extreme opportunism, allegations of corruption and the dark reactionary streak that runs through his politics.

The Rochdale result exposes the extent to which British politics is broken, predicated on two disastrous options, and the manner in which Starmer’s supposed ascencion to high office is highly precarious and questionable. There’s nothing remotely ‘dangerous’ – as some have claimed – about Galloway who has long ago shed any personal or political credibility – though this may be more apparent to people in Scotland who witnessed his extraordinary performances during 2014 (‘Just say Naw‘).

George Galloway, Labour MP, out campaigning in Glasgow, Hillhead. Out on his campaign bus. 04.04.1992.

No, Galloway’s not dangerous nor is he a victory worth raising a toast to. Instead his win evokes that most cherished Gramsci quote: “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

As I said in 2022: “Welcome to the Circus. There are levels of hell. First up we have the Freak Show of charlatans and carpet-baggers, the toxic commentary that parade the studios and pages of the tabloids, occasionally being anointed by the state broadcaster to liven-up a particularly dullard Question Time or enflame a talk-show. These include Darren Grimes, Neil Oliver, George Galloway; Katie Hopkins; Nigel Farage; the Foxes (Lawrence and Claire); Kirsty Allsopp for some Kath Kidston pop-politics; and a roster of low-level online shysters all pumping out their shit. Junior apprenticeships for the Freak Show have been awarded to the likes of Sophie Corcoran who appear out of the ether with a whiff of brimstone that must mean dark money. Their function is to entertain and enrage, giving a voice for the perpetually outraged and a target for social media entropy.”

Galloway veers around the political spectrum like a pinball, once a proud British nationalist, next a devout advocate of self-determination, here he is mimicking Liz Truss MAGA lines:

In desperate times we really don’t need another loquacious ego, we don’t need another charismatic carpetbagger, we need people of some esteem and authenticity. Yes the result is a major embarrassment for Labour, but for anyone who knows George’s back-story this is another pyrrhic victory. The Left needs some discernment and the people of Rochdale, and Gaza deserve better.

Comments (18)

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  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Thanks for this Mike it needed saying

  2. John Learmonth says:

    What have the people in Rochdale (one of the poorest areas of the UK) got to do with Gaza, surely they have more pressing local concerns?
    How long before England (not Scotland) has a sectarian Muslim party advocating sharia law and will the left dare say anything critical out of fear of been accused of rascism/Islamaphobia (whatever that is)
    Mr Galloway spotted an opportunity and took it. Of greater concern is that people voted for him.

    1. Niemand says:

      A similar thing happened with Galloway in Bradford a few years back; it didn’t last.

      I think it unfair to talk about Sharia Law – muslims (and possibly others) voted for Galloway because of his strong stance on Gaza. Muslims have a collective understanding of their faith that requires solidarity and which has grown stronger and Islam is quite all-encompassing – as Hanif Kureishi said recently, ‘the problem is that you can’t persuade people that religion can only be a small part of their life because Islam doesn’t make that distinction – it’s all or nothing . . . I never went to the mosque as a child. My father was a Muslim but not a religious Muslim. Islam wasn’t like that then – as a term it wasn’t used. We were immigrants, or Asians, and we called each other Asian. The Muslim thing didn’t really happen until the 1990s – it wasn’t a term of identification any of us ever used.”

      1. John Learmonth says:

        The 2nd placed (David Tulley) stood as an independent.
        Put simply the Muslims voted for Galloway, the whites voted for Tulley. Sectarian politics in action.
        According to a recent poll 40,% of British Muslims would prefer to live under Sharia law than secular democracy. This is a matter of serious concern.

        1. John says:

          Please reference your poll

          1. John Learmonth says:

            Just Google it. I’m no good at cut and paste.
            Type in ‘how many UK Muslims would prefer to live under Shsria law’.

          2. ‘I’m no good at cut and paste’ : )

            I mean, that’s not difficult John?

          3. Mr Alistair Thomas says:

            It was a report by Policy Exchange. Another Tufton Street right wing “Think-Tank”. The report has no apparent link to the actual data however it was run by ICM and comprised both Focus Groups and a wider poll. Someone could probably get the actual data from ICM should they wish to see how it’s been manipulated in the report. Focus Groups were in 2016 so it’s pretty out of date as well.

          4. John says:

            What is important is that the vast majority of UK Muslims obey the law of the country which they do as much as any other section of society. Anything else, like this sponsored pole, is divisive scaremongering whipped up to demonise a section of society.

        2. Niemand says:

          I am sure Galloway garnered a lot of Muslim votes given his track record in this area and his emphasis on Gaza but he also campaigned on ‘making Rochdale great again’ and bringing back ‘high street names’ to the town, so we have no idea about who else voted for him.

          The 40% wanting Shariah law has been a steady figure in polls for a couple of decades and it all depends on what aspects of Shariah are referred to – much of it is pretty innocuous, it is just that people focus on the stoning of adulterers and executing apostates as if people are in favour of that sort of thing. Not that I am naive about certain aspects of Islam and I would not want some of those to become prevalent in the UK at all.

        3. SleepingDog says:

          So much for the master-race… .

    2. The people of Rochdale have a lot do with the people of Gaza in that a large proportion of them share a religious outlook – though many others voted for Galloway as a rejection of Labour. Galloway said ‘This is for Gaza’. In my mind its a deeply cynical ploy and both deserve better.

      1. John Learmonth says:

        It is for me!

    3. The people of Rochdale have a lot do with the people of Gaza in that a large proportion of them share a religious outlook – though many others voted for Galloway as a rejection of Labour. Galloway said ‘This is for Gaza’. In my mind its a deeply cynical ploy and both deserve better.

  3. John says:

    Sunak is not only trying to whip up fear he is telling us we should be afraid as well. It was the opposite of everything leadership should be about.
    I would recommend reading Caroline Lucas opinion piece in Guardian yesterday. She pretty much says everything that needed said on Sunak.
    The good news is that not only is Sunak a rather weak, pathetic little man, the vast majority of the country see him as such and ignore what he says.
    Indeed I am tempted to say the person who would be most pleased with Sunak’s meaningless homily last Friday was probably George Galloway himself as old George lives a name check.
    I notice that Sunak is now demonising Chris Packham today – Sunak really is way out of his depth.

  4. Daniel Raphael says:

    Already tagged and tweeted. Thanks as every for your fluent & timely analysis, Michael.

  5. Satan says:

    Azhar Ali sounds like quite the nutter as well. Not sure why the opinion piece doesn’t mention Ali seeing as he’s probably the reason Galloway got elected.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      He only said what I thought the day after (October 8th) when, on a radio programme someone described it as Israel’s 9/11.

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