Mark Steel: Galloway and Aung San Suu Kyi – so alike

His win has proved that people, including the young, can be reconnected with politics

Mark Steel
Tuesday 03 April 2012 20:17 BST

Britain is different now, since George Galloway was elected in Bradford. Partly this is because he's splendidly unpredictable, so it's possible he'll resign to compete in the Olympics at weightlifting, or discover he's fourth in line to the throne. He's also baffled the politicians and commentators who think they know how politics works. So the suggestion is made that the outcome was a result of Galloway unfairly courting the Muslim vote. Because as anyone knows, if you want to trick a Muslim to vote for you, it's best to be a Scottish Catholic standing against a Labour Muslim. That's why the entire Pakistani parliament is made up of Celtic fans, and the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh is Andy McDowell, from Falkirk.

One example of this logic was an interview with Galloway on Radio 5 Live the day after the election. The interviewer kept asking: "Why did you choose Bradford West?" Galloway stomped off, but I wonder whether the answer might be because that's where the election was. So if he'd gone to Exeter instead, when he asked, "Are you voting for me today", he'd have been told, "Well, much as I like some of your policies, I'm afraid I'm not going to vote for you as there's no election. They're having one in Bradford, why don't you try there?"

Then we heard a "political analyst" downplay the result by saying: "It's hard to see he could have achieved this outcome in Plymouth or Norwich." Presumably then, if a Tory wins an election in the Cotswolds he says, "Yes he won, but he wouldn't have if the election had been in Sunderland so it doesn't really count." Today he'll tell us, "Aung San Suu Kyi claims the results are a success, but it's hard to see she could have achieved this outcome in Belgium, where Burma is only of minor interest."

So then they sneer that he won votes by opposing the war in Afghanistan, as if this is cheating. Because the rules are you have to agree with cuts and wars, so on every issue the Tories have to say, "We've cut this", the Liberal Democrats say, "We helped, and it's a good job we were there or the Tories wouldn't have spelt the thing they're cutting properly", then Labour say, "We WOULD have cut it, but we'd have waited until the afternoon".

But the main issue was the cuts, and one ward in which Galloway won a large majority was the student area, probably because he opposes the tuition fees. And the campaign didn't just win votes; one meeting attracted 1,200 people.

So maybe the main thing that's changed is it's proved that people, including the young, can be reconnected with politics. But it helps to be against pointless wars, and making the poor poorer, and to go about it like Galloway, quietly and with humility and never making yourself the centre of attention.

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