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A letter to George Galloway

30 March, 2012

Respect, PO Box 167, Manchester, M19 0AH.

Dear George Galloway

Congratulations on an amazing win in Bradford. Whether it was God or Big Brother ‘wot won it’ for you, I can’t say. Harriet Harman’s innocent remark on Today, that it was hard to tell from London what was going on, may hold part of the answer: neither politics nor the political economy exists outside of the southeast; in which case, ‘anything goes’. This was a riot in slow-motion.

The news drove me for the first time to your website, where I read the usual polite nostrums about fairness and representation, and was duly underwhelmed. The crudeness of your logo disturbs me: it makes you look like a chain of cut-price convenience stores, or the Moldovian fascist union, something like that. It doesn’t help that you are promising to launch your manifesto on 29th April 2010….

Then I started browsing through your blog posts, and realised to my horror that our views are eerily similar (yours are mercifully shorter). Though we are personally as unalike as could possibly be, I am certainly no politician, our expressed opinions agree on almost every subject. The Respect agenda is identical to my own!

There is just one thing preventing me from joining, however: I wouldn’t vote for me. Nor would I support a party that appears to have only one point of view, one image, one voice stemming from one power-seeker at the top. I don’t feel safe with that. It’s not the British way to vote for flaky, self-publicising controversialists, other than during by-elections and in London mayoral races (Blair was an aberration, he had the opportunity to hijack the party). Our politics has always subsisted on fudge, muddle and compromise, with policy diffused through a self-effacing and encouragingly lackadaisical Civil Service. We don’t trust ambitious outsiders; while your (and my) views hardly translate into actual policies.

I agree, there are dangers in the traditional way we do things: the perceived weakness of governance leads to the arrogance of a security force unaccountable even to the law; the prosecution of endless neocolonial ‘wars’ mispresented as UN-sanctioned peacekeeping or reconstruction operations; the creepy  sucking-up to America, with its predominant weapons industry; the obscenity of Trident; the absurdity of an education system predicated on exclusionism rather than universal access; privatisations leading to, frankly, less competent or caring surrogate institutions profiting the few; the corruption of ministers by lobbyists (and didn’t Murdoch nearly succeed in placing his own people at the very heart of Government, even in the PM’s own kitchen!); the bullyboy antics of an overblown financial sector; the vicious demonising (dehumanising) of target groups in the community, depressing celebrity circus culture and the relentless subversion of the political state by a London-based media hungover on the questionable and failing power of the printed word.

History repeats itself, and the flaws that you and I perceive in British political life and governance are nothing new, people have been making the same reasonable points and criticisms and occasionally chucking bricks and setting fire to things for hundreds of years, enduring the same miseries and insecurities while others grow fat. The first modern cabinet, of Robert Walpole, made a lucrative business out of selling preferments at every level in public life; as did the Liberals under Lloyd George, who otherwise led a remarkably successful government. Yet here we are, still imagining ourselves free men and mostly in one piece. Perhaps we should agree that influence-peddling and the corruption of office may be the best way to fund political parties, given that it probably does less harm than the Puritan alternative? Finally, I’m not convinced that the murky political system in which you operate so effectively and perforce collude is any longer capable of dealing with the complexities and asymmetries of a financialised globe. My personal view is, we’re fucked.

Anyway, best of luck in the local elections. Unfortunately, in Plaid Cymru we have a party of old duffers here in Wales, historically in thrall to the intellectually low-wattage farming lobby, but they do get their act together on these occasions, I just put my head down and wait for it to blow over



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