The only relief of the last two weeks to the ever growing chorus of attacks by press and public on the Conservative led coalition Government was the defeat of the Labour Party in one of its safest seats in the whole of the United Kingdom.
In normal circumstances Conservative politicians would have had a field day at the opposition’s expense. Circumstances however were far from normal. The Government’s pasting over “Pastygate” and its budget Granny tax meant even their biggest beasts did not venture out into the media jungle. Or was the truth they were simply “Frit,” Margaret Thatcher’s term for fear, an emotion she never suffered from.
Labour’s defeat was no ordinary debacle. In mid term by-elections in the UK opposition, parties always prosper at the expense of the Government. It’s the electorate’s way of telling those in power they are on notice and must do better. Yet the disconnect here was that Labour in this instance was the opposition. Instead of increasing its majority it went down to the biggest defeat in modern British political history.
Instead of being roasted alive in the arena of public debate commentators and politicians of all persuasions agreed the real problem was that politicians on both sides of the aisle were out of touch with the man in the street. This excuse was all too easy and too readily accepted by all sides.
A clue to what they were really thinking could well be gleaned from the victory speech of the winning candidate George Galloway who told the crowded town hall and the watching millions on television: “Welcome to the Bradford Spring,” a play on words of the so called Arab Spring. This was no ordinary victory nor was George Galloway any run of the mill candidate.
The Scottish born Galloway was brought up as a Catholic. A one time rising star of the Labour party and a fanatical supporter of the Palestinian cause he has had two Muslim wives the last being a Palestinian. He was tossed out of the Labour party when he called for the arrest of Prime Minister Tony Blair as a war criminal. Some years earlier he had visited Saddam Hussein in Baghdad and told the dictator :”Sir we salute you ”
Out in the cold after his expulsion he plotted his revenge and stood for the Respect party, which he helped to form. Its main platform was British troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He chose to fight the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency which had the largest Muslim community in the capital. The sitting Labour MP Oona King was Jewish. When the votes were counted Galloway triumphed by 1.9% of the vote. After victory he quickly let it be known that he would be a one term MP. In the following election which brought David Cameron to power the seat was won back by Labour .
Two years later the cigar smoking Galloway was back with a bang in far more sensational circumstances. The Bradford West constituency which Galloway now represents is perhaps the most divided constituency on ethnic lines in the country. No less than 47% of the population is foreign born with 38% of them being Muslim. In this constituency areas are either almost all white or all Asian.
What the politicians were not listening to from the supporters of Galloway who were willing to go on record was that Britain should not be fighting in the Middle East and certainly should not be offering even the most minimal support or encouragement to Israel. Probably they were not listening because they already knew but could do nothing about it. But little of what this discontented electorate really wanted was reported to the public at large. Did they really want the man in the street to know that a majority of the voters in Bradford West saw the disturbances in Afghanistan and Iraq as a war between Infidels and believers and had little sympathy for the British soldiers who were losing their lives? If so many people were willing to place themselves at the limits of British political life how many might be willing to take that step further into a life of terrorism.
In his recent book “You can’t read that book — censorship in the age of Freedom,” Nick Cohen, who is Jewish by name only, talks of how the media is willing to self censor itself when it comes to the subject of Muslim extremism. Few writers and even fewer publishers are willing to go there and tackle the subject straight on.
You will find few people as frank about this self censorship as the avante garde artists Gilbert and George whose works have poked fun at such esteemed figures as Jesus. Asked if they would do anything with a Muslim theme the pair answered frankly they would not as they would run the risk of being murdered. Full marks for honesty if not for courage. By why should an artist need courage to portray his work?
Perhaps we should ask the writers and politicians too busy dealing with the “important” things of life to face this whirl wind head on.