A Qualified ‘Well Done’ to Mr. Galloway

Posted on March 30, 2012


George Galloway, the socialist politician and member of the RESPECT party has won the Bradford by-election by more than 10,000 votes. This has been reported widely as a vote against Labour, but, given the similarities between the three main parties, it might just as well be viewed as a vote against the status quo and should give the Lib-Dems and Conservatives, too, pause for thought.

Recent years have seen a dilution of political idealism across the spectrum. Ideals are hard to sustain with large populations, and so successive governments and ‘realistic’ opposition parties have turned to electioneering pragmatism.

But, when nothing is sacred, even political and religious ideals, all except those who do not care for universal standards and would rather settle for a life of convenience begin to feel alienated. The identity made possible through idealism (whether it be based on working class pride, faith, or nationality) is a value that will never be convenient.

These values are often written off as social traditionalism. They are ‘backward looking’ or ‘narrow’, and, we are told, not up to the mission of governing a modern, ‘multi-cultural’ society. It is all-too-easy to forget that their ‘traditional’ label is a testament to long-term success: people can still hold on to them when they are not convenient. The very lasting values that are most difficult to uphold, be they unpopular or minority views, are vital because they are tenable in the face of great trials.

Human beings all strive for the Good, and that is certainly not always convenient. George Galloway (whatever one might feel about his activities or politics or policies more generally) was ready to stand by his objections to Blair’s invasion of Iraq even though it cost him his job. His victory gives a bloody nose to his old party, and in some measure indicts the politics of convenience espoused first by New Labour and then mimicked by the coalition Tories.

It is certainly easier to avoid offending a large populace if one waters down one’s principles, but this does not lead necessarily, or in any likelihood, to effective government. While it is by no means easy to settle on firm and clear principles (and the writer for one could never stomach Galloway’s politics), wholesale abandonment of them out of a fear of causing anyone inconvenience will achieve nothing of lasting value. That is not to say that compromise is impossible or always undesirable, but a bland tofu-esque politics will always be a weak politics in the absence of any coherent social or doctrinal identity.

The path to a politics of principle will, if our leaders choose to take it, be hard and often inconvenient. Even if one rejects George Galloway’s politics with abhorrence one can still respect certainty and conviction, and offer him qualified congratulations.