Saturday, March 31, 2012

the politics of disillusionment?

For the Labour Party, this must have seemed like a DREAM week in the lead up to the Bradford West by-election on Thursday. It had started with the (now former) Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas having been recorded telling the Sunday Times that a "premier league" payment of up to £250,000 would win a dinner in Downing Street. This was closely followed by Francis Maude’s advice for us all to store petrol in our garage in a jerry can - afterall, we all have garages don’t we (and don’t worry about the fire risks)? And, of course, there was “Pastygate” (George Osborne’s pathetic handling of his decision to impose VAT on pasties). It was, without doubt, the worst week (so far) in this government’s short history.
In Bradford, Labour was defending a majority of nearly 6,000. It had held the seat for the past 38 years.
It was a seat it just couldn’t lose… surely?
In the event, as you now know, George Galloway (Respect Party) annihilated the Labour vote, winning a 10,140 majority. I’m essentially a Labour Party supporter but, sadly, I’ve been embarrassed by its pathetic performance as “HM’s Loyal Opposition” thus far. For me, the leadership is poor (Cameron is generally running rings round Miliband) and there is no one in the Shadow Cabinet (with the possible exception of Yvette Cooper and Douglas Alexander?) who provides the desire, capability and wit to provide an effective alternative government.
Whatever you think of George Galloway’s political views (and I have a lot of reservations!), you cannot deny his charisma. Remember his response to the US Senate Committee regarding alleged improprieties surrounding the Oil-for-Food programme in 2005? This is what he told committee chairman Coleman:
“Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader, and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one – and neither has anyone on my behalf. Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice”.
You can’t deny it… brilliant!
On facebook this morning, my good friend Rob commented:
“The difference between a charismatic and a non-charismatic politician is exemplified brilliantly in the first couple of minutes of this video. I can see why they chose him”.
I completely agree!
Frankly, there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of difference between the three major parties these days. So, in the absence of any real alternative*, it will come down to presentation and salesmanship at the next General Election and, as things stand (and on the basis of presentation alone), the Tories are likely to win outright. Depressing or what!
I’m looking for a politician to excite and inspire me (Barack Obama has come closest thus far, but unfortunately…). In the meantime, it all seems very depressing out there and I feel as if I’m about to join the ranks of the politically disillusioned!

PS: You might recall that, seven years ago, Galloway had also humiliated Oona King (someone I personally rated fairly highly on the political/charismatic scale) by demolishing her 10,000 majority in Bethnal Green and Bow.
PPS: * Yes, I HAVE voted for the Green Party in local elections but, under the present electoral arrangements, there is absolutely no prospect of the Greens becoming a viable part of any government in the immediate (or long-term?) future.

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