Posts Tagged ‘respect’

The farce of the “Bradford Spring” is over, but we should not forget its lesson for Labour

21/08/2013, 01:04:39 PM

by Rob Marchant

Ah, the excitement of the “the most sensational victory in British political history”, as its author so modestly put it, has all lasted a tragically short time, hasn’t it?

The surprising thing is not that George Galloway seems to have tired of Bradford after less than a year and a half in the job as its one of its MPs. It is that his five local Respect councillors, who resigned en masse last Thursday, ever thought that he had the slightest interest in the town; a town which he memorably referred to as “Blackburn” two days after winning the seat.

The reason for their unhappiness is that Galloway is reported to be considering leaving them in the lurch by running for London mayor in 2016; theBBC reports that his shocked colleagues “feel he is using Bradford as a platform for his wider political ambitions”. Having taken sixteen whole months to reach that insightful conclusion, one has to conclude that perhaps his party colleagues are not the sharpest tools in the box.

No, the hard work of local pavement politics – or even of showing one’s face in the Commons chamber from time to time – has all seemed a little much for dear old George. Especially when there were TV programmes to present for the propaganda mouthpiece of a repressive regime, or trips to President Assad’s little client state to make.

And that is even before we start talking about last Autumn’s semi-disintegration of the Respect Party triggered by Galloway’s comments on rape or, for that matter, the making of a tastefully-titled film called “The Killing Of Tony Blair”.


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Dear liberals, political correctness needs to extend to Catholics too

27/02/2013, 11:18:56 AM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s a strange time to be a Catholic in Britain. Beset by internal turmoil and out of kilter with liberal-left thinking on a range of issues; my co-religionists can be forgiven for circling the wagons in the face of what feels like incessant hostility.

Yesterday’s Daily Mirror front page photo showed Cardinal Keith O’Brien stood next to a reclining Jimmy Savile, posing at some charity photo opportunity more than a decade ago. The photo was used gratuitously and bore no relation to the news report which focused on O’Brien’s resignation – amid accusations of “improper conduct” towards a number of priests. But the snide implication was clear enough. Clear – as well as tawdry and unjustified.

There is something happening to British Catholics at the moment; a growing sense among the poor bloody infantry that they need to justify their faith in the face of a pervasive threat. Friends in a range of workplaces and professions now complain of casual verbal insults – snide digs and asides – that would never be countenanced (rightly) against any other minority community. For many Catholics these days, it pays to keep your head down.

Liberal Democrat MP David Ward was pilloried recently for stupidly holding “the Jews” accountable for the actions of the Israeli government. The accusation of Islamophobia is enough to reduce any self-respecting liberal a fit of the vapours. Yet Catholics are now fair game – worthy targets of scorn – as the Mirror’s front page testifies.

But we’re a minority too. We’re not the ones with representatives in the House of Lords, or the ones with all those nice stone churches people want to get married in. We’re the other lot. The elderly Irish widows. The lonely young Polish girls, over here working for buttons. The family of Eritrean asylum seekers. For them and many others like them, the church provides a spiritual and social lifeline. It supports and inspires and, if needed, feeds and clothes.

Not to forget the plucky bands of English, Scots and Welsh believers whose forebears faced 250 years of outrageous state-sponsored persecution after the Reformation. This church is not the powerful, privileged monolith of liberal misconception.


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Despite everything, Labour will win in Rotherham tomorrow

28/11/2012, 05:32:32 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Labour will win the Rotherham by-election tomorrow.

To paraphrase George Orwell, that’s a revolutionary prediction in a time of angst for the party in what is usually thought to be a safe northern heartland.

A perfect storm of hostile circumstances surrounds this election, from the botched selection of the party’s candidate through to last weekend’s train wreck issue when a foster couple in the town, who happen to be members of UKIP, had three children removed from their care – with 20 minutes notice.

But these are trifles compared to the deeper issues affecting the town – and the election.

It is of course set against the revelation of a systematic problem of child-grooming by mainly Pakistani men in the town. Specifically, the indolence – and therefore complicity – of public authorities in Rotherham who knew of the problem and failed to act out of a misplaced sense of not wanting to inflame racial tension.

And, not to be forgotten, there’s the actual reason for the by-election in the first place: the resignation of Denis MacShane, in disgrace, after the Commons’ standards and privileges committee pilloried him over his expense claims.


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Rotherham is the most important election of all

14/11/2012, 07:00:06 AM

by Rob Marchant

It seems that, over the next two weeks, we are about to suffer a plague of elections: six by-elections, plus the rather-important PCC elections.

But the one which has the most compressed timescales of all – where candidate Sarah Champion was selected yesterday, with a mere two weeks until polling day and after a walkout at the selection meeting – is going to be the toughest, nastiest and arguably the most important of all.


Denis MacShane’s resignation a fortnight ago, over the falsification of invoices, was a tragic, shabby end to what was an otherwise rather admirable and productive career, including three years as minister for Europe and some brave work fighting anti-semitism. And whilst there was never any question of personal gain resulting from his actions, it was also clear that his behaviour was inexcusable and that he had to go, to avoid dragging out the pain for him, Labour and his constituents over a further half-parliament.

What has not yet been focused on, however, is the considerable headache that his departure gives Labour.

First, we are in a political climate where the conventional wisdom is that trust in established parties is at a historic low – and therefore the likelihood of major parties being punished is high. Although neither Respect nor the BNP are currently in particularly good shape, this is good news for both of them in all these elections.


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Respect: the case against allowing extremists into the Labour party

19/09/2012, 07:00:31 AM

by Rob Marchant

Last week there was much speculation about whether or not Salma Yaqoob, the former leader of Respect who understandably resigned rather than share a party with George Galloway, might join the Labour Party, should she so desire. Indeed, local Labour MP Richard Burden on Thursday extended the hand of friendship, saying she would “be an asset”.

Yaqoob is a young, articulate politician about whom we know relatively little, given that she is, in terms of real administrative power, an ex-backbench Birmingham councillor and has had few years of exposure to the national media.

But as a former party leader she still has political weight and, unlike her erstwhile colleague Galloway, she has not had time to make many serious gaffes or enemies although, as Dan Hodges pointed out, describing 7/7 as a “reprisal attack” came pretty close.

On a brief examination of her party and her politics though, the vast majority of us, if we bothered to do so, would probably find that our gut reaction would be that we didn’t care very much for either.

But that is not the point. Everyone has rather been asking the wrong question: instead of asking, do we want this person in Labour, we should be asking, is it in any party’s interest to invite people in from the extremes of national politics?

In other words, a grown-up political party should not be in the business of opining on specific cases, but have a robust, general policy; some universal principles about why it would or would not want to engage with another political group’s cast-offs. Not to do this makes us look at best subjective and, at worst, cronyish – arbitrarily picking and choosing only our mates for our party, and throwing out anyone who dissents. Not a good look for a democratic party.


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Salma Yaqoob: so do we welcome her in or slam the door in her face?

12/09/2012, 07:00:55 AM

by Kevin Meagher

In the old days it used to be so easy. You joined a political party and stuck with it. There may have been tough times and periods when you disagreed or despaired at the direction it went in, but the thought of leaving? Never.

When news broke last night that Salma Yaqoob, the leader of the Respect party, had quit, not only as leader, but the party altogether, Twitter was quickly alive with talk that she is now set to join Labour.

Not that it is wise to trust the instant pontificatorate on Twitter, but you can see why the rumours spread. Yaqoob’s previous public utterances about Labour have been carefully calibrated to leave the door ajar. In an interview with The Guardian back in April she was asked how to describe her politics: “I would characterise them as what people think the Labour party should stand for: social justice, and foreign policy about peace, not war.”

There are no references to George Galloway in her resignation statement, but there didn’t need to be. Following Kate Hudson’s withdrawal as the party’s candidate in the forthcoming Manchester Central by-election over Galloway’s careless remarks about rape, the ruptures within Respect are all too apparent. Rather than feign surprise, it is reasonable to ask what took Hudson and now Yaqoob so long?

In citing a breakdown of “trust and collaborative working” in her statement, Yaqoob makes it sound like she’s leaving a band rather than a national political party that she led until yesterday evening. She was no mere fellow traveller and it is right that she is held accountable for Respect’s noxious brand of politics.


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Time to get out of our cosy anti-cuts bed

12/06/2011, 11:44:32 AM

by Mike Blakeney

Opposition is warm and fluffy. It is great to be liked.

I joined the Labour party when times were at their toughest. Tony had left, we had Gordon, and the public were increasingly upset with the party. My joining could only be described as a crazed act of masochism.

Yet we soldiered on through adversity, safe in the knowledge that we were making a difference.

Now we are doing better in the polls, comedians tease our opponents and Question Time audiences cheer our MPs. Surely we should be happy again? But, rightly, we’re miserable.

Miserable because we see the devastation that is happening to our public services and we are powerless to stop it. That is what happens in opposition. It’s warm, it’s fluffy and people agree with you. But ultimately it’s soul-destroying.

Not long after joining the party I was told that, “The greatest leaders are liked and respected, but if you have to make a choice, be respected”.


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