GEORGE Galloway has thrown his fedora into the ring for the upcoming Batley and Spen by-election – and it could have far more of an impact than some may envisage.
The respected orator and politician has announced that he will be standing against Tory Ryan Stephenson and Labour’s Kim Leadbeater in what – if another Labour loss is on the cards – could possibly spell the end for Keir Starmer’s leadership.
The once longtime Labour stronghold has seen a dramatic political change in recent years, with locals moving away from Labour to vote Conservative.
Labour have, however, clung onto the Parliamentary seat, but with a significantly reduced vote margin, and the constituency’s most recent MP, Tracy Brabin seeing her vote share decrease in 2019 from 9,000 to 3,525.
Upon Tracy Brabin’s successful West Yorkshire mayoral bid this month, the Labour MP and former soap actress created a further headache for her party after having to automatically resign from her role in Parliament, triggering a by-election that follows disastrous ‘Super Thursday’ results for Labour across the country.
Already, some have accused the Labour Party, who are concerned about losing the seat after losing the by-election in Hartlepool, of opportunism – ignoring their own selection rules and quickly selecting the sister of Jo Cox in a desparate attempt to exploit justified sympathy for her sister, who was murdered during the 2016 referendum.
The move could very well backfire, however; and George Galloway – a former Labour MP – now entering the fold will without question give Starmer further reason to be worried.
“Labour betrayed the working-class” Galloway recently said. “On Brexit. On their infatuation with race and colour, with sex and gender and sexual orientation. Any issue to divide the people they wrap around themselves like a flag. They are a leaderless rump united in their dislike of the British people”.
Although the party he leads and and is standing for – the Workers Party GB – isn’t yet as established as others, the energetic Scot has certain attributes that make him stand-out from among the candidates – charisma being one of them.
Knocking on doors, chatting to everyday voters with his typical affable manner and often hard-to-beat debating skills, the most recognisable name on the ballot paper is likely to win over a fair number of crosses.
Galloway is also no fool, and isn’t alien to the power of tactical voting, having presented a plausible way of giving the SNP the boot in Scotland, predominantly via ‘lending out’ ones vote to the Tory party.
The tactic (if indeed that’s what it truly is) in Batley and Spen, seems set to be focused less on voting blue, and more on persuading locals not to vote red.
On the one hand, Mr Galloway will undoubtedly win over a small number of Brexit supporters who were expected to vote Conservative. Yet, being a socialist, he has a track record of chipping-away at the Labour vote share, particularly via the support of the working-class and ethnic minority groups.
“I am a socialist. I am not a liberal. I believe in a strong and accountable state and formidable national defence” he once said, displaying an ideology more in tune with the ‘modern day socialist’ and working-class Brit – the everyday man and woman who may have continued to vote Labour were it not for the party’s drastic self-catapulting over the far-left into a void that not even the political compass is now able to locate.
Batley and Spen also has a prominent ethnic minority population, including a large Muslim community, which could very well work to Galloway’s advantage, with many expected to be supportive of Galloway’s long history of speaking up in defence of Palestine.
While not an independent himself, he nonetheless stands for a relatively new political party and may be seen as such by locals. But, bucking the national trend, independent candidates have faired rather well in Batley and Spen; with one independent standing in 2019 accounting for no less than 12% of the vote share.
This, it seems, is where the Conservative party may have made a mistake – selecting their candidate from Leeds rather than the local constituency. Although Leeds is just a short drive away, this detail may prove not to be as minor as many may expect; and with the seat not being as winnable as Hartlepool, the Tories therefore may need George’s help after all.
The battle for Batley and Spen is going to be a closely contested one, and a final survival test for Keir Starmer. But, as always, George Galloway’s entrance into the fray is certain to breathe some much-needed life, entertainment and intrigue into the proceedings.