Thursday July 1st 2021 sees the good people of Batley and Spen go to the polls to elect a new Member of Parliament. The previous incumbent, Ms Tracy Brabin, the face that launched a thousand ‘just been seen-to on top of a wheelie bin outside a northern night club’ memes (after addressing the House of Commons in an off the shoulder piece with one of her legs in plaster) having stood down to become Mayor of West Yorkshire.
Tracy became the Labour MP in 2016 after her predecessor, Jo Cox, was shot and killed by a constituent, Thomas Mair.
With the main parties not contesting the resulting by-election five years ago, Tracy was returned with a majority of 16,600 (Cox’s majority had been 6,100).
In those subsequent five years, Mair’s assumed motive has morphed from mental ill-health, to Brexit, to being of the ultra-hard far-right and, since the death of George Floyd, to shapeshift further into ‘racism.’ Mair’s true motivation remains unclear as he chose not to give evidence at his trial, as is his right. Added to which, after being convicted, the trial judge would not allow Mr Mair to make a statement.
In the December 2019 general election, Ms Brabin was returned to parliament, but only 3,500 votes ahead of her Conservative opponent.
At the forthcoming by-election, a bewildering array of fringe parties are putting forward candidates, one of whom needs no introduction. Step forward and take a bow (or more likely raise a clenched fist gripping a red flag) the shameless self-publicist Mr ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway, previously Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead and Respect Party MP for Bethnal Green & Bow and Bradford West.
Mr Galloway may need no introduction but what of the party he now represents, the Workers Party of Britain?
WPB was founded by George Galloway in December 2019, as a response to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party’s recent election loss. Starting as a two-person band, the other person was a Miss Joti Brar.
One of the Hertfordshire Brars, extreme left-wing Joti grew up on the mean proletarian streets of Hemel Hempstead. After graduating with a Bachelor of Music degree from Goldsmiths College, University of London, Joti pursued a career in music sales and music website content before (surprise, surprise) a ten-year stint at the BBC.
In 2012 she became the communications and media wallah at the Communist Party of Great Britain – Marxist Leninist (CPGB-ML), an organisation that, by a remarkable coincidence, had been founded by her father, Harpal Brar, who was its chairman between 2012 and 2018. At the moment, Joti Brar is both deputy leader of the WPB and the vice-chair of the CPGB-ML.
On the WPB website, as well as being informed of a commitment to ‘high-quality public laundries’, the closeness between the Communists and Mr Galloway is explained,
The Communists (CPGB-ML) have a long history of working with George on various issues. In 2019, The Communists stood alone with George on many questions, not least the defence of the Brexit referendum result and opposition to Labour’s treachery on this question.
Despite his commitment to the working class, economic equality, and being expelled from Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party for being too left-wing, Mr Harpal Brar isn’t afraid of buying and selling and making a profit.
The trillionaires at the Saudi Arabian national oil corporation, Saudi Aramco, were kind enough to publish an informative article about Mr Brar’s business interests in their house magazine Aramco World.
In it, they followed Harpal to the impoverished weaving villages in mountainous Kashmir where a top embroiderer, in temperatures as low as -30C, ‘can earn about 400 rupees ($8) a day’. Mr Brar sources material from Kashmir to sell from his £1.8 million residence and retail outlet at New End Square in London’s exclusive Hampstead.
The Trehearne and Brar pashmina garment website is cagey about prices, stating the cost of shawls ‘starts at’ £450. Fortunately, in the Aramco World article, author Eric Hansen is more forthcoming,
[in the West] a jali shawl, with an allover, open embroidered design, sells for approximately $1800; the solid-embroidered shawls known as jamawar sell for $3000 to $7000 or more, depending on the fineness of the stitching.
Some comrades are more equal than others!
During the 13th May 2021 edition of BBC Question Time, leftie journalist panellist Paul Mason, said the following,
Much of politics now is about identity, culture and values …. the people who’ve understood it most successfully have been the Scottish National Party because the Scottish cosmopolitan national identity is real, they represent it. Mark Drakeford in Wales represents a feeling about being Welsh .… Andy Burnham didn’t just win Central Manchester, he won seats including where I come from where they voted Tory because he projected a something, a narrative, a real something that allowed him to stand beyond the different identities …. a goal, a clear story to tell
It is easy to sneer at Mason, who self-identifies as Northern working-class despite being a metropolitan media type living in a South London millionaire’s row, but Puffins are aware that it is as difficult to be wrong all of the time as to be right all of the time.
The obvious counterargument to Mason’s identity-based politics would be to emphasise practicalities. The Hartlepool by-election was won because Boris delivered Brexit, a coronavirus vaccine and promised a Freeport nearby. The Amersham and Chesham by-election was lost because Boris promised to complete the construction of HS2 across the constituency and build on the green belt within it. Nuts and bolts politics, identity doesn’t come into it.
However, in a constituency such as Batley and Spen, Mason may have a point. A point that raises uncomfortable issues for all of us and has chilling consequences for Mason’s own Labour Party.
Although Jo Cox was presented as an ordinary Yorkshire lass, in reality, grammar school head girl Helen Joanne Cox lived on a houseboat in London, attended Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, never had employment beyond politics and advocacy, and was married to special advisor and charity executive Brendon Cox who was forced to resign from his charity work following allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women.
Despite living on a converted Dutch barge on the Thames and representing a Yorkshire constituency, Mrs Cox took an interest in the toxic politics of the Middle East. She founded and chaired the anti-Assad all-party parliamentary friends of Syria group. In doing so, she took the side of Sunni Muslim groups, including Islamic State, who were opposed to Assad. In February 2016, Cox nominated the controversial Syria Civil Defence organisation (also known as the White Helmets) for the Nobel Peace Prize and lobbied for British military intervention in the Syrian civil war.
In their June 2016 obituary, the Communist Morning Star referred to Cox as ‘a passionate advocate for Palestine’ and a fierce critic of Israel, citing as an example,
Speaking in a debate in Westminster Hall Jo, along with other MPs, highlighted the facts and effects of Israel’s actions.
The night detentions, the solitary confinement, the breaches of human rights such as the right to silence or representation.
But the most damning and effective point was her final one, based on a knowledge and understanding of the occupation of Palestine by Israel and international law.
“The issue of transferring detainees en masse from occupied territory is a very serious issue, and is, in fact, a war crime. Yet monthly data released by the Israeli Prison Service shows that almost half of the detained Palestinian children from the West Bank are transferred to prisons inside Israel. This is a breach of the Geneva Convention.”
In doing so, Cox had entered the poisoned sectarian politics, not only of the Middle East but of the North of England mill town Muslim ghettos, not least in her own constituency.
Batley and Spen’s Islamic population forms 20% of the constituency’s electorate. A 20% that is notoriously easy to manipulate through postal voting and the influence of community leaders.
The Labour Party’s candidate in the 1st July by-election is Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, pictured here next to four of her would-be constituents who are wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan “Free Palestine” beside black clenched fists hovering over Israel.
Elsewhere, local politics has bypassed the gutter and headed straight for the sewer.
In a 20th June Mail Online article, Dan Hodges reports he has seen Whatsapp messages circulating within the Muslim community claiming that Kim Leadbeater is a lesbian who will promote an LGBTQ agenda in Batley and that Labour leader Kier Starmer is a pro-Israel pro-Zionist. Hodges also claims that Galloway’s campaign staff report Muslims expressing concern that Starmer’s wife is Jewish and his children are being raised in the Jewish faith.
It is no secret that Starmer is lukewarm on Palestine, especially compared with his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn who Sir Kier suspended from the party for questioning a report uncovering anti-Semitism within Labour.
Meanwhile, Galloway’s pro-Muslim, pro-Palestine and anti-Israel credentials are set in stone. Amongst other things, he has lauded Saddam Hussein, married three Muslim women and has referred to Israel as a ‘racist state’. Galloway claims to have already captured the Muslim vote in Batley and Spen and is now concentrating his canvassing on the white working-class areas where, ironically, he says voters are sick of identity politics.
‘The white working-class despise Labour,’ he tells me [Dan Hodges] ‘They think Labour just don’t like them.’Things like the whole LGBTQI agenda. The working classes don’t like that. They’re tired of Labour’s identity politics.’
Thus far, optimism in the Galloway camp seems ill-placed. A recent Survation opinion poll showed the Tories on 47%, Labour on 43% and Galloway on 6%, with Boris given a 50% approval rating and Starmer 18%.
Similarly at the bookies, Oddschecker put a Tory victory at 1/4 on, with Labour at 5/2 and the Workers Party at 33/1.
If, somehow, completely outwith the bandwidth of the opinion pollsters and bookmakers, Galloway has captured the entire Muslim community and can convince a decent number of white working-class voters too, he might creep towards the 30% – 35% vote share needed to contend in a field of eleven candidates.
What’s more certain is that a miserable result is in prospect for the Labour Party and Keir Starmer, as the neglect of their core voter and an overemphasis on a particular type of community-based identity politics explodes in their faces.
Not what Jo would have wanted.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file