In the race for mayor of London, Respect candidate George Galloway has once again likened his views to those of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. At the same time, he has accused the official Labour candidate Sadiq Khan of consistently stabbing Corbyn in the back. But will Galloway be able to successfully win over traditional Labour voters in London?
At the Evening Standard mayoral hustings on 3 February, Khan found perhaps his most vociferous opponent in Galloway, who said:
Sadiq Khan has never voted against a Labour leader in his entire time in parliament. He boasts that he’s the least rebellious of politicians. And yet since the day and hour that Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader he has stabbed him in the back, in the front, in the side and I for one ask everyone who supports Corbyn to vote for me first preference in the election for London mayor.
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Does Galloway have what it takes to win the race?
Because of George Galloway’s anti-war stance, his criticism of Israeli apartheid, and his opposition to economic austerity, he has often been attacked by the political establishment. But he is not on the ‘far left’ of the political spectrum. Thomas G. Clark at Another Angry Voice has called him a principled social democrat with “populist appeal“. In fact, Galloway himself has said:
I’m a centre-left Labour man… I occupy a piece of political ground that was once commonplace but can be caricatured as being extreme now only because of how the political centre of gravity has moved [to the right].
Clark says Galloway is “a fine orator and a politician of principle”, and describes the politician’s support for “sobriety, pacifism, renationalisation, direct funding of state infrastructure, [and] increasing rather than decreasing the funding of education and research”.
The Scotsman has spoken of his “impeccable working-class credentials” – he grew up in a council house and had grandparents who were mill workers – and about how he joined the Labour party at age 13. A Labour MP from 1987, he was expelled in 2003 because of his opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Since then, he has won Labour safe seats with Respect in both Bethnal Green & Bow and Bradford West.
But as a very outspoken politician, Galloway has also generated controversy in the past for the following reasons:
- He once allegedly praised Saddam Hussein, saying “I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability”. (He claims he was quoted out of context and was, in fact, praising the Iraqi people rather than Saddam.) He also called Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria “the last castle of Arab dignity” – in part because of its previous support for Palestinian refugees.
- He claimed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had been set up with fabricated sexual assault accusations, insisting the alleged acts were “really sordid and bad sexual etiquette” if true but were “not rape”. He was criticised for undermining the severity of the allegations, and the Respect party leader at the time, Salma Yaqoob, soon clarified her own position in contrast to Galloway’s. After receiving personal attacks, she decided to leave the post.
- He insisted that accusations made by human rights organisations about executions related to homosexuality in Iran were just propaganda. (Galloway has denounced all executions, but questions these particular claims.) He has also defended Iranian elections by comparing them with more authoritarian nations in the region.
Is Corbyn the key to winning?
Whatever Galloway has said in the past, the fact is that many of his policy proposals are clearly popular. Indeed, a number of apparent Corbyn sympathisers took to Twitter after the hustings to show their support for the Respect candidate:
If u needed convincing that @georgegalloway is the man 4 LDN , the monotony of Khan's performance at Eve Stand Hustings should do the trick
— Rayne (@R4yne_M) February 4, 2016
@the_intrigue @georgegalloway George is the REAL Labour man in this election, I hope people will see that.
— Andy (@VitoAndy) February 4, 2016
— Russel Guy (@russelguy66) February 3, 2016
And it seems like name dropping Jeremy Corbyn will be a significant part of Galloway’s tactics in the mayoral race:
— Galloway 4 London (@alondonforall) February 3, 2016
As the Respect candidate has insisted in recent months:
If you’re looking for a Corbyn in this election, it’s me. It’s not Sadiq Khan. I support all of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies… Sadiq Khan opposes them and makes no bones about doing so. So if I was Jeremy, I’d want me to win.
Featured image via Vince Millett/Flickr
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