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Sunday, December 21, 2003

Mad World

No doubt you are thinking that this posting is to celebrate the fact that "Mad World" by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules is the Christmas number one, it is not. Instead I am posting about the new "political movement" started up by George Galloway. Earlier this week I received the following e-mail:

A new political movement is born

Dear Friend, As you will no doubt be aware I have been expelled from the Labour party for my views on the illegal war and occupation of Iraq. I am writing to inform you of the launch of a 'unity' coalition which I and others have formed and which will put up candidates throughout England and Wales at the forthcoming European and Greater London Authority elections in June. Among those who spoke at the launch last night were Ken Loach, the filmmaker; environmental activist George Monbiot; trade union leaders Bob Crow and Linda Smith; Salma Yaqoob of the Birmingham Muslim community and anti-war organiser John Rees.

I hope you will consider supporting this new movement. You can join it, you can financially contribute to it, or simply vote for it to register your protest at the policy of endless war, uncontrolled globalisation, environmental vandalism and privatisation of our public services, which are the hallmarks of Tony Blair's premiership. We are in the process of constructing a website at www.blairout.com where you can learn further details of what is certain to be massive popular movement. I will also be writing to you periodically (and as funds permit!) with updates on our progress. I would also welcome any comments or suggestions you have which may aid our fight for representative democracy in Britain and Europe.

Should you wish to make a donation to the movement - funds are urgently required - please make cheques payable to 'Unity political fund' and send them to me at the House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1 OAA. Membership applications should also be sent to me at the same address - annual subscription £10.

Yours sincerely, George Galloway MP

There are just so many things that I can say about this e-mail that I do not know where to start. The obvious starting point is that there is a large element of self-delusion in this. The idea of a rainbow coalition of the left has been an unattainable dream for some for decades or longer. It never works because firstly, there is no popular support for what such a coalition might stand for and secondly, left wing groups tend to break off into smaller and smaller factions rather than coalesce. It "is certain to be a massive popular movement" we are told - really? The idea that George Galloway might be the messiah around which such a coalition will gather has no more credibility than the proposal that Arthur Scargill should be the said messiah, as was being mooted some years ago. A good example of this is the two e-mails that arrived almost immediately afterwards. The first was from the chief spokesperson/druid for the Green Party in Wales. He wrote:

"There is already a movement that takes on board all of these issues it's called the Green Party"

A member of the Swansea Coalition against the war then contributed the following to the e-mail group:

Could we have some reference to a website/more info posted re: the Greens and Plaid platforms/policies? Martyn Shrewsbury's reply is certainly not enough to make a decision, and although the Plaid reply mentions that they already stand on all the platforms cited by Galloway, no further info is given re:, for example, halting the privatisation of public services, which would be one deciding factor for me. So would any parties on the list who are fielding candidates please give us a fuller picture of what policy issues they will be standing on at the elections?

They are in disarray already, even before the first meeting, with Greens, Plaid Cymru and George all competing for the same limited electorate.

Secondly, the philosophical basis of this coalition seems to be negative. There is a lot of what they are against - presumably because they can agree on that - but not much about what they are for - that is where the arguments start and any sympathetic members of the public begin to leave rapidly. Thus they are to exist to protest the "policy of endless war, uncontrolled globalisation, environmental vandalism and privatisation of our public services, which are the hallmarks of Tony Blair's premiership" but not to explain how they will realistically implement alternatives to these "evils". Even the website name is a negative, reminiscent of the anti-Maggie protests of the eighties. Somehow it is all getting a little personal.

Finally, is it ethical and above board to solicit party political funds to a House of Commons address? Is using the House of Commons as a base for a political party allowed under the rules? I think we should be told.

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