Saturday 2 March 2024

Why Reform Failed in Rochdale

Another reason why mainstream politics is tearing its hair out over the Rochdale result was its refusal to follow the by-election script the media had written for it. It goes something like this: Labour wins, the Tories get a pummelling, and Reform does well enough to get touted as a challenger both parties would do well to take seriously. This gives the Mail, Telegraph, etc. license to offer this private company (remember, the "party" is constituted as a business in which Nigel Farage is the majority shareholder) free advertising and to carry on pushing politics further to the right. At the outset, none of the official scribblers or high foreheads at campaign HQs believed Galloway was going to win, or that the independent candidature of David Tully would blow the main parties out of the water. For its part, Reform thought they were in with a shout of scooping up the votes of the disaffected. They were just as much part of Westminster's groupthink.

By selecting Simon Danczuk, the former UKIP-while-Labour, Sun-loving noted sext pesterer MP, the "party" was hoping to capitalise on his name recognition. Buoyed by the decent results in the previous week's by-elections, they had in fact taken the campaign seriously. Activists were bussed in, a professional campaigning operation was set up, Richard Tice was frequently present. And you could be forgiven for thinking the background ratcheting up of Islamophobic rhetoric and more immigration scaremongering would have played to their advantage. But they got considerably less bang for their buck. I suppose Danczuk might be happy that Reform found 1,100 more people to vote for him this time than at his feeble independent challenge in 2017, but overall Reform fell for their own hype.

Having confused being backward and reactionary with "working class" - a category error common among Westminster elites - to find their usual anti-immigration/stopping the boats/abolish tax rubbish falling on deaf ears must have come as a shock. In the end Reform saved its deposit, but came in at 6.3%. This was behind the Liberal Democrats whose campaign didn't extend beyond their candidate and a few local members. The fancy battle bus and glossy leaflets amounted to a heap of crushed expectations. It's little wonder then, failing to find the electoral Red Seas parting for his party, that Tice has been moaning to any media outlet who'll listen that there was "intimidation" and "death threats" on the campaign trail. And, that old canard, there being something iffy about the postal votes.

While Galloway's campaign was a disgrace for pushing cheap anti-trans arguments, it is doubtful if anyone came in behind his campaign because they found his brand of scabbing on this more convincing than the bilge issuing from the Tories or Reform. Rather, "social conservatism" played little to no role in Galloway's win. His victory capitalised on local disaffection about being a forgotten town - hence it was wise for him to reach out to Tully in his victory speech. And because of Gaza. This wasn't just a first order issue for local Muslims. Polling suggests over 70% of people in this country want to see a ceasefire. Even if you're a non-political person, scenes from the atrocities Israel are committing against civilians are making it onto social media feeds across multiple platforms. The latest outrage often makes in onto the news and, yes, the unwillingness of the Tories and Labour to do anything about Israel's behaviour drives their reputations lower, and lower, and lower. To the point where, what a shocker, is affects voting patterns. Who could've thunk it?

If Reform has a purpose, apart from securing seats at the trough for Farage, Tice, and other select hangers-ons, it is to channel anti-political establishment disaffection into the safety of right wing populism. Which happens to present the interests that structure politics in this country zero threat. The same cannot be said of Galloway with his trenchant critique of the international power politics all sections of the establishment are wedded to. That's why they hate him. And having been the first to be elected against the background of an active, mass Palestinian solidarity movement, that's why they fear him too. Reform? They weren't even on the pitch in Rochdale.


Robert Dyson said...

You give me hope.
Paul Mason has a plan for Labour. I would have thought top of the list would be for Labour to condemn what is happening in Gaza for the crime it is. But no, anything but. I seemed like a joke to read "Galloway can now use Parliamentary privilege to slander his enemies" - like Starmer used against Corbyn and supporters.

McIntosh said...

I wonder if as well as his instinct beinng to support Israel unconditionally Starmer and his advisers made the error of thinking the attack on Gaza would follow the pattern of previous campaigns - 4 to 6 weeks of massacre and then a ceasefire. They forgot the Netanyahu now depends on the support of Fascist parties who want the destruction of Palestine so they can take back all the God gave them from the river to the sea.

To Starmer's surprise the war has not been quickly over but goes on and on, and he and his team have little ideaa of what to do or how to extract themselves from their position. They can see the ebbing of support at the margins - Muslims and the SNP now 11% ahead of Labour - and can only hope old Joe finally tells Netenyahu to stop.

gastrogeorge said...

You lost me at "Paul Mason has a plan".

Jim Denham said...

Anyone who thinks the election of Galloway in Rochdale is a reason to celebrate has lost their bearings. The man is a homophobic, misogynistic, anti-Semitic ego driven opportunist. He defended the murder of gay men by the Iranian regime (who threw them off buildings). He fought under the slogan “for the workers not the woke”. He warned against “apocalyptic green hysteria”. Not surprisingly he was backed in this election by BNP leader Nick Griffin. And there’s so so much more. He’s as close to the populist GB news type far right as makes little difference.
The left should have nothing to do with this populist charlatan.

Jay said...

Since some light touch googling didn't turn up much on Galloway's alleged transphobia (which I'd abhor if true) could anyone elaborate or point out some good sources?

Phil said...

Here you go Jay - two leaflets that were put out in Rochdale during campaigning:

Jim Denham said...

Your googling must, indeed, have been "light touch", Jay. Here's the text of Galloway’s Rochdale election letter:

I wanted to write to you before you vote on Thursday to outline to you why I am standing in this by-election. First and foremost, I believe in Britain. That’s why I fought for Brexit, and why I fought against Scottish Independence.

I believe in family. I am a father of six children, five of them still at school. And I don’t like some of the things they are teaching our children. I believe in men and women. God created everything in pairs. Unlike the mainstream parties I have no difficulty in defining what a woman is. I have fought for human rights, all my life and I treat others as they wish to be treated. But I will not stand reality on its head. A man cannot become a woman just by declaring as such.

I believe in law and order. I believe in peaceful change. I will fight for more and smarter policing. And will expose any cover-up of crime. There will be no grooming gangs on my watch. Even if I have to arrest them myself.

I fight for small business, the hardest working people in the country. I’ve already secured the imminent re-opening of the open-air market at the Exchange and I confidently expect the arrival of Primark there too in due course. As the owner of the Exchange asked me: “Rochdale is 20 minutes from Manchester. How can you not make that work?”

ABOVE ALL ELSE these are my goals: 1. Reopen the Maternity and A&E at Rochdale Infirmary without delay; 2. Make the Open-Air Market the heart of the town. Just like Bury: 3. Secure the long-term future of Rochdale AFC: 4. Bring back big names to our town centre like Primark and finally 5. MAKE ROCHDALE GREAT AGAIN. •

Ken said...

There is a clip of Galloway being”interviewed” by Sky after his win. it made me laugh. My conclusion would , be you don’t just repeat the same questions he was asked by Sky before. How refreshing to see someone outside what the media decides is respectable, unlike Farage, absolutely refusing to bend before the media pile in.

Boffy said...

"Anyone who thinks the election of Galloway in Rochdale is a reason to celebrate has lost their bearings." Absolutely true. But, then, also, anyone who does not understand why Galloway won, in these conditions, as the voters faced two main, almost identical, reactionary parties - The Starnakists - whose politics are not much better than those of Galloway, a Liberal Party that is as quiet as a mouse, and with a Left that has turned itself into simply cheerleaders for one or the other of the two global camps of imperialists, has abandoned Marxism, and simply become moralising bystanders of the historical process, able only to bemoan that fact that voters have made a bad choice, for some inexplicable reason!

Jay said...

Thanks for the links. Seems there's plenty I was ignorant of. Going with the grooming gangs stuff too, and I never knew he was against Scottish independence either.