You get what you vote for

You get what you vote for

I grew up in Rochdale. The town is classic ex-cotton Lancashire. Deindustrialised with little other than shopping and warehousing left – and the shops are largely gone. The town itself isn’t that big. Much of “Rochdale” is the communities that surround it – Littleborough, Milnrow, Whitworth, Heywood. The council dubbed these “townships”. In the 1980s. Yeah…

Just as I grew up in the “township” of Wardle, communities of people originally from India, Pakistan, Kashmir and Bangladesh clustered into their own townships. Places like Deeplish and Falinge and Sudden – the latter where my mum’s family have lived for generations. The town was poorer and became racially and economically divided, despite all people from all backgrounds being Rochdalians. Race isn’t the true division, poverty is.

Go forward half a century and the deprivation of ex-industrial combined with racial division and you get the obvious results. Rochdale has come off worse than the other ex-cotton towns thanks to terrible planning, with every party you like running the council badly, and scandal after scandal seemingly ignored by the police.

We had Cyril Smith and his heinous crimes, and the repeated grooming gangs scandals. Time after time where the police and the authorities seemed little interested in stopping it or believing the victims, instead acting to cover it up.

And into this arena stepped George Galloway.

“For Rochdale, For Gaza” Galloway. George – his trademark hat and unique political image literally backdropped on a Palestinian flag on his campaign literature. He has cynically run two campaigns. One set of leaflets posted through doors on my street saying he wants the A&E back in Rochdale. Another posted through doors with Muslim families pledging to stand up for Gaza and against Israel.

With Labour having spectacularly screwed up its selection process and ending up without a candidate, Galloway hoovered up his target voters. The other parties collapsed to score less between then than “who?” – a local small business owner called David Tully promising to be “a breath of fresh air”. I can understand why that message hit home!

What does this mean going forward:
1. Let’s not get carried away. Punters have a track record voting for Galloway, not for others carrying his flag. Do not think there is a Workers Party path to winning seats at the GE. Galloway is likely to lose his seat, and no other candidate will get close.

2. Labour will be more paranoid than ever. It’s embarrassing – brutally so when you look at what won – and at least slows down their momentum. You think they haven’t said enough so far? Watch them say less. I wouldn’t want to be a Labour candidate now, the centralised control will be suffocating. Rochdale won’t cost them seats in terms of seats lost because of Gaza, but it could lose them seats as they micro-manage to nothing their campaign.

3. Despite Danczuk coming 6th, this will turbocharge the Reform campaign. We know what their message is – the Islamists are taking over and “traditional values” of Britain are under threat. Reform won’t have much success in somewhere like Rochdale – especially not with *him* as the candidate – but they will in paranoid southern seats. Doubly so once Farage resumes his leadership.

I’m not ashamed of what my former hometown has done, just very sad. The town is very run down, and Galloway rightly cited the lack of an A&E or Maternity ward as things that need to come back. And a Primark apparently. But he won’t ever speak out for “all Rochdalians” or for the football club or for the NHS. It will be Gaza and Galloway.

You get what you vote for. And Rochdale voted for Galloway. The continuing decline of British politics writ large in one byelection.

Rochdale Pioneers

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