Sunday Best: Galloway will be back
A round-up of Sunday's key stories and things you might have missed this week.
Readers, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability, but most of all your ability to pronounce ‘indefatigability’.
Given expectations that the Tories would pull off another Hartlepool, Labour’s narrow hold in Batley and Spen feels more like a thumping landslide. For beleaguered leader Sir Keir Starmer, it has stuck a tripping foot in the way of his internal critics.
In a triumph of spin, the Batley result — to which Sir Keir was, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, the greatest hindrance — is being cast as a vindication of his leadership. BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says: ‘A Labour source said that the contest was presented as a referendum on Sir Keir’s leadership — and he won.’ Yet, before the by-election, Team Starmer was saying:
So it was a referendum on his leadership but, if the vote went against him, he wasn’t going to respect the result? Then again, he does have form in this area.
The other piece of spin, and one being repeated by people who should know better, is that Labour won a moral victory by defeating George Galloway. It did nothing of the sort. Labour’s candidate, and Batley and Spen’s new MP, Kim Leadbeater, ran a communalist campaign that pandered to base instincts. As I noted in the Spectator earlier this week:
During the campaign, Labour’s candidate Kim Leadbeater posed for a photograph with local campaigners sporting T-shirts that depicted Israel as ‘Palestine’, issued both a leaflet and a letter touting her pro-Palestinian credentials (by heaping scorn on Israel, naturally), and defended a grim leaflet clearly geared towards tapping into anti-Hindu and anti-Indian prejudices. In the middle of the campaign, Sir Keir also used one PMQs to demand Boris Johnson convince other world leaders at the G7 to recognise a Palestinian state, presumably prior to any peace agreement with Israel.
There is another reason Labour’s win wasn’t the forceful rejection of Galloway that Labour’s spinners in the press office — and in the press — are making it out to be. Galloway took 21.9% of the vote in Batley, his best electoral showing since the 2012 Bradford West by-election in which he snatched a previously safe Labour seat. Galloway’s most recent attempt to get back into the Commons — West Bromwich East in 2019 — saw him finish sixth on 1.4% of the vote, and just ahead of Yeshua, a messianic party whose manifesto was the Ten Commandments. It’s safe to say Batley was a bounce-back.
It’s too early to say but some reportage suggests that Labour clung on by retaining the votes of older South Asian Muslims — and, as Ben Walker suggests in the New Statesman, by pulling in new voters — while Galloway peeled away younger Muslims less instinctively loyal to Labour. If that is the case, Labour might want to put down the champagne flutes and have a gander at the demographics of some of its most reliable seats. There are any number where, either in a by-election or a general election, Galloway could pose a serious electoral threat.
As we saw from Galloway’s campaign in Batley, and from Labour’s own efforts, the former Labour MP has tapped into a rift between Labour and some Muslim voters. Palestine is an issue, of course, but there is more going on there and it reflects the tensions inherent in identity politics. If Galloway gets another chance at a similar seat and runs a campaign that appeals both to older, Labour-loyal Muslim voters and their younger, independent-minded children and grandchildren, as well as picking up Brexiteers and social conservatives with an anti-woke message, he could cobble together the coalition needed to propel him back into the Commons.
Galloway is like the shark in Jaws: every time they think they’ve sunk him, up pops the ominous fin one more time. He’ll be back for another bite at Labour in another seat, no doubt, and next time the circumstances might be more favourable to him. Kim Leadbeater’s divisive campaign proved enough to hold Batley and Spen but will it be enough to hold the next Batley and the one after that?
Far from being sunk, Galloway will be buoyed by Thursday’s result. Labour writes him off at its peril.
The top stories from across the media.
It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s com— I’m jinxing it, aren’t I?
The PM is expected to allow a free vote on £4bn of cuts that have raised the hackles of some liberal Tories.
Get vaccinated, get liberated.
Stories that might have slipped your attention.
An investigation by The Times into UK Column.
What happens when you let NIMBYs dictate housing policy.
Prepare for The National headline: ‘Independence makes Scot a millionaire’.
Stories to file under ‘yeah, there’s gonna be a row about this’.
One problem: You can’t sack the Labour deputy leader. It’s an elected post.
Nigel Boardman stood in a council election in Islington in 1986.
Coming on the heels of the cervical screening scandal, this looks bad and, more importantly, is bad.
It’s a small world after all
News from the international scene.
The US Supreme Court rules that two Arizona laws — one banning ‘ballot harvesting’, the other excluding votes cast in the wrong precinct — are not contrary to the Voting Rights Act.
The remote electrical neuromodulation device works by stimulating nerve endings.
Former South African president jailed for refusing to appear before anti-corruption commission.
That’s just, like, your opinion, man
Op-eds, interviews, and general stuff that makes me go ‘ooooh’.
The guitarist talks to Bari Weiss about leaving the band over the response to his political views.
Former Labour MP Tom Harris on why the party’s leader needs to step up reforms after the narrow win in Batley and Spen.
James Kirkup on a judge ruling that placing male trans prisoners in women's prisons is lawful.
Everything I wrote this week. Well, not the pilot script for my sitcom about four older women who live together on the Israel-Syria border. I call it… The Golan Girls.
The cancer screening scandal is just another example of the Scottish Parliament letting women down. My Scottish Daily Mail column.
Sir Keir Starmer’s party embraced sectarian politics in the by-election. It may come to regret that.
Yeah, that’s weird
Concerning further evidence that this timeline might not be quite right.
I see Florida Man is on holiday in New England.
54 trainee police dogs get the boot from a law enforcement academy in China for being too friendly. And to think they let Mahoney pass after that Blue Oyster stunt.
The real story here is that it took the Tennessee Department of Revenue ten years to work out what '69PWNDU' meant.
Happy July Fourth to everyone who can’t spell ‘colour’ correctly. In honour of American independence day, please be upstanding as internationally renowned opera star Enrico Pallazzo leads us in ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.