A cold evening on a housing estate in the Batley constituency. George Galloway approaches a lady who is standing in her front garden, arms folded, defensive, and he starts talking to her about her cat. He’s fearless, I think to myself. It’s clear she’s not keen on him, or keen to talk. She’s been attracted outside by the commotion of other people in the street coming out and talking to George like they’ve seen their favourite popstar. They’re super happy to see him. This lady looks suspicious of the whole thing. The cat sits down, between her and George like a referee. I’m taking photos. It’s a great image. But I’m expecting her to swear at him and ask him to leave. She doesn’t. She replies. They start talking. Just about stuff. The cat. The street we’re on. The bollards at the end of the road designed to stop the joyriders. Less than five minutes later, her arms are unfolded, they’re laughing. She’s telling him all the stuff that has been pent up in her for years. She tells us that politicians don’t usually come down their road at election time, a tale we’ve heard from every one of the poorer working class estates we’ve visited over the last few weeks. Within ten minutes, he has her vote. They exchange phone numbers. They’re buddies for life. This is a scene I witnessed over and over again on the Batley campaign trail.
We’re a poor party. We’ve been living up here in an old mansion, loaned to the campaign by local owners. We were donated mattresses by locals, and they’ve been bringing us provisions, water and sweeties. We’ve had endless volunteers appearing at their own expense from all over the country.
We haven’t been having time off. There’s not enough time. We’re living in a weird bubble of the campaign, where nothing outside it exists. During the evenings, we get a chance to see what the word is on social media, at accusations of thuggery, dictatorial hat wearing, gun toting, extremist supporting, and all the other wild things being flung our way. The story on the ground couldn’t be further from the truth, but the truth doesn’t seem to matter here, as Labour desperately try to do anything they can to disguise the fact that if we beat them, it won’t be our fault. It will be theirs. Meanwhile the tories are keeping pretty quiet. They’re hoping we do their job for them.
They seem to think that the voters belong to them; mere commodities to be conjured up at election time, and put back into their box flats when it’s all over. There is a huge divide in the area between very low income and extremely nice housing. What we’ve found as we’ve been knocking on every type of door, is there is no real pattern to the voters that are attracted to George. We’ve met many that used to be labour but turned tory in frustration, now agreeing to vote for us. We’ve had lifelong tories and labour voters, telling us that they will vote for us. We’ve had many who have never voted, who registered to vote for us. We have many that were undecided until we knocked on their door. We’ve been thanked by people for calling because no one has before. On more affluent estates, we’ve been told that they’re getting sick of people knocking. It seems that other parties concentrate on certain areas and ignore the rest. But they’re quick to tell us that we’re “stealing” their votes. No one owns votes. No one is entitled to votes. Votes need to be earned. And we’re out there, earning them, just to get back to our donated digs every night and read all about today’s big attempt to take them from us.
This is the biggest campaign I’ve ever been involved in, and I’m frankly pretty shocked at the difference between what’s actually happening and what’s being said online and in the media. I’m seeing backstage of this show, and backstage is a mess.
When we decided to fight this election, we knew that certain things would happen. But what we hoped was that by the time it was all over, everyone in the country would know who the Workers Party are, having been ignored since out formation back at the end of 2019. I’d say that’s a mission pretty well accomplished. The media are fawning over George like flies around the proverbial poop, and they’re all trying to trip him up, and as they find that impossible, they’re now trying to slur him with whatever lame tactics they can amass. It’s a filthy world, politics, and though I’ve always known that this kind of thing goes on, it’s pretty shocking to be involved in it so closely and see how far they’re prepared to go.
What is clear though, as I observe from the inside, is that we are watching a master at work. At the hustings, George has been kicking ass. He has broached the difficult issues. He stands by his actions where others will not answer the question. He dives where others dodge. He holds the audiences he addresses, and he talks round every person he meets, such as the lady with the cat. He is so amiable, so straight talking, so sincere in his speech, that they can’t help it. They can feel that they’re in the presence of someone who knows how it all works. It shows, almost physically, like a Ready Brek aura.
An old horseman called Ray Hunt once said, “The horse knows if you know, and he knows if you don’t know”. It’s the same situation here. For all the bad stuff they’ve heard, once they meet him, speak to him, they know that they have met someone who knows. Fifty years’ experience will do that to a man. It’s clear that he has spent those years acquiring the kind of knowledge and skill that you need to carry on when faced with an impossible task such as the one he’s set himself here, and according to the bookies, it doesn’t actually look that impossible. The guy is a machine. The energy level required to stay sane throughout this madness is huge. I’m writing this today because I’m too shattered to move and my voice is gone. Everyone had to go out and carry on without me. But George never seems to rest, and he’s got nearly twenty years on me.
The real achievement of this election, for me, is that we’ve shown the whole country that there is a new party, once that intends to replace Labour as the party of the working class, whether they live in the three storey stone houses, or the six flat blocks. Whether they’re businessmen donating mattresses and properties to our campaign, or whether they’re so poor they have nothing else to give us but their vote. We’ve met them all. They’re all hearing our message. If on Friday morning we hear that GG has pulled it off, well, that would just be the super bonus. But if anyone thinks this is the end of our mission, then they’re much mistaken. This is just the start. Expect the Workers Party to be bringing the circus to town everywhere we can. Thrills. Spills, tightrope walkers, acrobats, even a few clowns.
The attraction of the circus is watching people doing daredevil feats without a net. That’s what we’ve all been doing. Some audience members are willing us to fall, but if we do, we’ll just get back up, over and over again, until we get the trick right. Our big top will be in every town. No risk, no progress. If Sir Keir and co think that by calling us the circus they’re being derogatory, they’re much mistaken.
Everyone knows that kids, young people, families, pensioners alike… they all love the circus.