A tedious feature of British politics is the feigning of outrage over the impolitic pronouncements of eccentric marginal figures. For liberals, conservatives and even social democrats this often entails bitching about far leftists. While I’ve been tacking to the starboard in recent times this is one habit I’d like to avoid reacquiring.

What bugs me about George Galloway’s success in the Bradford West by-election, then, isn’t what he said to Ahmedinejad (or what he said to Saddam; or Castro; or Assad; or, well – you get the point…). He’s an apologist for tyrants, certainly, but our Prime Minister sells weapons to tyrants. If we expended true emotion on every apologist for tyrants we’d be too worn out for the important things in life. What I am troubled by, however, is what the man’s candidacy represented: blatant communalism.

It’s no coincidence, one supposes, that he’s stood in the constituency with the largest proportion of Muslims in England; to many of whom, we’re told, he is a “superstar”. Well, okay, I guess anyone would stand where they’re most liable to win. But that’s the least of it: when it comes to appealing to tribal prejudices the Respect campaign did everything short of displaying a note of personal commendation from Mohammad. On Galloway’s website – along with an endorsement from one Carol Swords; because, of course, the backing of a convicted thug counts for a lot – we find Yvonne Ridley proclaiming that the sentences handed to young men after the Bradford riots represented an “apartheid-style justice that we haven’t seen since the days of South Africa”. Yes, what’s the UAE or Saudi Arabia compared to, er – West Yorkshire. I’m sure these guys will do wonders for community cohesion. Most egregiously we find a leaflet from Galloway’s gang that boasts, to “voters of the Muslim faith and Pakistani heritage”, that he’s supported the Gazans, backed the Iraqis and, uproariously, abstained from booze. That’s right: vote for me, I’m teetotal. It concerns me that this is something to brag about.

Apparently Labour – who are said to have done crap things for the area – put forward a candidate who also appealed to the voters on the basis of his faith. If this is true, a plague on their house as well. What’s disturbing is the extent to which our elections can depend on the candidates’ appeals to particular ethno-religious loyalties. This isn’t new – who could forget Dave Miliband’s audacious side-switching during the Sri Lankan conflict when it was realised that a lot of Tamils dwelled in marginals – but it takes someone as shameless as Galloway to make one realise how significant and unpleasant it can be.

Anyway, the triumphant Member of Parliament has taken to his twitter feed to mark the occasion…

There’s a certain former wool capital of the world that he’s forgotten to namecheck. Not for the last time, I suppose.

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