Firstly I should put it on the record that I was in the past - naively - a strong supporter of Galloway. In the run-up to the 2005 election it initially seemed to me that Respect was a genuine attempt to build a left alternative to New Labour, initially involving Greens as well as Reds, and Galloway's main point - that Tony Blair was a Bush poodle who should be in the dock with his mentor George W Bush for war crimes - made perfect sense to me.
My stance on Galloway has since changed and I'm now not a supporter of his at all, for two main reasons:
- the unsavoury alliance between elements of the far left and reactionary religious extremists which Respect cultivates;
- Galloway's next-to-useless record as Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in the 2005-10 parliament, where he turned up to only 7% of parliamentary votes while pursuing a full-time outside media career - including an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, FFS.
Also it seems to me that other political groupings - the Green Party, Labour Left, Liberal Left, Compass and Occupy LSX - articulate a left political perspective more successfully, and stand more chance of widespread success, than does Respect.
That said, it is quite something for Galloway to win Bradford West despite being written off by the media and the Labour Party in the seat. What it shows, I think, is the fragility of the orthodox pro-cuts, pro-austerity consensus which the ConDems - and the right wing of the Labour Party - are spoonfeeding the public. There are a great many more people in this country who know bullshit when they see it than the Westminster bubble might believe, and that bodes ill for the centre-right's continuing attempts to convince the British public that the economic sado-masochism we have embarked on is (a) necessary, and (b) desirable.
Of course, the danger is that disenchantment with the current consensus can feed the hard right as well as the hard left. Galloway expertly combines elements of both, but in future by-elections I'd expect to find one or more of UKIP, the BNP, the Greens and Respect all making inroads. Less chance of that happening at a general election because the system is stitched up against these smaller parties - but even so, I would not rule out more Caroline Lucas style breakthroughs from the parties that are "fringe" at the moment but, as the economic situation deteriorates further, are likely to become the New Mainstream.