Galloway won, against all expectations. Hollande is ahead in the polls. If Livingstone and Hollande win too, Ed Miliband will be under huge pressure to move his party to the left. And the argument, which is as superficially attractive as it is wrong, will be harder than usual to resist.
People are angry, very angry. They're scared too. If they are unemployed, they're in despair of getting back to work. Even if they're still working, they're worried that they may lose their jobs, and their spending power has been squeezed.It can only get worse, as most of the cuts haven't yet hit. Times are extremely bleak.
What are politicians telling them? Conservatives and Liberal Democrats say, "We understand your pain but there's no alternative, and it's going to have to get worse." Labour says, "We understand your pain but we can only fiddle about at the edges to help you." George Galloway says, "Stop this cuts madness!" Which do you think is more immediately appealing?
If voters were rational automatons, unencumbered by inconvenient emotions such as fear and anger, they might be thrilled that the Coalition is tackling the deficit and reward them for it. Theoretically, they do – at least, they say they trust David Cameron and George Osborne more than the two Eds to run the economy. But when it comes to any individual deficit-cutting measure, they oppose it. Our ComRes poll yesterday showed 71 per cent disapproving of the "pasty tax" and 64 per cent against the "granny tax".
The links between Ken and George are fairly close. At the last London elections in 2008, Livingstone backed Galloway’s bid for a seat on the London Assembly. He told the East London Advertiser (25 April 2008):
I would like to think we could work together and he'd form part of a broad coalition with the Greens and us against the Tories and Islamophobes. George and I have had our differences in the past. But so have I and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Yet we've been able to work with each other.
He [Galloway] has taken a very correct line around the consequences for London if Boris Johnson is elected. We have so many non-entities who don't add to the Assembly's work and who don't turn up for meetings. I think George would be better… if he's elected, that is.
A few days before the election, they shared a platform in Tower Hamlets. They shared a platform again in 2010 to campaign for the borough's controversial move to an elected mayoral system – the system that gave us Lutfur Rahman. Galloway spoke at the “Progressive London” conference, organised by Livingstone, in 2009. He used a picture of himself in a fond embrace with Ken on his election leaflet for his (sadly abortive) bid to take Poplar and Limehouse at the last general election.
Both men also, of course, enjoy the enthusiastic support of the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe, based at the East London Mosque, whose activists helped secure extraordinary – indeed Gallowayesque – swings towards Ken in Tower Hamlets in 2008, boasting that they “got the vote out” for Livingstone after he gave them half a million pounds in GLA grants, against the opposition of his senior officials.