Something a bit odd about this, I feel:
‘Oona King’s campaign in Bethnal Green and Bow wants volunteers on election day, when it is expecting a large turn-out from supporters of George “How can he call it Respect?” Galloway aimed at intimidating voters outside polling stations.’
– We’re expecting lots of Respect supporters to come out and intimidate people!
Oh no! What can we do to respond to this threat?
– Let’s get lots of our supporters to come out!
Yes, that’ll calm things down.
I’m not entirely sure what’s meant by ‘intimidating voters’, either. Scaring people into voting for Galloway? This would only work if Respect could find out how people had voted afterwards – and I don’t believe they’re going to be rooting through ballot boxes and matching up counterfoils in the small hours of Friday morning. I suppose they could scare some people away from voting altogether, but this would only make sense if they already knew that those people weren’t going to vote for Galloway. I don’t believe Respect have that kind of intelligence on the people of Bethnal Green.
In short, King’s warning would only really make sense (a) if Respect in Bethnal Green were in cahoots with MI5 or (b) if they were acting without any political rationality – in other words, if they were a gang of thugs who go around intimidating people for the fun of it. Or, indeed, if they were fascists; calls to action like this have been issued against the threat of BNP mobilisation, and have been entirely appropriate.
I don’t know much about Respect, and most of what I do know is a couple of years old (…shibboleth…Democracy Platform…Steve Godward…that awful woman from the Express…) I dare say they’ve moved on since then. And perhaps they’ve moved on to the extreme right – I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to take their single greatest rival’s word for it, though – least of all when she’s apparently trying to inflame the situation herself.