And one shall divide into two. At least this puts paid to the claim that the SWP were the ones in the business of splitting: the truth is, there was always one side calling for the preservation of Respect in its original and highly successful form, and it was us. With the best will in the world, it is hard not to be mildly disappointed by this counter-climactic terminus. I really did want to see a raging National Conference and every single important question put to a vote. Galloway's decision to "do a Kilroy" is an act of de-sublimation, par excellence. I note that a few foolish people in the blogosphere not only support George Galloway's split, but actually think it's something to appear vaguely cheerful about.
They may over-estimate their chances. I say this for a few reasons. One of them is that the unity among the splitting faction is entirely ephemeral. What holds them together apart from a conviction that they can no longer work in the original Respect coalition? The ISG, which is splitting along with Galloway, made much of the idea that Galloway's criticisms of the National Secretary were similar to ones that they had made two years ago, but it is worth noting that their coterminous criticisms of George Galloway as being someone who lacks accountability and answers only to an insular clique are likely to be more true now than they were then. (Actually, it was a slightly odd criticism to raise after over a year of coalition - George Galloway has always been something of a maverick, which is partially how he resisted the domesticating trends within New Labour). Salma Yaqoob has an excellent political life in front of her, but not as an ally of George Galloway. The second reason is the figurehead: George, of course, has at most another run in him before he retires to pursue a media career. It is difficult to see him defeating either Ken Livingstone (for mayor) or Jim Fitzpatrick MP in the current circumstances, so we're talking about a 'Renewal' that will probably fizzle out rapidly. Had there been a strong organisation with viable figureheads in place, the loss of Galloway to the chat show and columns circuit would be a surmountable difficulty, but the loss of a huge number of footsoldiers and members will certainly make this much more difficult. The third reason is the loss of members alluded to. I suspect the Galloway faction will end up with a minority of the membership - partially, this suspicion is supplied by the number of people signing the SWP's appeal (the official total so far is over 1,000).
No, there is nothing to be cheerful about for you, honeybunnies. I am reluctant to brag about what the remainder of Respect may achieve, for obvious reasons. I expect we can recover to some extent, and it doesn't do to foreclose possibilities (although rumours that we're considering a coalition with the risible liberals can certainly be written off forthwith). However, I'm not the sort to hold grudges, and if there's one thing I hate, it's doom-mongering, so it behooves me to say something cheerful. The CND, when asked to be a bit more cheerful, used to remind people that any nuclear explosion near you would probably destroy the brain before any pain receptors transmitted the boiling heat sensations to it. In the grand scheme of things, George Galloway's art of fission and fusion may seem less important than global annihilism, but one thought that will always cheer me up is Oona King's irradiated appearance on election night in May 2005. It was worth it.