Today I received my first 'hate call' at my office, from someone clearly not happy with my decision to vote for the Respect Party. I was accused of supporting 'evil', and allowing a despot into Parliament. I lost track of most of what was said, mostly because I don't think it mattered to him what my reply was.
I tried to be polite, quietly explaining why I made my decisions (though he had already read my blog) and invited him to have a coffee with me so we could have a serious conversation. It turned out he lived in London, so it didn't look like the dialogue was going much further. I hoped he realised that after 23 years of being involved in the politics of Bradford West, I might have a better idea of what was going on locally than he did.
I really hope that local folk who disagree with each other will try their best to put Bradford first, above party politics. Elections are divisive, but we must try to reach out to each other and not make too many assumptions about our motives. We have some great Labour, Lib-Dem, Green and even Tory Councillors - they will probably be joined by Respect candidates in May - so please let them start to think about working together for the common good.
But here is some advice for the man who called, if you are still reading my blog, this is addressed to you:
Please be prepared to say your name if you want a conversation with someone.
Try not to be rude or offensive to others who disagree with you
Do not withhold your number, you have nothing to hide from a priest.
I voted Labour in National elections here till 2010. I would have voted for them again if they had put forward a left wing candidate. Sadly, they chose to put up a candidate who may well be a decent local councillor, but did not appear to be of Parliamentary calibre. He thought our troops should be in Afghanistan. I do not. He had never opposed the financial waste of Trident nuclear weapons. I do. Labour's candidate was silent about issues such as tuition fees and local cuts. I want someone vocal and articulate about these matters. The councillor wouldn't even attend hustings alongside other candidates, so it was impossible to know what he was really about, apart from bland glossy leaflets.
I'm not a member of Respect, but George Galloway, flawed as he most certainly is, put forward the local, national and international policies that I agreed with - and policies many in the Labour party also support. Please do not be angry at me for voting for the policies I happen to believe in.
Please don't ring me, and make assumptions about why I and 18,340 other local people voted for Respect. We will judge him or what he does, not on what you or the media says he does.
If he, as you say he does, discriminates against others or supports oppressive regimes, we are more than prepared to challenge him. We will hold him to account on local issues. But at the moment, he appears a little more civilised than those who call me up and tell me who I should and who I should not vote for.
You are forgiven, but please do not continue to anonymously call people and say offensive things, it is not the way politics needs to be done in this day and age.