So, as you know, the southern election has been called (and not before time) for 11 March. This also means that Gerry, having decamped to the fresh pastures of Louth and East Meath, will have to vacate his position as West Belfast’s abstentionist rep at Westminster, having already stood down from Stormont.
This poses a few tricky questions, as noted by the Beeb’s indefatigable Mark Devenport. One is the technical issue that, whilst Gerry has written to Commons Speaker John Bercow saying he’s resigning his seat, he isn’t going to apply for the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds. Doubtless the Commons can deploy some procedural device to unseat the Dear Leader, but Mr Bercow is going to have to put his thinking cap on to figure out what that may be.
More to the point, though, is exactly who SF will pick as the party’s by-election candidate for one of the safest seats in the Commons. Amongst the Belfast Shinners, Alex Maskey seems to me to be the obvious choice – he has decades of hard constituency work behind him, is extremely popular with the party membership and has become quite an adept politician compared to the wee hard man he was in the 1980s. On the other hand, the “movement” may have someone else in mind. It’s certainly a plum position for whoever gets the candidacy.
But one name that didn’t come to my mind was that of this blog’s old mucker George Galloway. Yes, Danny Morrison is holding forth in next Monday’s Andytown News as to the desirability of running Gallows as a candidate, despite Gallows being otherwise engaged in Glasgow at the moment. There’s also the slight complication of George not being a member of Sinn Féin, which should theoretically disbar him from being the SF candidate.
We must also ask ourselves whether Gallows would be the representative West Belfast really needs. Regular readers will know that I’m far from being a paid-up member of the Gerry Adams Fan Club, but I’ll acknowledge that the guy does have a certain gravitas. Are the broad masses of the Falls Road really prepared for an MP who could, at a moment’s notice, vanish from his constituency only to rematerialise in some exotic setting, perhaps sucking up to a Middle Eastern dictator, perhaps impersonating a household pet on national television, or perhaps doing some even weirder shit that nobody could predict?
I’ll admit, George would be fantastic copy, and part of me sort of hopes that Danny is on one of his occasional kite-flying exercises. Sadly, I suspect Danny is just extracting the urine. And maybe it’s just the case that our staid political culture over here couldn’t cope with the Gracchus of Dundee.