Melanie Philips reports that the general response to George Galloway's sensational victory in the Bradford West by-election has missed the point by a mile.
Comment has concentrated on the undoubtedly stunning defeat for Labour, and has ascribed Galloway's victory to widespread disaffection with mainstream political parties.
This is certainly part of the story - strikingly, a significant section of the Tory vote appears to have gone to Galloway - but it is not the key factor behind this torrid triumph of a discredited demagogue. For this rested principally on something that commentators are too blinkered or politically correct to mention.
Galloway won because young Bradford Muslims turned out for him in droves. They did not vote for him because he was promising them better public services. They did not vote for him, indeed, on account of any British domestic issues. They did so because he tailored his message to appeal to their religious passions and prejudices about conflicts abroad.
Specifically, he campaigned against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and for the Palestinians, declaring that his victory would help satisfy voters' 'duty' to care about such grievances. Most commentators have dismissed this victory as a shocking one-off with no further significance than an upset by an entertaining maverick. Not so. For with Galloway's election, religious extremism has become for the first time a potential game-changer in British politics.
The point being so resolutely ignored is that Galloway ran on an Islamist religious ticket. It wasn't simply that he was pandering to Islamist foreign policy obsessions. He made explicit references to Islam throughout his campaign.
'All praise to Allah!' he saluted his victory through a loud-hailer - having previously told a public meeting that if people didn't vote for him, Allah would want to know why. Indeed, declaring in one address that 'God knows who is a Muslim', he implied that he was even more of a true adherent of that faith than Labour's Muslim candidate who, he suggested without a shred of evidence, drank alcohol whereas he himself had never touched the stuff.
Pinch yourself - a British politician using the inflammatory rhetoric and professions of Islamic piety more commonly heard in Iran or Saudi Arabia. Just as such religious hucksterism inflames millions of followers in the Islamic world, so certain unscrupulous British politicians have now realised they too can tap into the same well of irrational hatred to deliver them electoral victory.
For sure, countless numbers of Muslims will be as horrified as anyone by this playing to the Islamist gallery. While radicalisation among young Muslims has reached terrifying levels, the vast majority of older British Muslims want nothing whatever to do with ideas which threaten their own liberties along with those of everyone else. And those loyal Muslims who serve in the UK's Armed Forces will doubtless be particularly horrified by such cynical support for Iran or the Taliban.
Yet with so many now so profoundly turned off mainstream politics, there is a real risk that millions of disaffected voters will sit on their hands at future elections - thus giving radicalised Muslims the opportunity to begin reshaping the political map of Britain. This is precisely what Ken Livingstone is also disgracefully exploiting in the London Mayoral election.
There has long been concern that Livingstone has aligned himself with the radical Muslim Brotherhood, whose goal is to conquer the free world for Islam, and has also pandered to Iran by working as a presenter for the Press TV channel owned by the Iranian regime.
In a speech last month at the radical Finsbury Park mosque in London, Livingstone more than amply confirmed such fears. For he pledged to 'educate the mass of Londoners' in Islam, saying this would help to cement London as a 'beacon' for the faith.
Since when was making London a 'beacon' for a foreign religion a legitimate goal for any British politician, let alone a priority for a British city mayor? This was simply no less than the Muslim Brotherhood's own seditious goal. And this is a man who as Mayor of London would have control of the Metropolitan Police?
In another recent incident, he appeared to be using anti-Jewish remarks to play to Islamist, anti-Jewish prejudice. Jewish Labour Party supporters who met him for a private discussion reported that he had said he did not expect Jews to vote for a Labour candidate because they were rich.
In an article trying to repair the damage from this reported piece of bigotry, Livingstone has now issued a weaselly denial that he used these words - but conceded that they could have been interpreted in this way.
Such excruciating manoeuvring is less than reassuring in the light of his previous record of anti-Jewish remarks, including his infamous comparison of a Jewish journalist to a Nazi concentration camp guard or telling a Jewish property developer to 'go back to Iran'.
What is so outrageous, however, is the free pass given by the Left to both Galloway and Livingstone. Both support agendas which anyone of conscience, let alone of 'progressive' views, should totally abhor. Livingstone has literally embraced Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Islamic religious leader who justifies the suicide bombing of Israeli children, the execution of homosexuals, female genital mutilation and the killing of coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Galloway has fawned over both Saddam Hussein and the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, whose regime is slaughtering untold thousands of Syrians, but to whom Galloway has paid homage as 'the last Arab ruler'. Both suck up to terrorist regimes such as Gaza's Hamas or Iran, the latter declaring regularly its intention to wipe out Israel. Yet in the face of their support of such inhumanity and tyranny, the Left remains silent.
Indeed, the shocking fact is that, unlike Galloway who remains an exile from the Labour Party which threw him out, Livingstone is Labour's candidate for Mayor of London. Ed Miliband has been slated for his failure to condemn the militancy of his union paymasters in Unite. But far worse, he has backed the bigot-supporting Livingstone as 'someone who has fought prejudice his whole life'.
There is also a corresponding danger that Galloway's victory will have galvanised radicalised Muslims by showing how to drive a devastating wedge into British politics. And if Livingstone wins in London, the temptation will become overwhelming for other unprincipled politicians on the Left similarly to play the Islamist, anti-West, anti-gay, anti-Jew card. In other words, this is a dangerous moment for British politics.
When my book Londonistan was published in 2006, my warnings about the supine response of the British governing class to the Islamisation of Britain were dismissed as scare-mongering. What we are now seeing, however, is of course far more alarming even than that response by a complacent and ignorant elite which appears to be possessed of a desire for cultural suicide.
With George Galloway and Ken Livingstone manipulating Islamic religious extremism in order to gain power for themselves, we now stare at the appalling vista of a political landscape transformed by religious sectarianism.
The very democratic process is at risk of being turned into a vehicle for the promotion not just of religious bigotry but of the destruction of the West itself. As mainstream politics steadily disintegrates into incompetence, irrelevance and public scorn, a lethal interloper is now poised to fill the vacuum.
written by Melanie Philips