Express & Star comment: Battle of the banner displays election tensions

Even a candidate with the high profile of George Galloway is seeking to make an extra impact in this general election campaign.

The George Galloway campaign poster which is displaying on the side of the Kenrick building near the M5
The George Galloway campaign poster which is displaying on the side of the Kenrick building near the M5

He’s the sort of chap who gets himself noticed, and if you haven’t heard of him, you’re probably new to politics.

He’s stirring things up again in West Bromwich, where he’s standing as an independent pro-Brexit candidate in the West Bromwich East constituency – the former seat of the departed deputy Labour leader Tom Watson.

If you are a regular traveller along the M5, you can hardly miss his banner draped on a building, resplendent in West Bromwich Albion’s colours.

It is 42 feet wide and bears the message: “Vote George Galloway, the Premier Choice in West Brom.”

Other candidates are also available, we should point out.

In any event, this has all proven controversial, and it’s not because West Brom are not actually in the Premier League, as you might assume from the banner – although they are top of the Championship.

Take the banner down, orders the Labour-run Sandwell Council, or perhaps we should call them the Godfathers of Sandwell Council, as Mr Galloway detects some wide-ranging move to deny him a platform and fumes: “This is mafioso tactics.”

He was once a Labour MP, but was kicked out of the party years ago.

Here’s the issue. The banner is hanging from a listed building called Kenrick House. The council says banners are not allowed to be hung from listed buildings. Mr Galloway though sees it as a political campaign against him which, by his account, has also seen various premises denied to him.

And he says he has permission to put the banner up anyway.

With just a week to go to the election, who knows what dramas may now follow in the Battle of the Banner?

By the time everything has played out, it may have become the best known banner in the entire Midlands.

There are of course rules about what you can do – both planning rules and election rules. You may or may not like Mr Galloway. But at least he is an antidote to blandification.

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