The farce of the “Bradford Spring” is over, but we should not forget its lesson for Labour

by Rob Marchant

Ah, the excitement of the “the most sensational victory in British political history”, as its author so modestly put it, has all lasted a tragically short time, hasn’t it?

The surprising thing is not that George Galloway seems to have tired of Bradford after less than a year and a half in the job as its one of its MPs. It is that his five local Respect councillors, who resigned en masse last Thursday, ever thought that he had the slightest interest in the town; a town which he memorably referred to as “Blackburn” two days after winning the seat.

The reason for their unhappiness is that Galloway is reported to be considering leaving them in the lurch by running for London mayor in 2016; theBBC reports that his shocked colleagues “feel he is using Bradford as a platform for his wider political ambitions”. Having taken sixteen whole months to reach that insightful conclusion, one has to conclude that perhaps his party colleagues are not the sharpest tools in the box.

No, the hard work of local pavement politics – or even of showing one’s face in the Commons chamber from time to time – has all seemed a little much for dear old George. Especially when there were TV programmes to present for the propaganda mouthpiece of a repressive regime, or trips to President Assad’s little client state to make.

And that is even before we start talking about last Autumn’s semi-disintegration of the Respect Party triggered by Galloway’s comments on rape or, for that matter, the making of a tastefully-titled film called “The Killing Of Tony Blair”.

The Bradford episode is clearly drawing to a close, as it was always going to. Galloway has a short attention span and tends to leave a trail of disgruntled supporters in his wake, as soon as they cotton on to him; his particular brand of political lightning does not usually strike twice in the same place.

But we cannot, and should not, discount his return. In Bradford – as he did in Bethnal Green a few years before – he has shown his consummate expertise in whipping up what many commentators saw as a plainly sectarian campaign. And the London politics he left three short years ago is surely just as receptive to his tactics as before.

If you doubt this, think about the following. Although Galloway left Tower Hamlets with his tail between his legs (in 2010 he failed to get elected in Poplar and Limehouse), a few months later the Galloway-backed Lutfur Rahman became the independent, directly-elected mayor of Tower Hamlets.

The new mayor then proceeded to run the borough in a way which should surely make his good colleague proud (the administration’s failings are meticulously documented on Ted Jeory’s excellent blog: thousands of pounds in taxi fares à la Derek Hatton; hundreds of thousands spent onpursuing whistleblowers through the courts and losing; its leader, a man of whom the PCC upheld the description he disputed, of being “extremist-linked”; the list is lengthy).

It was not Galloway’s style of politics which was rejected in East London, therefore, but Galloway himself.

That said, there may of course be other parts of London where he might still find support; where they have not yet seen enough of him to realise how much of a disaster he represents as any kind of elected politician.

Indeed, with Ken Livingstone gone, and given the hitherto rather presidential nature of the London mayoral elections – that is, the importance of a recognisable face – he could even expect some modest measure of success as a London mayoral candidate. That is, in the unlikely event that he can stay out of trouble long enough.

But why should we really care about Galloway; where is the learning point for Labour in all of this?

It is a timely reminder that Galloway, like Rahman, is a kind of Frankenstein’s monster created in Labour’s own laboratory. Unwittingly, we fashioned them both by playing racial, sectarian and clan politics, and then when those very local parties spiralled out of control, or (in the case of Bradford West) the voters simply decided they had had enough of Labour’s shenanigans, altogether less healthy political groupings were on hand to step in and take control. When you play that kind of game, there’s always someone who can play it dirtier than you.

The Bradford Spring is already effectively over; it seems a very long shot that Respect could win there again in 2015, or win control of the council. We should be thankful for small mercies.

But there will be more Bradford Springs, over and over again, until Labour notices that its root cause is the type of politics it has managed in various of Britain’s inner cities over recent decades.

Happily, something important has changed between then and now. Thanks to Falkirk, party reform is back on the agenda with a vengeance and Miliband now has the perfect opportunity to clean up this tawdry aspect of Labour’s local politics. He should take it.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left


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14 Responses to “The farce of the “Bradford Spring” is over, but we should not forget its lesson for Labour”

  1. John Reid says:

    I’ve heard Diane Abbott wants to stand now

  2. All five of Bradford’s Respect Councillors have resigned from the party, ostensibly because of George Galloway’s intention to stand for Mayor of London, but really because of his opposition to the Sunni Islamist insurrection in and invasion of Syria.

    They will probably join the Conservative Party. That is what usually happens. As some of us have been pointing out in considerable depth for several years, it is the Conservative Party that is the fully functioning British political vehicle of the Far Left, of Islamism, and of South Asian communalism.

    Bradford West was a Conservative target seat in 2010. Looks like it could be again in 2015.

  3. swatantra says:

    If Galloway does stand for Mayor then he splits Labours vote and lets the Tories back in. Is that what the BAME community really want? Presuming that the BAME community will vote. But that presumption is no longer applicable now that we have a rising BAME middle class of professionals who will not automatically vote Labour unless they are convinced that Labour is in their best interests. As Seema M points out the election will swing on the BAME vote.

  4. james says:

    `Is that what the BAME community really want?` why what are Labour offering that Johnson or come to that Pigeon/D Johnson isn’t? I find it ironic that on one page of LU it’s all about the collapsing `Bradford Spring` and the valuable lesson that you don’t treat people as a voting block – or at least aren’t careless/complacent/arrogant with it – while then someone says something like this.

  5. Matthew says:

    @David Lindsay

    Do you have links to wider pieces backing-up either of those statements? Particularly the one in which you say the Conservatives are the home of the Far Left, Islamists and South Asian communalism?

  6. steve says:

    Swatantra: “splits Labours vote and lets the Tories back in.”

    As if there’s a difference between today’s Labour Party and the Tories!

    I’m far from being a Galloway supporter but an alternative to the Lib/Lab/Con is needed and whoever makes a good fist of the challenge should be in with a decent chance. Perhaps Siobhan Benita…

  7. Rallan says:

    “If Galloway does stand for Mayor then he splits Labours vote and lets the Tories back in. Is that what the BAME community really want?”

    Heh. You are a fossil and a democratic disgrace, singing a tired old song that most people are thoroughly sick of. You don’t even try to make a positive case. And indeed, why bother since no-one would believe you if you did?

    Again and again we hear “If XXXX does stand for XXXX then he splits the [Labour/Tory] vote and lets [Labour/the Tories] back in. Is that what XXXX really want?”.

    Soon that blackmail crap will stop working altogether. Soon the “mainstream” parties will command so little electoral support that they will offer essentially illegitimate governments. All bets will be off.

    This country is sick of lies, abuse and incompetence from the “main” political parties. We want something new. Something better than all of you. Maybe we haven’t found it yet, but we will. The internet is letting new voices come forward, and you can’t stop it. Unlike Galloway, some of them will be sincere, determined, popular and conviction led.

    So why should people vote for an out-of-date hollow, useless party full of people they don’t believe in, so as to avoid the election of another out-of-date different useless party full of people they don’t believe in?

  8. @Steve – I can’t speak for Swatantra but my opinion is that Labour is still the best hope for leading a coalition of social democrats / socialists and representing the interests of the 99%. The PLP has at times failed in this respect, but there is no realistic alternative for providing representation within our current parliamentary system

    Having said that the London (or other) mayoral election could be an opportunity for a genuine alternative to the 2 main parties (just as Ken Livingstone was before he rejoined the Labour party). But please let it not be Galloway

  9. John p Reid says:

    Boris has had a lot of BaME votes due to his view of quashing illegal immigration deportations, and for the. Record Labour has never had the Jewish, BaME vote with Ken Livingstone as he Said so himself

  10. steve says:

    @Robin Thorpe

    Thanks for your response.

    Of course I disagree your “best hope” view, I’d say: “forlorn hope” – sorry mate but to me it seems you’re just offering the the same old fear-driven mantra.

    I always thought Livingstone was mistaken in re-joining Labour – he would’ve had much more credibility as a maverick/outsider.

    He said rejoining would mean he’d be able to offer much more to Londoners but I suspect it was his own hankering after a ideological home/comfort zone wot done it. He should have stayed strong, moved on and kept himself ahead of the game. But it’s too late for that now.

    The best outcome would be a person of the people as mayor, not a Lib/Lab/Con talking-head wonk, who’s never done a proper day’s work, croaking about ‘hard-working families.’

  11. @Steve – I understand your criticism; I haven’t always been an advocate for the Labour Party. There are lots of the things that the PLP have done or advocated that I disagree with, however within our current parliamentary system there is not even a remote possibility of a new and vigorous radical party gaining a significant foothold in national politics. It is however possible for groups like Pragmatic Radicalism to give the slumbering monolith that is the PLP the courage to be more inventive and bold with it’s policies.

    As I said in my previous comment mayoral elections are a different canon; it is in this situation that an individual can make a big impact.

  12. Matthew, the entire Socialist Workers’ Party faction of Respect in Tower Hamlets not long ago defected to the Conservative Party after having fallen out with the Islamists.

    Johanna Kaschke, a longstanding Respect and Communist Party figure, left the Labour Party in 2007 after having failed to secure its nomination for the parliamentary seat of Bethnal Green and Bow, and ended that year by joining the Conservative Party, in which she has rapidly become a well-connected activist.

    Around the country, local factions of various Asian and other origins routinely defect from Labour or other things to the Conservatives on frankly communal grounds, and are always welcomed with open arms.

    David Cameron’s vehicles toured Ealing Southall blasting out in Asian languages that Hindu, Muslim and Sikh festivals would be made public holidays under his party. His “Quality of Life Commission” (don’t laugh, it’s real) then proposed giving the power to decide these things to “local community leaders”.

    What else will those figures be given the power to decide in return for filling in every postal voting form in their households in the Bullingdon Boys’ interest, and making sure that all their mates did likewise? To the statelets thus created – little Caliphates, little Hindutvas, little Khalistans, and so on – people minded to live in such places will flock from the ends of the earth, entrenching the situation forever.

    With some fanfare, the Conservative Party quite recently welcomed John Marek, who was fiercely anti-monarchist and anti-hunting while Labour MP for Wrexham, and who went on to become the founder and only ever Leader of Forward Wales, a Welsh separatist, Welsh-speaking supremacist, economically Hard Left, unyieldingly Politically Correct, Tommy Sheridan-endorsed party which was only dissolved in January 2010, and which continues to be named as Marek’s party, despite his having become an enthusiastic Conservative, on the list of former MPs who continue to hold House of Commons passes.

    Rehman Chishti, now a rising star as MP for Gillingham and Rainham, was Francis Maude’s Labour opponent in 2005 while working for Benazir Bhutto, whom he assisted from 1991 until her assassination in 2007 in her leadership of a party the motto of which includes both “Islam [in a political context] is our Faith” and “Socialism [not in our sense] is our Economy”; he was still doing that job when he defected to the Conservative Party in 2006 and became an aide to Maude as its Chairman.

    And so on, and on, and on.

    They obviously find the 1980s Radical Right’s company as congenial as they find each other’s. Blue is the new Red-Brown.

  13. Rob says:

    Love it, Tory or Tory Lite.

  14. @DavidLindsay: interesting point about the councillors differing on Syria. On the Tories, if they are prepared to play this kind of politics, frankly, we should stand back and let them.

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