Posts Tagged ‘Bradford West’

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

21/08/2013, 01:04:39 PM

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”.


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Yes, Eastleigh was bad for Cameron but it wasn’t much better for Ed

01/03/2013, 07:00:56 AM

by Atul Hatwal

There’s spin, and then there’s self-delusion. This morning, Labour needs to remember the difference.

Publicly the party will be busy deflecting blame and attention from its result throughout the day. The spin cycle was already in overdrive last night: “Eastleigh wasn’t even close to being on our key seat list”, “constituency boundary changes moved Labour wards out of Eastleigh,” and “the real losers are the Tories.”

Presenting a positive front is a necessary part of the political process. Fair enough.

But, away from the cameras and microphones, Labour needs to reflect on reality. Forget the lines to take and just think for a moment: fourth. Over half-way through this parliament, we finished fourth.

A win would have been unbelievable. Literally. So this was never an expectation.

Second would have been the actual win. It would have shown that the one nation narrative had resonance with voters and Labour could compete anywhere in the country.

A close third would still have been a good performance and, given Labour’s lack of historical presence in the seat, provided a strong indication that Labour will be competitive in its 30 southern target seats in 2015.

A distant third would have been poor, but just about could have been explained away on the basis of past performance.

But fourth?

Two immediate lessons emerge from this result.

First, Labour fought the wrong campaign. Last week John O’Farrell said, “I’m surprised how much of the literature from the Conservatives and Liberals has been about local authority issues…I’m not standing for the council. I’m standing for Westminster.”

Unfortunately, the voter is never wrong, and it was obvious from the first week of the campaign that Eastleigh’s electors were focused on local issues.  Nothing Labour did could shift this.

That the Labour party campaign did not pick this up and pivot to fighting on issues that matter to voters echoes the disaster of Bradford West: a pre-packed campaign, running on auto-pilot, oblivious to voters’ views on the ground.


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What Lord Ahmed’s suspension reveals about Labour’s relationship with minorities

17/04/2012, 11:36:15 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The Lord Ahmed affair neatly encapsulates Labour’s problem with minority communities. It illustrates the dangers of a decades old neo-colonial deal that the central party has concluded with several so-called community leaders.

This isn’t just an issue for the Muslim community, a trip to Leicester, Southall or Harrow would reveal similar arrangements with the Hindu and Sikh communities.

The key to the deal is votes. This is what the community leader brings to the table.

Ahmed has long been one of Labour’s gatekeepers to the Pakistani community in the north. His position in the early 1990s as one of Labour’s leading Muslim councillors combined with his links to Mirpur in Pakistan (where the vast majority of Pakistani migrants to the northern mill towns originally came from) made him a kingmaker across northern parliamentary seats with large Pakistani communities, particularly when it came to Labour candidate selections.

He sat atop the pyramid of biraderi or clan based community politics which traditionally delivered result-swinging vote banks, happily doing the bidding of the central machine for several years.

In return for these votes, the party bestows two privileges on the community leader: establishment legitimacy that distinguishes them from other local leaders and a free hand within their community to do what they will – as long as nothing bad leaks out into the national news.

In Ahmed’s case, Tony Blair elevated him to the peerage. Lord Ahmed was the nation’s first Muslim peer. The party coddled and respected him and asked few questions about what he said or did within the community.

Until of course news of his offer of a “bounty” on President Obama’s head surfaced. Within hours of the story hitting the news, as per the deal, he was in trouble.

But the reality is that Ahmed has held and espoused similar views for several years. In this particular instance, whether he did or did not say what is claimed about Obama is irrelevant. He should have been suspended and potentially expelled because he was sharing a platform with and supporting Hafeez Saeed: an international terrorist who heads Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group which killed over 150 people in the terror attack on Mumbai.


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Time to put away the needle and thread and stop stitching up selections

11/04/2012, 08:30:59 AM

by Peter Watt

If I was sat in Labour party HQ in Victoria Street right now, staring down the barrel of further financial strife, then I would be tempted to do everything I could to minimise unnecessary expenditure.  And I would be right to do so.  If the reports are true that the party overspent last year by £1.7 million then it is quite a big gun after all!

But if it really is financial strife that has apparently lead to a proposal to ban sitting MPs from standing for election to directly elected mayors or police and crime commissioners later this year, then that is a terrible error.

It is however an error that merely highlights a serious malaise at the heart of our politics, and to be fair, the politics of all of the major parties.

On the face of it, the argument for the decision to ban ambitious MP’s from standing is persuasive.  Each by-election will cost £70 – £100,000 or so.  We might lose to another (popular) candidate.  Why take the risk?

But these reasons are all predicated on an out-of-date thought process.

The assumption is that the only way to win is for the party to impose the “right” candidate. That the campaign must be run using the central party machine which imposes the will of the “experts” on the locals.  And finally that the campaign must then spend on staff, hotels, travel, campaign HQ and lots of flash literature.  All spending money that the party doesn’t actually have.

To be fair, for many years this model served the party pretty well.  As I know well because I have worked on, planned, set budgets for and managed selections (read into that what you will) for more by-elections than I care to remember.  But it is a model that is simply no longer fit for purpose.


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The return of the far-left: a turning point for Labour

04/04/2012, 07:40:18 AM

by Rob Marchant

Politics has its own rhythm. It is governed partly by obvious dates, like general elections, but partly by longer-term movements in the tectonic plates. It is easy to overestimate by-elections – the media almost invariably do – but I suspect that Bradford West might just be one of the few that historians remember.

Until Thursday, it was all going so well: but only because the Tory-led government had been in disarray all week, not because of anything that Labour had done. The fact that Labour could lose an entirely safe seat to George Galloway, who won an extraordinary 56% of the vote, means that Labour will want to, at the very least, review its approach.

Aside from the unpleasant re-emergence of sectarian politics, there are two obvious stories: one is Labour’s collapse, for which we might come up with a lot of distinct reasons and which is already being dissected at length.

But while we might debate those reasons, the impact of Labour’s collapse is clear. Above all, the impact on its political credibility.

Oppositions usually win by-elections: a result which hands such a high proportion to a newcomer does not generally happen to oppositions where everything is in order. Rather to parties where the wheels are starting to fall off, as Roy Jenkins showed when he won 42% of the vote in Warrington in 1981. Someone now really needs to explain, convincingly, why this case is different.

The other major story, as Dan Hodges rightly identifies , is the resurgence of the far left as a political force. This matters to Labour in a way it does not to the Tories or Lib Dems. And many commentators are in shock about this second story. Indeed, until Thursday, many found it laughable the idea that the pro-Islamist, anti-American far left was on its way back into respectable politics.

They’re not laughing now.

So let’s look a little closer: why would this comeback happen now and not, say, in the late 1990s or early 2000s? Three reasons spring to mind.


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How Ed can fight back after Bradford West

30/03/2012, 01:43:02 PM

by Samuel Dale

If ever there was a wake-up call, this is it. Not since 1987 when Labour lost the Greenwich by-election to the SDP has the party faced such a devastating loss.

Last week there were some positive signs, Miliband’s good performance in response to the budget or harrying of the Tories over donorgate and pastygate shouldn’t just be forgotten. But now more than ever this needs to be harnessed and  turned into something tangible and lasting. A narrative that can run until the next election.

He is capable of doing it but there is one problem. It’s the economy, idiots. Labour still lacks credibility and until it regains it, sporadic good polling and Tory slip ups will remain shallow and electoral success a far off dream.

In all of the soul-searching that is to ensue next week Ed Miliband has a chance to address this core problem.  The biggest issue is the impression that Labour was profligate with the public purse and that caused the crisis. It’s not true but it’s the impression.


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Is this the beginning of the end for Ed Miliband?

30/03/2012, 07:55:37 AM

by Atul Hatwal

This morning it’s a cold new world. But as the shock passes and the harsh reality of George Galloway’s crushing victory begins to sink in, the questions will become louder and more insistent. Two in particular will dominate: How could this happen? And what does it mean for the leader?

The party briefers will try to box this result as a freak. They will cite the combined effect of the swing from Labour towards Respect among the British Pakistani community and the collapse in Tory vote as a localised one-off.

They will be wrong.

The vote demonstrates two critical points: first, hell will freeze over before large numbers of Tories switch to Labour. After the week the Tories have had, it’s not surprising their vote was down. But Labour picked up no Conservative switchers and remains toxic to swing voters.

The reality is, for too many people, Labour under Ed Miliband is not a viable alternative. The polls on leadership and economic competence have been unrelenting since he became leader.

Earlier this month the Guardian’s ICM poll placed David Cameron and George Osborne 17% ahead of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls on managing the economy 42% to 25%.  Meanwhile YouGov’s latest March figures on peoples’ preference to be prime minister had David Cameron 20% ahead of Ed Miliband 38% to 18% – that’s double the lead he held at the same point last year.

Second, the British Pakistani community has sent a clear signal to a party that has long taken their vote for granted: no more. Labour has spent two years since the general election agonising about Mrs.Duffy, Englishness and what are euphemistically called “white working class issues”. Well, congratulations, this is the result.

Simply cranking the handle on decaying community political machines and expecting the sheep to file through the pen will not work forever. When George Galloway condemned Labour’s use of “biraderi” or clan-based politics last night, he was right.

At some point Labour as a party will have to engage with its former ethnic minority supporters rather than just assume they will be there, regardless of whatever the party does.

But in one sense, there really is no excuse for such total and utter shock. This isn’t the first time that a feeling has taken hold in a formerly Labour supporting electorate that the party is no longer upto  leading or even interested in the local community.

What just happened in Bradford now happens in Scotland as a matter of course.  For Alex Salmond read George Galloway and the pattern begins to look a little more familiar.


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Whips Notebook: Postcard from Bradford West

23/03/2012, 03:15:10 PM

by Jon Ashworth

I love by elections and always have done so since I first campaigned as a scruffy teenager with a hair-do like Noel Gallagher in Littleborough and Saddleworth.

Those were heady summer days indeed as us young insurgents fought like tigers for every Labour vote. The drill was soon to become familiar in by election after by election. We slept on floors at night and knocked on doors all day. A merry band of brothers and sisters from which enduring friendships formed and last to this day – Tom Watson, Michael Dugher, Gloria De Piero to name just a few of the future stars I would first meet on the by election campaign trail in towns like Littleborough.

Sadly in Littleborough and Saddleworth it wasn’t enough with the Lib Dems managing to just nick it. But the Tories were obliterated and we knew that our unsuccessful candidate Phil Woolas would easily take the redrawn seat whenever the general election came. 15 years later I would be trudging through many of the same streets in thick snow to help Debbie Abrahams secure victory in the successor Oldham East and Saddleworth seat.

Not downhearted with defeat, in fact the very opposite, we moved on to Wirral South. A ‘safe’ Tory seat that easily tumbled to us with local businessman Ben Chapman, whose election posters proudly boasted “Ben Chapman means business”, becoming Wirral South’s first Labour MP. Ben retired at the 2010 election but Wirral South is still held by us today by the ever impressive Alison McGovern.

Looking back it feels like all I did was work on by elections in those early years of the Labour government.


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