Bradford debacle: Galloway is right, Labour must listen

30th March, 2012 12:19 pm

Election day is not the time to argue about tactics. So like lemmings to the cliff, seasoned Bassetlaw campaigners followed their instruction to knock up voters in Bradford West.

The hills of Toller ward were the least of the obstacles, as we were regaled by countless cars with loudhailers campaigning for Galloway.

None of us speak Urdu and so we had no idea what the campaigners were saying – other than they were campaigning for Galloway number 2. He was second on the ballot paper.

The 5% of our target Labour promises who are white were rock solid – and they voted Labour, just as we had a great response in White working class Clayton in previous canvassing.

But the 95% of promises that were Asian names were rather different. Many had Galloway posters up: probably not a Labour vote. Young people were politely clear: they had already voted, for Galloway. Elderly people were politely vague in smiling and nodding. Nobody, but nobody mentioned Imran Hussain, Labour candidate and local councillor. Not in four hours.

It was clear that something was significantly wrong. Household had been marked off as Labour- household, not individuals. And they were voting, but not for us.

We had no game plan. No Strategy.

But what was particularly disconcerting was having no Muslim doorknockers, no Urdu speaker, no Hijab wearing woman talking to Muslim women voters.

Indeed that abiding memory was of a terribly deprived area where Galloway supporters, often in traditional dress codes rallied their voters. If you had sent a group of such people to Bassetlaw to door knock, they would have fitted in as effectively as we did.

Galloway, the chameleon, says that Labour has a lot to learn. From Mayor Davies in Doncaster, to Nationalists in Glasgow, to Muslims in Bradford, on this he is absolutely spot on.

John Mann is the Labour MP for Bassetlaw

  • Alex Ross-Shaw

    Don’t know if you read comments John but Toller is actually Imran’s council seat where he has a huge majority.
    I can’t speak for the campaign as to why they sent you there (I was in Clayton) but it may be that, rather than randomly assigning resources to seats they actually felt that it was a ‘safe’ seat and therefore non-local people could be sent there to knock up Labour voters.

    The reason households will have been assigned as Labour as opposed to people, is because in every other election that entire household will have voted for Imran locally.
    This obviously didn’t happen last night, which is something we need to look at seriously, but I think to suggest there was no strategy or game plan is unfair.
    Did you ask the campaign office what the game plan and strategy was? Or did you just wait until after the result and then publicly criticise people about it without speaking to them first?

    • treborc

      Do you think it could be the working class voters deciding to see if the middle class could swing it for labour.

      After all the working class are now just a figment of labours imagination, it’s the middle class who are labour voters.

      Labour the party of the squeezed middle class.

  • John

    So we’d have won it if we’d had more Muslims door knocking?

    I suspect it’s more to do with Galloway setting himself against the two wars we managed to get involved in, automatically engendering trust. His record in the middle east and asia was also a bonus. And he’s a remarkable public speaker, a dying art in our party.

    He ran a bombastic insurgency campaign against what appeared to be a ‘safe seat’ campaign by us. Labour got it wrong, Galloway got it right. 

  • Edward. Anderson

    No, the problem is they speak Urdu and hence cannot integrate, the problem is if we feel they need  to have to have Muslim doorknockers then we accept communal and sectarian politics in this country.
      When I spoke to several people of traditional working class backgrounds they said “Labour, not that bollocks” which was one of the more polite responses. Which is why perhaps only “5% of our target Labour promises who are white were rock solid”
       Also,  the longer we keep making race an issue then the more people like Galloway can make merry hell by playing racial politics. Perhaps, just maybe, Labour may learn it needs to speak the language of social class which cuts across  all religious and race divides, instead of race/religion (the two, worryingly, seem to have become interchangeable) which opens the door to the communalism, masterfully exploited by Galloway first in Bethnal Green and Bow and now in Bradford West.
         The fact that we can speak about the “White working class areas” and the “Asian (or though when I was there it was called the “Muslim Areas” ) communities shows that entrenched racial segregation is blighting this country.

    • Kingoldby

      ” The
      fact that we can speak about the “White working class areas” and the
      “Asian (or though when I was there it was called the “Muslim Areas” )
      communities shows that entrenched racial segregation is blighting this

      The fact that you can speak about such areas shows the effect of decades of multiculturalist ideology that has deliberately retarded intergration.

      • Edward. Anderson

        Yes, it is. Which is what I said. Don’t see how taking my point and putting it different words is somehow a profound insight.

    • Paul Halsall

      Urdu is not the dominant language of Pakistani immigrants in Bradford.  It may serve some as a lingua franca, but it is not the home language.

      Punjabi is both the most commonly spoken home language in Pakistan (as well as the Indian state of Punjab), and the second most spoken language in Britain.

      The Mirpuri/Azad Kashmiri immigrant group who form about 70% of Bradford’s Asian population speak  Potwari as a native language.

      • Edward. Anderson

         Still my point remains that the solution given is for us to learn a language that has come from somewhere else instead of them integrate and learn English. I don’t see why middle class lefties can’t get their head around the fact that they moved to Britain, we didn’t move to Pakistan.

        • LabanTall

          “I don’t see why middle class lefties can’t get their head around the
          fact that they moved to Britain, we didn’t move to Pakistan.”

          The late headmaster of Drummond Middle School, Ray Honeyford, felt the same way – and look what happened to him.

          You should read this – a review of race relations  in Bradford, written in 2001 (months before the major rioting) by the chap who was Race Relations Officer from 1984-1990.  I think it speaks for itself.

        • Paul Halsall

          It takes time for immigrants to a local languages and use it at home. But after two or three generations, they always manage to do so.

          The US, with its somewhat longer history of immigration, demonstrates this time and time again.

          It is simply ludicrous to expect a group to move to a new country and immediately adopt that country’s language immediately.

          In the case of modern Britons who go and live and work in Hong Kong, France, Spain, and so forth, it remains very rare for any of them to adopt the local language, or even to have their kids educated in it.

  • Lisping Ed

    Has it ever occured to you that they did not vote Labour because there is nothing to vote for? I wonder how many people in Bradford – or anywhere else, for that matter – could name a single substantive Labour policy. Sooner or later, Labour have to commit to policies – and with that comes scrutiny – and therefore criticism.

    I just wonder how long it will take before even the numbskulls of Labour realise that Miliband is totally unelectable as a PM.

    • DaveCitizen

       I agree with you on the need to start committing to policies, but not on Ed M….at least not yet.

      I’m cautious after the failure that was Blair. However, Ed M has indicated he supports many of the key goals I believe we need – like genuinely tackling our extreme inequality and reinvigorating productive industry.

      Now I want to see the policies that will deliver on the above – like taxing extreme wealth (e.g. massive personal land holdings, ’empty’ properties, inheriting more than £1 million, incremental taxes on very high income including all forms of earnings etc) The aim should be to make the gap just big enough to keep everyone motivated but not too big to make clinging on to what you’ve got the main priority.

      If you do the above then land prices and housing costs will drop making labour cheaper. The tax receipts could be used to fuel a now more competitive productive industry. Level playing field regulations to stop importing goods and services that don’t meet our minimum environmental, child protection etc. standards might also help.

      …… I can here the international elites phoning their media buddies now!! Ed Milliband’s membership of luny left fanatics incorporated is proven. Plus cross dressing tendencies and a questionable connection to someone we all hate should do it.

      • Citizen Dave

        “the failure that was Blair”

        Thank you. I could not invent such comedy. Three election wins. Massive improvements in people’s live a failure, thanks for the laughs. Fool.

      • Citizen Dave

        “the failure that was Blair”

        Thank you. I could not invent such comedy. Three election wins. Massive improvements in people’s live a failure, thanks for the laughs. Fool.

        • Daniel Speight

           Three election wins.

          We hear it too much and it doesn’t prove anything. Nixon was re-elected as was GW Bush, but I would happily call both failures. Probably the most honest thing Galloway said today was that Blair lost it for Labour. Not bad  for someone that has been retired a few years.

          Short-term history is treating Blair badly. I suspect long-term it will be the same. So fool have a laugh, after all that’s what a fool should do.

        • DaveCitizen

           Just the sort of ‘put down’ debating style that won Blair 3 elections but did so very little in terms of the 2 key issues I mention above. Thanks for making my point.

        • treborc

          ah yes the new labour ideology that Blair made peoples lives better.

  • Ben

    “But what was particularly disconcerting was having no Muslim doorknockers, no Urdu speaker, no Hijab wearing woman talking to Muslim women voters.”

    Wrong, wrong, WRONG. The answer is not to pander to communalism, to take on board an alien identity politics into our theory and practice. The answer is to fight it, to crush it. To proclaim the salience of universal values. If we go down the Galloway route then we will debase our party’s organisation and ideology; we will destroy ourselves and all that is good about our movement.

    Extraordinary nonsense.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      I agree with the main point you make, but on the specific topic of language it is going to be very hard to communicate if the canvasser and the person being canvassed cannot speak the same language.  I do not know what proportion that may be in Bradford West, but John Mann clearly indicates that it was an issue.

    • Ben Cobley

      It is not “extraordinary nonsense” to lament a lack of “Muslim doorknockers, no Urdu speaker, no Hijab wearing woman talking to Muslim women voters”.

      I agree completely that we should not pander to identity politics, and have written a couple of articles recently damning the practice ( I also agree completely that we should proclaim universal values, for the most part anyway.

      But it is a shame if local parties are not reflective of the communities they are seeking votes from and unable to interact with them on a decent level. It suggests some breakdown in the links between local party and the people – admittedly a wide problem that crosses party divides but an important one nonetheless. In Bradford and elsewhere, this breakdown seems to cross racial and religious divides. Those bonds surely need strengthening through engagement with voters on their own terms and not those of an elite at a local or national level, or indeed based purely on Voter ID stats.

      • LabanTall

        “So long and thanks for all the outreach workers”

  • trotters1957

    Could those who were door knocking say whether Ed being Jewish was an issue?

    • Arthur

      No, they couldn’t say at all

      After all, they didn’t speak Urdu

  • David Dobbie

    In many areas were there is no opposition to Labour on it’s progressive wing Respect will find a fertile soil, especially with the Liberals in the coalition with the Tories.
    John as a Mann of the people you should put yourself out a bit more in public and maybe get a call from Ed from Donny to help out in the Shadow Cabinet.

    Fancy a warm pasty anyone….  😉

  • Arthur

    I’m sorry 

    Are you serious suggesting that Labour will WIN elections by pandering to communalism?
    If Labour continues down this path, those will be the ONLY votes Labour gets. 

  • Max Smith

    You really got your faces rubbed in diversity on this one.

  • Max Smith

    What’s happened here is that, unlike Labour had envisaged, people have decided that their ethnic identity more important in political terms than their status in material terms.

    Rather pathetically (wholly pathetically in actual fact) Labour strategists are now desperately thinking about how they can pander to ethnic separatists, despite decades of hot air on the horrors of “racism”.

    This was wholly forseeable – you people are basically an absolute disgrace!

    • trotters1957

      BNP member aren’t you?

      • Max Smith


        Labour member aren’t you?

    • Paul Halsall

      Which “ethnic separatists”?  The merest acquaintance with UK South Asians shows multiple and often conflicting regional, sectarian, language, and political groupings.

      To reduce them all to “Muslims” or “Asians” is ludicrous.

      • Max Smith

        Of course their are sub-groupings, but a vote for a party that undeniably represents their shared ethnicity’s interests (e.g. Respect) allows them to overcome smaller divisions.

        It isn’t ludicrous to reduce Muslims in West Bradford to the grouping “muslims”. In fact it’s completely sensible – other than if you want to try to obfuscate in order to try and run away from unpalatable facts.

        • Paul Halsall

          Would it be OK to reduce all Jews or Catholics to similar “blocs”?

          • Max Smith

            Of course it would – the media and commentators do it all the time for constituencies far larger than just West Bradford… e.g. the Catholic vote in the GOP presidential elections (covering the whole of the US), the African American vote for president Obama etc…

            The only reason for your ridiculous pseudo-moral objection in this instance is your cowardly failure to face up to the fact that Galloway won the Muslim/Asian vote by “pandering” to it with his ethnic-based political party.  

          • Paul Halsall

            Jews in the US, of course, vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party.

            Catholics also, while not as Democratic-leaning as Jews, also vote mostly for Democrats.

          • Hugh

            It’s hard not to notice, you don’t address his point. Identifying voting blocs is entirely unremarkable and if it’s racist then the Guardian’s edited by the Klan.

             “How Latino voters will choose in 2012″

            Cheri Jacobus: ‘Surprisingly, Santorum lost the Catholic vote in Arizona and Michigan’

            “Democrats target black vote as Tea Party collects converts”

          • Paul Halsall

            Often the Guardian is written by idiots.

            It’s still the best UK paper.

    • Johndclare

      You are not BNP but you *are* Tea Party UK and the ‘Stop immigration start repatriation’.

      • Edward. Anderson

         The fact that someone can’t say anywhere on the left that immigration has been damaging to working class communities or that segregation was enabled by continuing mass immigration shows why Labour does not deserve the right to govern.

      • Edward. Anderson

         Constantly equating immigration controls or being against further immigration as racist is juvenile, very prejudiced and insulting to working class people in areas such as Luton and Bradford. If this is the contempt you hold for people who say that immigration is an issue you deserve to lose.

    • Johndclare

      You are not BNP but you *are* Tea Party UK and the ‘Stop immigration start repatriation’.

  • Paul Halsall

    Some decent reporting from somewhere, anywhere, on what actually happened, would help.
    I have tried reading the local newspaper for the past few days, and looking at Bradford Council’s website.
    Here are some questions:
    1. Are all the councillors (8 in the Labour Group alone) surnamed Hussein related to each other. Is there a local dynasty issue here?
    2. Muslims are not a homogeneous group. Were there religious, ethnic, sectarian, or national origin splits that might have gone against Imran Hussein?
    3. Why did all 12 Labour councillors in the constituency unanimously support Imran Hussein (according to a Labour List article) and yet get this result?.
    4. Did Hussein campaign at all on Foreign Policy issues?
    5. John Mann in a recent Labour List post talks about there being NO Labour activists who were able to campaign in Urdu. First, is Urdu even the majority Asian language in Bradford (Punjabi – which I know shares some intelligibility – is the dominant South Asian language in the UK). Second, there are 19, yes 19, Labour councillors with South Asian or Muslim names. Where were they? Do they have no local supporters in local LPs? Did any of them get off their asses and campaign?
    I have no answers here.
    Please, can we have some reporting.

    • Paul Halsall

      OK, I did a bit of digging.

      This NS story is worthwhile –

      While there are issues common to many Muslim communities, there seems to be specific issues in Bradford.

      There seems to be a split of some sort between people of Mirpuri/Azad Kashmiri background (where the dominant language is Potwari – – not Urdu, although Urdu may be understood as a Lingua Franca) and others.  

      John Mann wittering on about Urdu may indicate just how out of it Labout was.

      There are open accusations of some sort of Mirpuri clan group dominating local Labour politics. Is this true? 

      Was there some rejection, perhaps by other clans (the only word to use in the case of a community with 60% first cousin intermarriage rates) of the dominant group?   Or were non-Mirpuris voting for Galloway?

      None of this might be relevant, but it looks like micro-local issues may have played a massive role.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        Your analysis is at least partly shared by the Guardian, writing 2 days before the election:

        A combination of nepotism and cronyism, with a voter backlash?  It sounds plausible.  Interesting that Marsha Singh’s 3 times campaign manager defected to be Galloway’s campaign manager complaining of a lack of democracy in (presumably) the CLP.

        • Paul Halsall

          Jaime that link – 
   was very interesting.  Thank you.

          There seems at least some evidence that the local Labour Party in Bradford has become the power base for and older,  and ethnically/regionally defined group  (The Bradree phenomenon).  I suppose a comparison might be the way that Labour in Glasgow was (is) for so long an Irish Catholic power base.  (I am 1/4 Irish and Catholic btw, so I hope no-one accuse me of bias here).But at least if Channel 4 News, who so far have done the best reporting I have seen, is correct, there also seems to have been an issue with younger, British born, Bradford Mulsims, even from a Mirpuri background, rejecting the what Channel 4 charmingly suggested were the “old duffers”.

          If this is the case, although last night was bad for Labour, it’s not entirely a negative development.  It is  a social advance in integration when 2nd and 3rd generations in immigrant communities break with the political power establishments of the original immigrants (cf. younger Cubans in Florida).I still thing there is more to be written on this: with any luck locally based political science academics will get some comment and articles out soon.

          For those who have been trying to cast the Muslim community as monolithic, this is bad news. Guess what, Muslim communities have internal politics too!

          For Labour, it might mean this this is very limited damage. An odd seat turned out oddly in very local circumstances in which an exceptionally well-known and (for all his faults) charismatic candidate intervened.

  • GuyM

    The fun thing that is being trailed on some sights is that both Tory and LibDem votes collapsed in part from a “anyone but Labour” movement.

    Now if that were replicated across the UK with Tories and LibDems etc. looking more favourably at the best candidate to beat any Labour candidate then you really might not like where this leads.

    Truly a horrible result for Labour and if Red Ken loses London again it really will be a rough old time for the two Eds

    • Paul Halsall

      Anything you can say can be dismissed.

      If Ken wins London, you will just dismiss it as due to “ethnic” or “muslim” votes.

      • GuyM

        As the London vote has been descibed as the most racially divisive vote in the UK it’s almost certain that a Ken win will be down to inner London boroughs (with high ethnic populations) voting Labour.

        Whereas a Boris win will almost certainy be down to the votes of predominantly white “doughnut” of outer London boroughs.

        Those are both 2 fairly readily available facts. In London Labour voting areas are more “ethnic” in terms of population.

        In Surrey, the population is 95% white and votes for anything with a blue rosette on it.

        Don’t make the mistake of thinking somewhere in the north matches London and the SE in terms of voter splits. To a large extent racial background in London of areas clearly indicates which of the two main parties is the strongest in those areas.

        • dave stone

          You’ve got it wrong there, mate, I’ll put it down to your limited life experience. The division between Labour and Tory voters is an economic one. The outer boroughs are, broadly, much wealthier than the inner boroughs.

          • GuyM

            I’ve repeatedly said on LL that more affluent voters vote Tory, so you’re telling me nothing new.

            There also is a clear split in education as well, as reflected in the socio-economic bands voting histories (which also mirrors income to a large extent).

            BUT, it is also very clear that ethnic minorities have tended to vote Labour, if you really don’t think that’s the case then take it up with the myriad of posters on LL who expect BAME to religiously follow Labour.

            White, middle class, southern, home owning, affluent… all markers for a Tory vote.

            So whether you like it or not, ethnic minority areas have a far higher disposition to voting Labour as well as higher likelihood to not being in affluent areas. Hence those “ethnically diverse” inner London areas vote Labour and the outer doughnut vote Boris.

            Anyway, as the “white flight” is continuing into Surrey and beyond and I intend to be part of it at some point, the ethnic minorities in London can elect some nut like Livingstone as much as they want in the future as I won’t be having to pay for their choices.

          • TomFairfax

             ‘White, middle class, southern, home owning, affluent… all markers for a Tory vote.’

            Not in my case, nor most of my colleagues.

            And professional engineers last year reportedly have the highest mean income of any profession.

            Let’s hope the government keep their focus on building up wealth generating export industries.

          • GuyM

            Good for you, but the swathe of blue Tory constituencies in the South shows you are a rarity.

            As does the spread of ABC1C2DE voting records.

            Lavour has and always will get the majority of its support from ethnic minorities and the less educated, less economically successful white working classes

          • TomFairfax

             Ridiculous statement. Patently untrue in the past, may well change again in the future.

            The present is just that, and lets face it,   the chances of both Labour and Tories not benefitting from the Lib Dem’s demise suggests the patterns  of the last decade or so where the Tory vote was static at under40% is likely to change.

            Who benefits most is the key item.

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  • Politique

    John, Mayor Davies is running rings around……….Ed Miliband should practice what he preaches

  • Rob

    John, we lost in Bradford West because of three decades of promoting communalism and factionalism, promoting difference over shared values and closing our eyes to corrupt practices from certain ethnic groups.

    In London, we managed to lose Barking and Dagenham to the Tories at the last mayoral election mainly, i would argue, because the Labour party has ignored the white working class at the expense of “multiculturalism (which is really monoculturalism).

    Are you seriously suggesting that we go even further?

    The main impediment to regaining the voters who deserted us is a failure to recognise that large scale immigration, the refusal to integrate of certain communities (and support for this from some on the Left) and an obsession with identity politics are a toxic and dangerous mix.

    Until we do that, we will not be listened to by voters who are not racist but do believe that they have been ignored, as i argued here:

    • Mike Homfray

      So we deliberately try to lose one set of voters in the hope of gaining another?

      You appear to be suggesting that Labour cannot represent both BME and white people at the same time?

      This sounds rather more like trying to recreate Labour as purely a white, working class party. Quite apart from the fact that this wouldn’t be enough on its own to win enough seats for any sort of majority, is a nationalist appeal suitable for a party of the left – or would it make Labour essentially a populist party ?

      Where would the other votes come from, as the middle class intelligentsia would flock to the Greens if Labour went in this direction, and the ethnic  minority vote would clearly be rejected ?

      • Rob

        Mike, condoning islamic fascism is not something the left should ever do, and we have done, or some on the left have.

        Recognising that middle class and working class people of all backgrounds are being shafted by the curernt government, and promoting the social democratic polices that we failed to do in 13 years of government would be a far better solution that supporting divisive sectarian policies like those espoused by Galloway and Livingstone.

        Being popular is always a good way of winning elections. Ignoring voters concerns, patronising them and dividing them into multi culti camps is the road to disaster.

        the Greens, if you read their manifesto, have a pretty much open door immigration policy. Apart from being utterly stupid, i don’t think its a vote winner for them…

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  • madasafish

    Galloway won because history proves that voting Labour for decades in a poor area is a recipe for continuing to be poor.  And Bradford. And see London.

    See the SNP and Glasgow : Glasgow central seats were solid Labour for 50 years: they ended up with the shortest lifespan and poorest health of the entire country.

    Only when the SNP come along are actions taken of Scottish eating and drinking habits.

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  • Dave Roberts

    John you are wrong on so many fronts – we had women and urdu speakers campaigning for Labour – just not with you.  I was there for 4 weeks you were probably there for a few hours.

    Jumping to conclusions like this is ridiculous – the Galloway win was a steam train that hit the Labour campagn and we were blind to the ferocity of what was happening.  This needs carefull thought not kneejerk comments based on limited knowedge

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