“You don’t know a thing about their lives. They live where you wouldn’t dare to drive”

April 4, 2012 12:27 pm

“You don’t know a thing about their lives/ They live where you wouldn’t dare to drive,” warbled Morrissey on the track “Reader Meets Author” back in the mid 90s.

I was reminded of the words when I read the bloggetariat/commentariat in force after the Bradford West by-election that saw George Galloway romp home the other week – an event I followed on Sky News and via Twitter. As one of the also-rans for the Labour nomination I’ve probably been to the constituency a lot more recently than many of those promulgating their opinions and if I had a pound for everyone who’s said “you’re best off out of it” after the result I’d have a fair few quid by now.

My trip to the constituency as a shortlisted candidate to hust in front of 400-odd Labour members was an education. As the recent Channel 4 Programme suggested Bradford’s got problems. There’s huge hole in the city centre where a planned shopping centre never materialised leaving Leeds as the destination for savvy consumers. The council spent £4million on a fountain that its argued is Europe’s biggest water feature that will attract inward investment, but in a downturn its attracted criticism. Educational segregation is acute with Asian and white schools; none of particularly great standards. Unemployment has rocketed. There are 5351 jobseeker’s allowance claimants in Bradford West: up 35% in last year making it 13th most unemployed constituency in the country. I got the “who do you think you are?” type of questions from members as a Londoner but I answered pledging to move citing the example of John Prescott, a Welshman who is now inextricably linked to Hull having made it his home. Voters in the end plumped for a Scot  - ie like Prescott from another country altogether.

The short campaign lasted just over two weeks from the Sunday candidate selection to the Thursday poll – supposedly not to deny the constituency of representation any longer. Mistakes were made in this short time though: for Labour to duck out of all public debates (along with the Tories) was not wise. You can’t ignore Galloway you have to take him on. Bradford is often accused of clan politics – alluded to in Galloway’s victory speech – and many felt excluded from this. The constituency is mixed: it has a sizeable Kashmiri Pakistani community and fair share of multiple deprivation but also contains some of the city’s best residential districts, referred to as “white wards”, a university, theatre and national film archive.

Respect is not a party in the true sense but more a personal vanity project for Galloway – who mistakenly tweeted about winning in Blackburn the day after his victory. On LabourList commenters named Salma Yacqoob as Respect’s most impressive figure yet Georgeous George was chosen to contest the seat. If the experience of Bethnal Green and Bow is any predictor Bradford West’s voters will get no representation for the next three years as all its new MP cares about is himself. Two years on all of Respect’s Tower Hamlets and Newham councillors defected to Labour on realising it.

Whatever we think of Galloway’s lack of humility and cigar-toting persona (which I’m personally revulsed by) we can grudgingly admit that a victory by a one-man band in the face of Labour’s usually well-oiled by-election machine is an impressive feat. Labour’s candidate Imran Hussain was not a carpet-bagging New Labour insider: he is deputy leader of the council and has been constituency chair for 10 years but exploiting the Muslim vote and other wider disenchantment with traditional parties proved a winning combination for Galloway that nobody saw coming. Although he loves strutting about on the world stage (senate-hearings, meetings with dictators et al) Galloway was able to present himself as an outsider which in an age of anti-politics plays well.

My recent Bradford visit was memorable. “Best off out of it” probably sums it up perfectly. I’ll be ok but the city has elected a divisive and sectarian meglomanic as MP that anyone with any sense would want to avoid. Let’s look forward to 2015 when we can forcibly eject both him and this awful coalition government for ever.

  • AlanGiles

    With all due respect, I wonder how much more juice can be squeezed out of last week’s Bradford West by-election?

    Harold Wilson said that “a week is a long time in politics”

    Everyone has now gone on far too long about this – it smacks of sour grapes.

    • badtechnician

      With all due respect (no pun intended) I think Bradford West 2012 will be a landmark election that will be studied by psephologists and party strategists from all parties for some time. 

      It may well prove to be that this is a freak result born out of pastygate, grannytax, unpopular Ed and the party’s current malaise and inability to get to grips with the fact that we aren’t in government and become a true opposition/ relevant force.

      It wasn’t only us who got a shoeing, every mainstream party did too and for various reasons. I believe this is an election that will foretell the results of the 2012 local elections where we will see mini-Bradford Wests the length and breadth of the country.

      • Dartford_Red


        It wasn’t only us who got a shoeing, every mainstream party did too and for various reasons. I believe this is an election that will foretell the results of the 2012 local elections where we will see mini-Bradford Wests the length and breadth of the country.”

        People said similar before both the 2009 Locals and 2010 General. People were sick of the big parties then too, not least because of how MPs from all parties conducted themselves re expenses etc. 

        We saw increased numbers of candidates from small parties and record numbers of independents. The results, when it came to it, did not change and will not do so this time either. 

        When elections REALLY matter, noone wants to waste their vote

    • TomFairfax

       Agree.

      We have the Tories trying to resurrect the worst of New Labour’s surveillance society and Stasi style police state policies and not a peep. Just further naval gazing about Bradford.

      It has to be said though that Theresa May knows as much as her idiotic predecessor about electronics communication and the internet, which is again, the square root of nothing.

      It’s a bit sad when we have to rely on David Davis and Nick Clegg to oppose their own government.

      • Dave Postles

         Great news for Tor (which is advertising its services as counteracting the surveillance) and Tails Linux liveCD.  Then there is the issue of encryption: how can they not read the contact if they have to un-encrypt the file?

        • TomFairfax

          Hi Dave,
          Clearly you know too much to ever make Home Secretary. (It’s a moot point whether your professional expertise or my old A level Chemistry text books are now deemed as information useful for the commissioning and committing of terrorist acts.)

          The joke of course is that Theresa, of pointy shoes fame, and hater of foreign owned cats, decided to use examples of what can be detected without changes to the law, to justify changes that would only capture potential Darwin award winners, whilst effectively treating everyone else as a suspect, and not stopping potential criminals communicating.

          It has to be remembered that Bin Laden was caught through one of his minions using the same USB stick more than once at the same location and being tailed.

          None of what is proposed by the government would make that any easier if he’d lived here.

          http://www.torproject.org/

          • Dave Postles

             Best wishes to you, Thomas.  Nissan seems to be flourishing which is excellent.

          • TomFairfax

            Thanks Dave. 
            It’s certainly an improvement on 1999, pre-Carlos Ghosn.

  • Mario Dunn

    Quite right – am glad someone from the Labour movement acknowledges this result was about the Muslim community in Britain and its assessment of itself in relation to others. Something Galloway exploited to the full. Campaign errors aside – like not debating with Galloway – it is nonsense to suggest Labour was out of touch, or that austerity linked the poor white and Asian communities in Bradford but Labour did not appeal to their combined interests. Total rubbish. This was about a distinct community setting itself aside from the rest. Do you think for one minute a Respect candidate would win in a seat that was predominantly non Muslim but equally “poor”? Not a chance.

    • Duncan

       Probably not – Respect has clearly developed around Galloway and his anti-war campaigns.  However, if we were to take nothing from this other than “this is a freak result which will only happen in the small minority of seats where there is a significant Muslim minority” then we are not listening or learning.  It might not be Respect next time, and fortunately the Lib Dems have committed Hari Kari, but don’t rule out a drubbing by the Greens, or (perhaps more likely) Respect or another minority party wounding us enough to let another mainstream party in where they shouldn’t get elected.

      To ignore alienation in the face of heartless austerity (and over-nuanced opposition) is to ignore the real lessons of Bradford West.

      • Mario Dunn

        Duncan – I disagree. Labour cannot be “all things to all people” (Like the Libs of old tried to be). Labour will only win it can project itself nationally as posing a credible economic alternative. Based on the Respect campaign in Bradford the logical position of Labour would have  been to say we  can deliver growth, eradicate the deficit and stop the cuts all at once. Yet that is simply not possible and it’s would not be  credible at a General Election to claim we can.

        In that sense Bradford is a freak result – it was a by-election with a rare set of circumstances coming into play. Labour will only win a general election from the centre ground, not by chasing fringe parties to the left.

        • treborc

          So then three Tory parties all fighting for the middle class, little wonder labour had a bashing at the last election, Miliband has to show more then just carry on as before, or is the New labour is dead spin again

        • AlanGiles

          “Labour will only win a general election from the centre ground”

          The problem is they don’t stay in the centre – they drift to the right.  Blair managed to find every boring right-wing old fart to stuff his cabinets with – Straw, Hutton Reid, Blunkett, Flint. Brown had Purnell.

          After a time there was so little difference in the utterances of, say, Purnell and Grayling they might have been in the same party. Mad Frankie Field is best mates with Duncan-Smith, and gives him input, Kate Hoey works with Boris Johnson, John Hutton “advises” Cameron.

          Is there any wonder Labour are now seen by many as an irrelevance. there already is a Conservative party – there is no room for a slightly lighter blue model.

        • Duncan

          If all parties aim for the centre ground does it really matter who wins?

          (I do think it matters incidentally – but only because all the parties deviate a little from that centre because they have to)

      • Labour Member London

        ‘To ignore alienation in the face of heartless austerity (and over-nuanced opposition) is to ignore the real lessons of Bradford West.’

        Duncan
        I could not agree more.

        Not every seat in England is going to go to Respect or to the Greens, but Bradford can not be completely dismissed as a one-off exception, any more than can all the seats in Scotland and Wales that Labour has lost – this time to Nationalists perceived correctly as being to the left of Labour.

        Labour, of which I am a member, is, at the level of the professional politicians, very out of touch. We have not taken the opportunity to renew our internal democratic structures. We are stuck with an over centralised, top-down party controlled by people who have entered politics as a career opportunity. Our policies offer no more than a watered-down version of the coalition’s policies.

        The Bradford victory for Respect is somewhat reminiscent of the ILP election victories in the 1930s. It won’t produce the political earthquake that we need and it reflects a left that is uncertain of what it wants and how to achieve it – a left divided between people who support Respect, the Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and our own Labour Party

        • treborc

           Labour in Wales has a socialist Labour party, the problem is people still see the Labour in England as the ruling party, Scotland got past that by the people voting SNP.

          Labour Wales is now putting forward the idea of the labour party  being a separate entity to that in England, Plaid which is putting forward it’s more then just a Welsh speaking party, because that is what it was.

          So whether labour can pull off we now part of England will be interesting, but of course it was the independents which got the parties worried, especially in Council elections.

          • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

            “Labour Wales is now putting forward the idea of the labour party  being a separate entity to that in England, ”

            That’s the best way to develop electoral credibility. Labour’s Westminster elite increasingly speak only to themselves.

        • Duncan

          Of course ILP successes and Common Wealth Party successes in by-elections in the forties, heralded in our best Labour government.  If we avoid putting fingers in our ears and shouting “La la la! Big Brother! Cat!” there is a possibility we could learn something useful and positive from this.

          I might add, as a son of Bradford, that I really hope that Galloway represents the constituency well over the next few years.  The seat is completely changing at the next election and Bradford West will not be a winnable seat for Galloway in 2015 (although the new Bradford Central might be) but the constituency needs strong representation for the next three years.  But it also needs a strong Labour Party, so I hope there is not too much despair and despondency in the local party.

          I know there have been comments about how everybody says the lesson to learn from the by-election is the one that supports whatever they believed in already, and mine might be seen in that light.  But it is too important to ignore: Labour is connecting quite well at the moment, we’re doing all right.  I don’t think there should be despair.  But we have lost touch with the people we exist to represent in many places.  It’s a broader problem really, I would argue that the labour movement more broadly is also not as deeply embedded in working-class communities as it should be.  This needs to be repaired or we could see this sort of thing repeated.

          It is the price of triangulation if you like.  As a tactic it always depends on assuming your “core vote” will stay put.  Some people don’t triangulate as a tactic, they simply believe in representing the middle class – that’s an honest position at least.  We need the courage of our convictions and stop being swayed by the sniping of pygmies on the rightmost fringes of the party.
           

  • Dartford_Red

    There seems to be an awful lot of talk about Bradford on here, and although I am sure much of what has been said is correct, when does the time come to draw and line under what was a bad night and move on from it? 

    The Labour Party took its eye off the ball. Yes it was a shock but it happens. Criticising Galloway will change nothing though, since the people of Bradford have made their choice, whatever we may think of it, and that really is that. 

    I am not sure I would necessarily call the the usual Labour by election machine ‘well-oiled’ though. This is the only one so far that has seen a serious opposition isn’t it? And the by-elections in the last few parliaments have been very disappointing

  • UKAzeri

    I am a labour party member and I am telling you: STOP MOANING…
     
    As someone from Muslim background I find this line particularly disgusting  “..but exploiting the Muslim vote..” and you don’t? Muslims have chosen a Catholic.. now stand up and clap.. just for that 

    • mikestallard

      I am a Catholic and I do not dress in the black three quarter length coat with the beard. I do not pretend to support Islam. Galloway did not come to be elected as anything other than a candidate for Islam and you know it.

      Having said all that, it would be really interesting to hear your take on the election. How do you think the Postal Votes were calculated and obtained? It would also be very interesting to hear your take on the economic decline, which everyone admits including Galloway himself, of Bradford since the Muslim population grew so very fast.

      And don’t the Muslims present a real opportunity to produce cheap, serviceable clothing in the Bradford tradition? There are a lot of clothing shops after all. What is stopping it?

      • UKAzeri

        Mike unfortunatly disqus doesnt let me swear and abbriviated versions will just not be enough :))

        • mikestallard

          Shame. If Muslims cannot speak up, then you will be taken for granted (as we Catholics are). Don’t be so prickly!
          I really wanted your opinion.In case you think I am being horrible, I want to tell you that I had the pleasure (not being sarcastic) of working in Bradford in the 1990s as a teacher. I was depressed by the decay. I was impressed by the attitude of all the children – all the children.

          I met several Muslims too and listened carefully to what they had to say. They struck me as very much like Evangelical Christians – very eager to convert me and very eager to tell me about their beliefs.

          It was very obvious when Mary Portas was starting her factory that the lace factory, when it had to reopen was entirely staffed by Muslim looking men. There is a huge opening for them. Here where I live the factories employ a lot of Muslim women, bringing them in by bus every day.

          • UKAzeri

            You racial attitude horrifies me. I mean this is beyond BNP/EDL and NF comfort zones…. we are talking 19th century here. However the tone of your posts perhaps is a telling sign of your overall ( current) state of mind and i feel uncomfortable continuing this thread.
             
             Let’s say you are absolutely right!!

          • mikestallard

            Sticks and stones…..
            Actually I have had rather a lot to do with Muslims over the course of a very long life. Do you know what? I rather like most (not all) of them. That may surprise you.
            Also I was trying to give you a chance to stand up for your beliefs without starting the discussion.
            No matter – another opportunity to reach out foiled.

            End.

          • geedee0520

            Errm – are Muslims a race? Did I miss something.

      • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

        “Galloway did not come to be elected as anything other than a candidate for Islam and you know it. ”

        Yet Islamic policies were absent from his campaign, so how could he be a candidate for Islam?

        • treborc

           he has a beard……….. just asking.

        • GuyM

          Swears he never had a drink, outspoken anti war, known apologist for Saddam, Iran and others?

          He didn’t need to say much in public, the message was clear.

    • Brumanuensis

      Considering the amount of effort Galloway has put into pretending to be muslim, I’m not sure his past catholicism really counts here.

  • Johndclare

    With respect, I felt this was a very negative article, if I might please say so.
    I have mentioned it in this piece on Canvassing, Voter-ID And Getting The Vote Out: http://bit.ly/HKmUVD (as part of my reply to Dan Hodges’ blog at http://tinyurl.com/bmojpw5)

  • Holly

    I find it… can’t think of a word to be honest, but I’ll try to explain.
    The way I see it the people of Bradford are being blamed for A) being Muslims, and B) going out to vote. 
    How very dare they!
    From what I have heard the younger people used a ‘young’ way of communicating with others and the Labour lot now weep, because of their inability to blame the problems of Bradford on the current government…cuts etc.
    I know of the ‘hole’ in the centre of Bradford, and that is about it, but the problems began on Labour’s watch, in a ‘boom’. I find that unforgivable to be honest.

    The truth is Labour ignored vast swathes of British people one way or another, chucking money at them, but not giving them any ambition to ‘invest in themselves. Not investing with the private sector, to get sustainable, wealth creating jobs.
    Up & down the country there are Labour areas still called deprived areas, with high unemployment or a high number of public sector workers, poor schools, poor housing etc.
    It drives me nuts that the people who have had control of these areas are now blaming the current government for being ‘unfair’, going ‘too far too fast’.
    Where the heck were they when the voter of places like Bradford West were the one’s who had to live in these areas?
    Why do they now try to blame the voter? The current government? Galloway?
    Anyone and everyone apart from the really guilty.
    Galloway has a big job to do, I doubt very much he’ll manage to do it, but IF he does, more power to the Bradford West voter I say!…..It is irrelevant whether they are Muslims or not, as a people,THEY knew what they would not stand for any longer, and what they aspire their town to become.
    I wish them all well.
    I find it disgusting….Is that the word I was looking for at the beginning?

    • Dave Postles

       At the risk of being monotonous, it began with Thatcher.  The Council estate on which I grew up became a sink estate because of her diminution of the supply of social housing.  It became a repository for difficult families.  That phenomenon occurred in the late 80s and early 90s.  The concentration of deprivation there was a direct consequence of Thatcher’s hatchet.  The recovery from that devastation will take generations.
      The de-industrialization and deskilling of the North occurred at the same time.  The area around Bradford/Huddersfield/Halifax had a long history of woollen textile production.  Thatcher and Marks and Spencer deracinated that industry.

      • Holly

        I have lived in Huddersfield since 1967.
        I lived on a council estate. Being ‘poor’ today is a far cry from back then.
        In my late teens I vowed I’d never go to work. Why should I, the country had never done anything for me.
        Then Maggie came to power. She SCARED THE HECK OUT OF ME. However, I took her advice, worked hard, and by my own efforts lifted myself out of the poverty I grew up in.
        My life would have been so very different if it wasn’t for her.
        Most of the people I went to school with are home owners. Our generation are probably the first, who have come from poverty, who have something to pass onto our children.
         I know lots of people who bought their council house under Thatcher and still live in them today.
        Today most of the houses here are student accommodation, or let to students

        The town centre had loads of shops, independent shops, not the ‘clone’ rubbish of today’s high-street.
        There are no decent shops in the town centre anymore, pound shops, bars and take aways. The whole place is like a student village.
        Labour have ignored the rest of the population.
        As for blaming thatcher… While embarking on a population transfusion.
        where were Labour and their affordable home building schemes, during the thirteen years they were in government?
        Whatever happened to the hundred thousand eco-homes Bozo spoke about?
        Does anyone even remember that?
        The ‘five year plan’ under Blair..followed by a ‘ten year plan’, five years later?
        Labour can not keep blaming Thatcher, (it is a lifetime ago since she was in power) and then moan at a government for blaming them, when they have only just taken over.

        As a PS…
        Did you know that Huddersfield make the cloth for the London buses???

        • Dave Postles

           Lucky for you.  My family had to endure living on a sink estate because of Thatcher.  The estate wasn’t brilliant whilst I lived there (1948-67), but it had a sufficiency of ‘respectable’ working class.  I left, but my family had to endure the transformation to a ‘sink’ estate.  You and I were the lucky ones who escaped, although I live with the guilt that I could never afford to help my family to move from their hell. Those – many of whom belonged to the ‘respectable’ working class – who were left behind suffered immeasurably.   Yes, I blame Thatcher and I will never forgive her. 

          • Holly

            So you blame Thatcher for the behaviour of council tenants?
            Or do you blame Thatcher for allowing you to ‘escape’, yet live a life of ‘guilt’?
            Would you still have been on the ‘sink’ estate if it had not been for Thatcher?
            Has your family ‘disowned’ you for ‘escaping’ or are they PROUD of what you have achieved? 
            Are you PROUD of what you have achieved?
            I don’t count myself as lucky. I worked to get to where I wanted to be….Thatcher was simply the inspirer.

          • Dave Postles

             1 I blame Thatcher for reducing the supply of social housing so that there was a concentration of difficult families on council estates rather than a mixture.  Those subscribing to Cameron’s appropriation of nudge theory would understand what Sunstein and Thaler meant by the attitudes of neighbours.
            2 Thatcher did not allow me to escape.  The transformation of my life was the result of Labour policies in the 1960s.
            3 I moved from the council estate in 1967.  My family remained on the sink estate until 1995.
            4 and 5 What relevance does that have to Thatcher’s policies and my family?
            6 Yes, well you were not alone in working hard, but many were less fortunate than you.  I worked in Sheffield in the 70s and 80s and saw the devastation.

            It’s always: I worked hard to get where I am; as if everyone else sat on their arse.  I can assure you that my dad worked bloody hard, like a lot of other dads who fought in WWII and worked through the late 40s to 1980s.  Those who moved along should feel that they were lucky.  I am not ashamed to admit that I was fortunate.

          • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

            Well said. Those who lived though it know what happened: Thatcher declared war on the working class and their means of making a living (U.K. manufacturing and public services) and their source of collective dignity (the trade unions).

            All in the name of the now failed neo-liberal experiment.

            And we still live with the devastation. Still, there is cause for optimism. The Bradford Spring… 

          • Dave Postles

             I hope so.  I take optimism from your postings.  I’m off now, so have a good evening.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Trades Unions are not a source of collective dignity.  They are multiply guilty of shackling and dumbing down free-thinking people.

            I’m quite proud that a few (not many) of the people I have worked with I have persuaded to leave their trade union, and to negotiate personally more beneficial terms for their employment.  I have a senior charge nurse who has her tuition and residential fees at the University of Nottingham paid by the Trust that will in one year from now give her a Bachelor’s degree and an uplift in salary of about £6,000, as well as wider employability.  Others could do the same.  Danushka was initially reluctant and wanted me to accompany her to the negotiation, but I told her she should stand for herself as a free woman, and she did and was delighted with the result.  I was very proud.  This was not something any union would offer to negotiate on her behalf, preferring instead to concentrate on other less important issues.

            Free-thinking people should not bend the neck to Unions.

          • GuyM

            The nature of NHS payscales, with Union enforced collective bargaining never ceases to amaze me.

            How anyone can justify an individual not being able to negotiate his or her own pay without collective positions forced upon them via unions they dont support is beyond me.

          • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

            Would you also recommend that the Confederation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses abandon the collectivist approach?

          • GuyM

            none of those organisations force their ministrations on anyone through collective pay deals etc.

            when the unions stop forcing their positions on collective pay deals on non union members then they might seem a little honest

            if i work in the NHS I want to negotiate my own pay, not be forced to abide by collective rates agreed by unions I’d never join nor support.

          • GuyM

            So providing some with the means to leave the council estate was in fact a bad thing in your mind?

            Better to have made it more difficult for any aspirational person or family to leave?

            Personal aspiration being something to be readily sacrificed for communal cohesion?

    • mikestallard

      “It is irrelevant whether they are Muslims or not”.
      Is it all right to question this?
      Muslims have a very long history of living under rather dictatorial and unpleasant rulers. I am currently studying the rise of Sharia law under the Abbasids.
      And Muslims have a long history, too, of working very hard for very little money. Been to Morocco recently and seen the leather industry in Marrakech?
      Why cannot a cheap clothing industry be reborn in Bradford?
      Only asking……

      • Holly

        Maybe I’m thick, I don’t know, but I do not follow.
        Are you saying, why don’t the Bradford Muslims start up businesses,work very hard for little money, while the Labour council squander the money, charge ridiculous rents on shops etc, and leave a hole in the town centre any asteroid would be proud of?
        Make sure the schools get tick box grades, homes are just passable, and they’ll love us for the pleasure, because they aren’t as ‘dictator-ish’ as the ones in other Muslim countries?
        Maybe if you look around there will be lots of Muslim businesses, but Labour ran the council, Labour were in government and it was Labour who should have ensured their constituents, not just the Muslim constituents, had a better place to live, and a better future for the next generations of Bradford people. 
        My thoughts on this is that they are British voters, we should respect them as such.To say they voted in a certain way was somehow cock-eyed because they are Muslim is implying we should ignore them.
        That is what they were voting against in the first place.
        We should not cosset them, nor should we treat them as an enemy, because the tiny few are ‘hoodwinked’ into doing cowardly muslim’s,(who should find better ways to ‘use’ their young followers), dirty work.
        They made a choice on what they thought was the best option in the here & now.

          

      • Dave Postles

        Textile production/Bradford
        How about we do not consider depressing their wages for cheap textiles in trying to compete with the Far East, but suggest that production of quality textile fabrics might be a better solution.  The problem is, of course, that M&S and Burberry seem to insist of importing from the Far East to maintain high margins.  They do not appear to be satisfied with lower margins for fabrics and clothing produced in the UK, but which add value to the UK economy.  So, the indigenous producers of high-quality textiles require either a beneficial outlet or their own outlets – i.e. in the latter case, a return to vertical integration where production and retail are combined.  It is then down to British consumers to buy these high-quality products.  The prices can be competitive and the producers will work with lower margins, but higher wages.  The design elements can include some of those fabulous geometric patterns from the Islamic tradition as well as western designs.
        I shall never forget that it was under this Coalition (Fox) that the MoD decide to purchase army/airforce socks from China, at the expense of Halls of Hinckley which had a long tradition and contract for supplying those socks.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          @ Dave Postles,

          you raise good points about cheapness (implying underlying labour costs against Asian competitors) versus “quality”, and perhaps Britain can find some route to balancing them.

          My wife is going through this decision process – having taken about 6 months to decide to sell on her 18 year old Land Rover she is buying a new 4×4.  She likes new vehicles or very old vehicles that she knows well, so that is her choice.  Anyway, she has to decide between leather and cloth upholstery, and there is a £1,575 difference for the leather for even the basic Land Rover Discovery model.  She wants the leather upholstery as it is easier to keep clean from mud and blood which is important to her.  Her old Land Rover has PVC seats that are now largely split and showing the foam. She liked the PVC as she could wipe it down, and keeps wet wipes and also some bleach in the glove compartment. But the PVC is too split now and the mud or chemicals soak into the foam.

          But we are both appalled at the price differential, given that with some Googling we think the cost of purchase by the car manufacturer is about £100 between cloth and leather.  Maybe the assembly process is more complicated for leather, but even so £1,500 is a lot of money.  There seems to be a premium on the “luxury” of leather over cloth that people are willing to pay.

          I suggested she get those washable car seat covers, but she does not like them.

          • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

            That’s fascinating.

            I bought a new frying pan last week.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Ha ha.

            Point taken.

            What you don’t address is the point I was very slow to come to:  if we want to establish and maintain a viable (i.e. makes a profit) manufacturing industry, do we do it on quality, or luxury?

            It seems to me that at the moment most British manufactured goods can only sell as luxury at inflated prices, because there is very little quality, and even when the quality is there, we are beaten on price by goods of equal quality from the Asian markets.

            There is no way we will ever again compete on price, unless we want to pay our workers 10 pence an hour.

          • TomFairfax

             Hi Jaime,
            Defeatist and simply wrong.

            We keep an index of relative cost for our company’s engineers vs output on a global basis. That includes engineering centres in China, Japan, India, Thailand, USA, and Mexico.

            We are at the moment very competitive globally.

            Likewise we can and do make cars anywhere in the world, but actually the investment for new models for Europe is coming to the UK because that gives us the greatest proift margin.

            We are definitely not in the luxury sector. We have tended to sell on price and quality.

            One car we make in the UK is the most profitable vehicle we make anywhere in the world. It costs about as much as a VW Golf. It’s certainly not luxury.

            The trick is to have a mindset that always looks to what the customer wants, not just what they currently buy,  and then surprise them on cost and quality.

            If you assume it’s the rule that it’s too expensive here, you’ll never try to be competitive, or give up at the first obstacle.

            P.S. I think you’ll find a Disco in the USA will have considerably more kit and cost less. Pricing is based on what the market will pay for items like leather seats and not about the cost.

          • Peter Barnard

            @ Thomas F,

            Quality every time – and, as we both know, quality need not
            be luxury. VW-Audi, BMW, Mercedes have prospered on quality. So, it appears,
            have Nissan, Toyota and Honda.

            Just a thought : in 2010, British manufacturers exported £63
            billion (about 4 per cent of GDP) of stuff to Germany, Switzerland,
            Netherlands, Sweden and Norway. All of these countries are “high-spec”
            countries and it appears to me that could identify the companies doing the
            exporting and use them as mentors for the rest.

          • TomFairfax

             Hi Peter,
            You mean do what the Germans do to maintain their technical and manufacturing base, in an even higher cost economy than the UK’s.

            Certainly the profit margins are higher with the top spec  because you have not just the product, but a brand image associated with that high end product, and a further price multiplier.

            Takes a long time to build that brand.

            I’d take exception to quality being the main factor for cars though. I remember the relative warranty claims figures for Rover and BMW when they took over. However, BMW managed to overcome this with the dealer experience. Free ‘services’, and a higher spec courtesy car than the one being fixed in the service centre. You’d want them to find something they needed to fix.

            On the other hand Rover’s dealer experience was rubbish.

            It’s not just a question of making things, but managing the whole customer experience including after sales.

            I’m not sure the mentors should just be the successful British exporters.

            Benchmarking how the competitors work can help as well. But I agree there are companies in this country with clear lessons for the others.

  • Pingback: Bradford Sprung? « Rupa Huq's Blog

  • mikestallard

    Postal votes – how important were they in deciding the result? Nobody seems to be asking.

    • AlanGiles

      I honestly don’t think it matters. It might have been pertinent if Labour had lost by a couple of hundred, perhaps even a thousand or two – but TEN thousand?

      It has to be said New Labour were very keen on postal voting – when it suited them.

      It just has to be faced: Labour took the voters for granted (as usual) and they got a good  thrashing for it.

  • rupahuq

    Thanks for these. I’m also from a Muslim background as it happens and even if George Galloway isn’t he seems to have a penchant from marrying those who are – as his choice of last 3 wives seem to indicate: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2124712/George-Galloways-wife-Rima-Husseini-mother-new-baby-says-theyre-wed.html

    I agree with the comments about the mill-town background: Bradford, Burnley and Oldham all have lomg suffered post-industrial woes and were scene of “riots” as early as 2001 under New Labour’s 4o consecutive quarters of growth. The cotton production people from Pakistan and Bangladesh moved to work in, if you look at H+M and Primark labels has been outsourced to places like… er… Bangladesh. Bradford and Leeds were once of similar character but the latter has reinvented itself as a shopping destination of choice while the former has declined.

    Also Labour’s by-election machine *was* well-oiled in the case of Ealing Southall my home seat in 2007 or even nearby Feltham and Heston as late as last December. I’ve been warning however of taking minority ethnic voters for granted for ages including in this 1998 book: http://www.amazon.fr/gp/reader/0853158746/ref=sib_dp_pt/278-9108803-1208336#reader-link written at the height of Blair boom years

    I could go on but that’ll do for the mo’…

  • http://twitter.com/ibbyullah ibby

    Respect = “personal vanity project for Galloway” – you’ve hit the nail on the head Rupa!

    • AlanGiles

      If it is a personal vanity project then he has managed to enthuse enough people to give him an excellent majority. If I may say so, eight days after the event people are still carrying on as if he had won by a hundred or so

  • http://twitter.com/janefd Jane Downey

    What I read was that the labour canvassers relied on the family vote, the elders were telling them that all family members would vote for them.  GG may have been disastrous for Bethnal Green & Bow but it is somehow pleasing that he made people who had never voted want to vote.

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