A letter to Bradford West from Tower Hamlets

3rd April, 2012 10:45 am

I felt sick to my stomach when I saw the news from Bradford. George Galloway was an appalling MP for Bethnal Green and Bow which is why the people of Tower Hamlets rejected Respect so decisively in May 2010. I hope you can stop the rot quickly and avoid losing council seats in May.

I don’t pretend we’ve got all the answers for you as you work out how to tackle Galloway, but we’ve had nearly ten years to learn some lessons. You’re the experts on your area, so make use of this as you will as you rebuild the Labour party in Bradford West.

Whilst Galloway’s core supporters are rallying and celebrating, many local people will be feeling uncomfortable with what’s been done, or nervous of the consequences. Oona was amazing in the period after her defeat, attending meetings and talking to people, acting as a focus for worries and uncertainty – still trying to do casework! The Labour Party was visibly still there for people even when we had lost. That was a basis for rebuilding. Jim Fitzpatrick MP was then stalwart in dividing his time attending campaign sessions in his own seat in Poplar and Bethnal Green and Bow until we selected our new candidate.

You’ve seen the politics of division at work. “Real” Muslims vs “thirsty” Muslims. Vicious lies have become key campaign tools for some in Tower Hamlets, from claims that Oona wanted to ban halal meat to lies about mayoral candidate Helal Abbas being a wife beater. In my council election in 2010 many people in the ward received a letter telling them not to vote for me because I was a Jew. (I’m a Christian, but facts are beside the point). By that evening our ward activists had written, stuffed and distributed a letter to those thousands of voters setting out our opposition to that politics of hatred. Our support from local Bangladeshi Muslims strengthened. The lies and hatred must be challenged.

It’s too easy sometimes for Labour Party officers or staff to enforce the use of an old campaign formula because it worked before, or it’s what they know. Our best election campaigns have been formed through having a strategic campaign lead and leaving space for people’s good ideas. Everyone has to be able to make a contribution and it has to be valued. Fighting these people is tough, and investing in relationships to build the Labour Party’s resilience is important.

Get your own house in order, but always have a hand out to those who truly want to come home and help Labour win again. Some of your members will have asked people to vote for Galloway. They can’t be Labour Party members any more – we have rules, and we can’t let the party rot from within. At the same time, Labour won’t win again without the support of some of the people who voted Respect. Tough judgement calls to be made.

Never retreat into campaigning comfort zones. If we believe in communities where people from different backgrounds live alongside one another, we have to model that and learn from one another. Mono ethnic canvassing teams send the wrong message. If there’s a big Iftar party take someone who’s never been inside a mosque to share the food. It’s not only bright young graduates or long term campaign experts who enjoy voter ID number crunching – every activist should be briefed and engaged.

There’s no such thing as a “community leader” who can single handedly deliver huge blocks of votes. In my ward there are a number of women’s circles who come together for Islamic prayer and to talk about their children, family budgets…exactly like the mother’s coffee mornings in the church hall in the village in Wiltshire where I grew up. We win when we are where people are.

In any election, we have to appeal to people’s heads and people’s hearts. Respect feeds on anger and alienation. Labour can remind people of our achievements and set out a strong policy programme for the future. We only win when we also have a strong message of hope that people can believe in. Working out clever policies and presenting ourselves as competent bureaucrats won’t be enough.

Good luck. Let us know if we can help.

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  • Sour grapes! Let me make it clear when you mention “sick to the stomach” and “stop the rot” refer that to 13 years of Nasty Labour, who outdone the nasty tories, who battered the poor, weak, elderly and disabled, stop the rot!!!! Vote labour and get and fn TORY!

    • John Ruddy

      So what would you do? Vote Lib Dem? Ha!

      • treborc

        Well the answer is not voting New labour is it, Tories  are the Tories, Liberals do what liberal do, we did not expect the labour party to fall in love with Thatcher and her policies and worse some polices even she would not put in.

        Miliband is telling us about his beloved Middle class while the rest of us might just get a mention when associated with the middle class.

        I do not know about the above article is right or wrong I know that Galloway should not have won, not by a mile, yet he did in a landslide, somebody messed up big time

        • John Ruddy

          So what is the answer? A vote for anyone else is going to help the tories get in. Not by as much as vote for them directly would do, but thats the facts.

          Vote nationalist, or socialist worker or whatever, and you will end up with either a Labour Government or a Tory one. Which do you prefer?

          • treborc

            Who do I prefer a labour party, not a job lot of  middle class middle England career  millionaires.

  • Holly

    Everything happens for a reason.
    That is one of my strongest beliefs.
    Galloway & Respect will probably do okay in the Bradford council elections, but then he and his party will have to deliver.
    Can Galloway & Respect do this?
    The best way to get rid of duff stuff is to show they are just that…duff.
    The bigger question, IF Galloway proves to be other than he boasted he was, will the people in Bradford suddenly think Labour did not take them for granted’?
    Who will woo them into thinking they are the MP for them?
    Round & round they go.

  • Rdrberry

    Many thanks for this very helpful and constructive advice..My feeling is we need to be sharing experience as we move forward and learn from your very relevant experiences

  • Rdrberry

    Many thanks for this very helpful and constructive advice..My feeling is we need to be sharing experience as we move forward and learn from your very relevant experiences

  • Johndclare

    Nice article, based on realities; thank you.

    For what it’s worth, I wrote a very similar piece – http://bit.ly/HavzwG – based on our similar experiences (against different opponents) in Aycliffe. 
    Lies and specific local issues seem to be problems we all face!

    You are correct that ultimately the answer is to develop a strategy and fight a campaign that fits your situation, in your constituency/ward.

    • Thanks John. 

      • Marcusaroberts

        Great article Rachel! Especially agree with importance of multiple-ethnic, mixed gender canvass teams, sharing campaign information (and even coveted strategy numbers) and never taking the idea of gatekeepers with access to bloc votes particularly seriously!

        • Thanks Marcus.  Are you planning on a guest appearance in Spitalfields or Weavers any time? x

  • coventrian

    Pathetic. Galloway’s assertion that he had never drunk alcohol was a response to Labour Party smears that he was a drunkard. Oona King was forced to withdraw libellous allegations against Galloway twice. So much for ‘lies and hatred’.

    Tower Hamlets rejected Respect so much, they elected a Mayor with its support.As for ‘Respect feeds on anger and alienation. ‘ No wonder when this article doesn’t even mention the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the threats of another against Iran.ps Rachael are you a member of Labour Friends of Israel?

    • Am I a member of Labour Friends of Israel?  No.  Why would you ask?

      • treborc

        It does seem a very Odd question to ask

      • coventrian

        The Jewish Chronicle has a photo of you at one of their events. Did you get to schmooze with any Israeli war criminals?

        • Hugh

          Was Galloway a member of the Ba’ath party? I saw him at one of Saddam’s events. I believe there was schmoozing.

          • coventrian

            It was Blair you saw schmoozing with Gadaffi, the Saudis, the Israelis, various central Asian dictators – not to mention taking that million pound bribe from Bernie Ecclestone.

          • GuyM

            So It wasn’t Galloway with Saddam then?

            Or Galloway appearing on an Iranian tv station?

            Tell us all quite clearly so we know exactly what you are:

            Do you “coventrian” accept the right of Israel to exist?

          • coventrian

            I don’t accept the right of any state to exist. We’ve lost the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the GDR – did they have a right to exist? Did you accept the right of Apartheid South Africa to exist.

            I would have no problem with Israel if they obeyed two UN Security Council resolutions and allowed the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes – do you agree?

          • Mike Homfray

            Exactly. Ideas are illegally occupying land which is not theirs.

          • GuyM

            The resident LL anti-Israeli islamic apologist is here again…. obviously well trained by Peter Jukes.

            Pity the USA could and would decimate any arab state who tried to remove Israel isn’t it?

          • GuyM

            I fullyt accepted the Soviet Uninos right to exist so long as the component parts wanted to i.e. Ukraine etc. I didn’t support their right to enforce eastern Europe into a communist dictatorship.

            Czechoslovakia broke up quite happily of it’s own choice, I supported it’s right to exist until it’s people decided they wanted 2 republics instead of 1, which i now support as a right to exist.

            I didn’t support Yugoslavia as it again was a communist dictatoirship of a number of component countries forced together. Now I fully support the free will and right to exist of Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia etc.

            I’m not a great one for UN resolutions, anything that requires China, Russia and a lot of nasty dictatorships to get votes passed doesn’t hold much sway with me.

            As to letting Palestinians “home”… maybe, maybe not. It rather depends on whether a viable Jewish state is maintained.

            But the point is almost irrelevant, Israel is here to stay, the US has its back and I dont particuarly  like Islam or those countries who are “islamic”.

          • coventrian

            ‘ I dont particuarly like Islam or those countries who are “islamic”.’

            I think I can see where you’re coming from – the far right.

          • coventrian

            ‘ I dont particuarly like Islam or those countries who are “islamic”.’

            I think I can see where you’re coming from – the far right.

          • GuyM

            Not in the slightest, I’m very much very soft centre right at best (or worst depending on your stand point).

            I simply don’t support a lot of theocratic, autocratic states based upon the imposition of a strict interpretation of a religion that makes it look, feel and act as a nasty medieval collection of thoughts.

            If you’d like me to list the many “islamic states” and the unacceptable stances many of them take to women, gays, apostates, atheists, christians and so on, just ask.

            Any religion or state that would treat my wife and daughters as second class citizens, persecuting them for driving, working, being seen in public with a man, wearing a bikini, voting, not covering their heads…. and on and on, is not a religion or state that deserves equal footing with the west.

            Islam in the form it rules and governs is a deeply repressive movement that deserves no respect.

            So no, I don’t “like” Islam at all.

            Of course if you are happy with the execution of gays, stoning of adulterers, murder of apostates, assassination of those with fatwahs against them and supression of women then I bow to your personal definition of “respect”.

          • Hugh

            Yet you disdain Blair but seem rather protective of Galloway. Why is that? Me, I wouldn’t have either to dinner.

  • Unmesh Desai

    Couldn’t agree more,Rachael! Same lessons from Newham!
    Unmesh Desai

  • Excellent  Rachel, nice to hear from someone who understands the situation and who has positive advice for moving forward.

  • aracataca

    I don’t know much about what happened in Tower Hamlets or Bradford. But it seems to me to be obvious to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear that George Galloway is a demagogue. The fact is that Respect were given the bum’s rush in 2010 in TH. The question is why?

  • bollibolshevik

    Some of your members will have asked people to vote for Galloway. They can’t be Labour Party members any more – we have rules, and we can’t let the party rot from within.” – Which begs the question, why is Ken Livingstone still a member of the Labour Party after actively campaigning on behalf of Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets in 2010? 

    If you can’t genuinely see why Galloway won then you don’t stand a chance. Galloway won because Labour took Bradford West for granted, just as it takes many of the seats in North for granted. Your incompetence and lack of support for the people the party was created for allowed that anti-semitic opportunist back into parliament. Now, we’re not going to suddenly start voting Tory or Liberal around these parts but I guarantee you that many people will start considering another alternative instead, such as the Greens or, sadly, the BNP or people like Galloway. Two years of opposition has taught you the grand sum of nothing it seems.

    • treborc

       Why the BNP, why would anyone want to vote for that bunch of morons,  Galloway well yes I can understand people have the last thirteen years of New labour.

      Ken, throwing him out of the party, well labour tried that before.

      • Dartford_Red

        Ken, throwing him out of the party, well labour tried that before.”

        Ha. Indeed. By that logic the Labour Party might as well try to re-admit Galloway

        • AlanGiles

          Well, until he upset the great leader, he was welcome in the Labour Party for many years. Funny they didn’t notice his faults all that time?

  • M Chewter

    Galloway may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he offered an alternative to New Labour in Bradford and the electorate took it. The Labour Left had no card to play in that contest and it is a problem I have difficulty with. I have no vote in Bradford West, although I do know the constituency. As a Labour Party socialist who would I have voted for ? Remembering the politics of New Labour……….

  • Good stuff. I was actually quite uplifted reading this.

  • I’m not convinced by the portrayal of Galloway as some kind of Great Satan. I have seen admiring reports of his constituency work and, of course, if he is such a scoundrel surely he wouldn’t have been able to remain a Labour MP for 16 years.

    Also, perhaps you could enlighten us regarding Lutfur Raham’s election (with Respect support) as Mayor of Tower Hamlets, against a Labour candidate – have lessons not been learned?

  • Two points: Well before his election as an MP in Bethnal Green & Bow, he had started as a Councilor in Dundee, where if local legend is to be believed, he so upset certain locals and party members that he was warned that if he ever returned to that city, he would be leaving in a coffin. 

    He then turned up in Glasgow,  where he was MP for Hillhead and then Kelvin – during which period he “left” Labour and did not get re-elected.  He was not as respected there as he thought.In Scotland, we say that a “person has a very fine conceit of themselves”, and it must be of great relief to George that there is one person who regards him in such a glowing light.My second point is on PoliticalBetting.com > http://www7.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2012/04/01/david-herdson-on-how-the-bradford-spring-happened/  <  where David Herdson ( a Tory Chair in a neighbouring constituency) has an actually more thoughtful than we would have expected, insight as to what happened in Bradford. Galloway is well known  in Scotland, and from all sides and parties, there is stunned amazement that anyone would have voted for him, let alone elected him again. As an Orator he is world class, as a Charm/Patter Merchant, outstanding, as a constituency MP, MSP or Councillor he would have difficulty being considered second rate.  He ran an exceptional campaign as should have been expected from anyone who had found out his Labour Party history before hand.  Just wait and keep the notes until after 2015 when he will be looking for another chance to be an MP in another constituency for help in dealing with him. (After all, we are now only getting a handle on Salmond, and he is no where as brilliant as Galloway, just don't tell him that) He will soon become bored, and in that boredom he will try to stir things up – and annoy everyone, including his local constituency party and constituents who will only see him on TV, tilting his lance / cigar at new "windmills".

  • Daniel Speight

     But no real explanation of the Bradford landslide, the Tower Hamlets mayoral result or even poor Oona’s lost to Galloway the first time around. Still maybe we can have support groups for stunned Labour activists, so that’s alright then.

  • AlanGiles

    Oh dear, James Purnell and Tony McNulty made me “sick to my stomach” because of their personal greed which was so opposite their parsimony and mean-spiritedness  with their behaviour towards the sick, disabled and poor, as does Grayling and Byrne  today . But they happened. Bradford West happened. George Galloway happened.

    Get over it!

    As the saintly Tony would say if he were here today, and not peace envoying, faith foundationing or simply giving a speech for £50,000  -“it’s time to move on”. Draw a line under, the usual Blairesque cliches.

    Five days of breast beating and GG is STILL the MP for Bradford West with a majority of 10,100, and he will be until 2015 – if not beyond.

    • Alan,

      I thought this was a good article.  Although I like some of Galloway’s expressed positions, and enjoy his rhetoric, let’s not deny his real failures. [And RESPECT’s re. (among other things, LGBT rights)].

      I detest Purnell, McNulty, etc, just as much as you do, but I want Labour to win.  Objectively, even a bad Labour government (i.e. Brown and Blair) is better than any Tory government.

      • aracataca


        Make no mistake. Alan hates Labour and wants them to lose.

      • madasafish

        Objectively, even a bad Labour government (i.e. Brown and Blair) is better than any Tory government.

        So you prefer poverty then? 

        After all, that’s what the last Government and the previous Labour Government delivered.

      • Dave

        By almost any definition the use of the word”objectively” here is wrong.

    • aracataca

      Oh you’re back!!! Where you been? Getting your orders for April from Tory HQ

    • aracataca

      And no doubt you’re as pleased as punch to have that narcissistic demagogue ranting away while being a piss-poor MP for Bradford just as he was a piss-poor MP for Tower Hamlets.
      Presumably you’re back to slag off every mainstream Labour supporter and the leadership for weeks and months on end. What a prospect!!! 

      • Holly

        You have to stay rational & calm.
        Labour were thought of exactly the same a few nights ago.
        The people of Bradford will see no difference, if Galloway turns out to be the same as they thought Labour were, and will rid themselves of him quicker than they did Labour.
        Regardless of who supports who, we voters are a changed species,we are tired of the same empty words, from those who can’t deliver, and in Labour’s case they stopped trying and took us for granted.
        Miliband has said he will stop this, and re instate that, but fails to say it would be three years before he can do anything. In that time what he is telling us he ‘would’ do might already be in place. 
        Whoever gets in on the local election night will still have to run their constituencies for OUR benefit, and if they don’t, ie; continue to pay the top bods in the council high salaries, (compared to those who actually do the work)while closing libraries/cutting back on what WE use, than we will have no remorse, no guilt, no fear or favour and get rid of them.
        How long did Tower Hamlets put up with George?
        Woe betide him if he has used the constituents of Bradford West just to gain power. I doubt they will accept any nonsense from him…And will not be afraid to let him know.
        You never know the experience may even lead the poor bugger to drink.
        We live in hope eh??
        Remember Aracataca  EVERYTHING happens for a reason.

      • AlanGiles

        Please calm yourself. I want LABOUR to win not the pseudo Tories like Purnell McNulty and Byrne who would have been just as at home in the Cameron coalition  (and did very well for themselves too).

        IF you don’t like what I write don’t read it. Simples. But I am not just going to say things to mollify people like you and “Purple Booker”  – lots of Labour supporters didn’t like New Labour idealogy. You make yourself look a bit childish to brand us “Tories” – more than childish – foolish.

  • This I believe is beyond smoozing…I do belive there is a brown mark around George’s puckering lips….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIy_GmvUElE

  • Stuart Madewell

    I will comment in detail on Rachel’s comments after May 3rd. That is after the Mayoral election and the two by-elections in Tower Hamlets.

    For now I will restrain myself to praising Yvette Cooper for asking the right question:

    ‘Why are so many intelligent Muslim women voting for Galloway?’

    Perhaps we could now have a useful discussion on this topic. 

    • AlanGiles

      What a patronising remark for Ms Cooper to make. You could just as easily pose the question to her why did she get herself  hitched to Balls?

      I am sick to death of the playground taunts of Labour figures who, seven days after the event, are still having a sulk because they didn’t get what they thought was theirs by right.

      GG has really got to the right-wing duckies, hasn’t he?

  • Pingback: Bradford Muslims must practice serious, mainstream politics to win effective change | Old News()

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