Bradford West: A view from the ground

1st April, 2012 1:00 am

I joined the campaign full time 2 weeks before the election, and spent every day campaigning at the office and out canvassing and door knocking. Obviously we thought we were going to win, we were never complacent, and we worked our hides off till polling day.

From around the 15th March till the 22nd it was clear it seemed we were going to win – we had our headquarters set up in each ward and our campaign was leaps ahead in backing, money and numbers.

The first danger sign was in our HQ on Toller lane. I was only there once, and it was packed with members from the Asian community, all of whom were old, and as I sat down I picked up a newspaper the man sitting next to me leaned over and pointed to George Galloway. He then looked at me and smiled and nodded as he said confidently – “he’s good!”

I was shocked. This was in a Labour headquarters! And I have the man next to me liking the Respect candidate – it was bizarre. Though I didn’t think anything of it, I just assumed it was some silly second preference if he could give – little did I know it was a sign of things to come.

The Asian vote in particular collapsed in that last week of campaigning (22nd till the 29th), and we were getting a bit shook up by it. I was in the office when two Asian female campaigners came in genuinely frightened to the point of paralysis by the experience they just had. They said how they canvassed Asian houses where voters there who had been Labour for decades were now voting Respect, and on a few occasions they witnessed having voters ripping up the Imran literature in front of them and throwing it to the floor. This was days before the election.

So any argument raised by the press that we expected a landslide were lying.

On Twitter during this last week I’d check the #bradfordwest hash tag, and for every pro-Labour tweet there was easily 10 pro-Galloway ones, seemingly from young Asian Bradford constituents. Also my university friends were getting inundated with emails that had been forwarded from friends about voting for Respect, and someone on our campaign team was telling me how school kids were texting each other about who their brothers and sisters should vote for (Galloway). And the day after the Sunday Politics hustings I had 3 people on the doorstep in one round who told me that their friends told them to watch the show to watch Imran get bested, and my Asian friends in particular were talking to me about this interview too, and that they heard from their friends. We’d pass kids in the street who would shout Galloway at us all the time. Their campaign was so much better organised and so much more enthused, it was quite unreal, I’ve never witnessed anything like this in British politics, and I really don’t say that lightly. The communication between activists on the Galloway side was phenomenal.

Our Ground Strategy

Could Labour have held it? Probably, though there were a few problems, primarily that our literature was solely focused on the Tories and national issues, and not on Galloway and local issues, which was key. Galloway picked on local issues like ‘The hole in ground’ which was meant to be a Westfield in the city centre, our Odeon building which is in ruins and Bradford’s 30 year+ industrial decline. All 3 of which weren’t Labours fault, the first being the Tory-Liberal coalition on the council, the Odeon being private, and the industrial decline happened in the 1980s under Thatcher. Though these 3 things were on all the Respect literature, we produced no counter leaflets whatsoever. And I heard on polling night that our HQ received a paper on everything bad Galloway has got himself into if we wished to use it – from supporting the Iranian and Syrian leadership, to his second home in the Algarve, to his poor attendance in Parliament – everything. None was used. It was especially annoying when I heard lots of people telling me about what they read on the Galloway flyers and how great he is without knowing all that he’s got up to. Such was the scale that even I was being informed of some other negative Galloway facts after 10pm on Thursday in the Hotel that even I didn’t know, so if I as an activist didn’t have all the information at hand, how can we expect the electorate to make a fully informed judgement on him?

Secondly, we had this bizarre obsession with getting members of the shadow cabinet to come down and campaign and knock on some doors. On one occasion three days before the vote this reached a peak where we wasted half a day trying to organise MPs in to groups that can canvass doors so the media can take photos – we wasted 100’s of doors doing this.

Why Galloway won

Overall I’d say these factors lost us the election:

1. Galloway’s personal appeal as an orator and debater.

2. Many financial backers in Bradford switched sides to Galloway in that final week.

3. Muslim youth’s general feeling of being disenfranchised (and who campaigned for him on mass).

4. An organisational failure on the ground to identify Galloway as a threat and our insistence on making this about the Tories nationally.

5. A local candidate who was perceived as a puppet and weak and who got his candidacy through Bradree nepotism rather than merit. This played a massive part that needs a separate article.

6. And a feeling (trumpeted by Galloway) that Labour locally was weak, complacent and corrupt. A view I heard a lot on the doorstep.

7. Galloway constantly promoted himself as the ‘Real’ Labour candidate – I think this helped people change sides with greater ease. His election speech was also about cementing that switching of sides. The speech was bizarre in a way. Iit was full of praise of the Labour party and it’s traditions and how he craves the old party back, he even said on Sky that he wants to see a Labour government in 2015.

From what I saw on the ground, this had absolutely nothing to do with the leadership of Ed Miliband, if David was leader I can assure you we’d have exactly the same result. It was more of a vote for Galloway as a person than of Respect as a party, and it didn’t happen because people started hating Labour as a national party with its ideas, but rather as a rejection of points 5 and 6 above.

This by-election was fought over local issues like the Odeon and Westfield, rather than a granny tax or the 50p tax rate, and the fact that it was is Labour’s fault. So don’t believe what you hear from the media that this was a rejection of Ed Miliband, it was an overwhelmingly local issues based by-election.

I don’t know how Labour can win this back, I’m still in shock…

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  • This is a great article, and appreciation & respect should be shown to you and all the excellent activists Labour had up there-! I think the article is very honest, and as such is probably a lot more valuable than the commentary we’ve had so far.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Thank you for your honesty on this.  I hope that, despite the shock you feel now, you will drag some positives from this experience to take forward.

    “5. A local candidate who was perceived as a puppet and weak and who got his candidacy through Bradree nepotism rather than merit. This played a massive part that needs a separate article.”

    I’m not even a member of the Labour Party, but what you write above was certainly a deep suspicion and voiced by several on some LL threads 3-4 weeks ago.  It must therefore have been clarion clear on the ground.  Looking wider, several articles in national publications like the Guardian, the New Statesman and HuffPo  were also pointing out the fact that the CLP leadership were – shall we say – totally dysfunctional and immersed in clan politicking to personal mutual advantage, while ignoring the tsunami of doubt and electoral anger that was about to inundate their very ordered and comfortable assumptions about being the Labour bourgeoisie in Bradford.

    How was it that no-one in the Party hierarchy picked up on this?

    • Duncan

      I’m not sure what the “Party hierarchy” could have done about that and I’m not sure a different candidate would have faired any better.  It was very clear before the selection that Imran was the choice of the local party, therefore anybody else would have been perceived, inevitably, as having been “parachuted” in – fairly or otherwise.  I suspect a lot of the people criticising the selection now would have been equally vocal had a the preferred local candidate been stopped.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        A good point Duncan, I’ll accept it.  It was not really quite was I was getting at, but I did not express myself well.  To try to clarify, several articles in the papers I mention, and several knowledgeable posters here on LL were indicating that something was “not right” in the Bradford West CLP in the weeks before the election, that the culture of clan or this new (to me) word of “Bradree” was rampant, and (I think this was in the Guardian) that Labour were possibly going to get a shock.  I don’t recall anyone predicting a shock on the scale of what happened.

        I’m not a member of any political party, but I have respect for those who are loyal, and more so for very committed people like Peter Barnard and Mike Homfray who put in lots of organising or campaigning effort for their party.  Peter above makes a healthy point about not mixing appointed party positions with elected representatives, elsewhere on LL Mike Homfray recalls some Liverpool CLPs being clannish in favour of Irish Catholics.  Last year on LL someone made the point that the Glasgow and West of Scotland CLPs also organise themselves around cabals and are dysfunctional.

        I have no idea if the tories and Lib Dems are equally vulnerable to this – it is part of human nature after all.  I went to a local Lib Dem event in my own constituency (they thought I might join), but they were completely amateur and a shambles.  Apart from not wanting to join any political party, I wouldn’t want to be fodder for an organisation so disorganised anyway.

        But my point is really if the Labour Party knows or suspects there is a “problem” in a number of CLPs, what is being done about it?  The fact that it was only really in the last 24 hours that people in Labour began to appreciate that Galloway was going to win handsomely, even that Ed Miliband was planning a victory visit only the day before indicates to me at least that Victoria Street were unaware that there was a problem.  Where is the Party’s “intelligence”?  Does it have the finger on the pulse of the CLPs?

        The shock of the Scottish elections last year.  The Tower Hamlets Mayor election.  Bradford West.  All point to losses because the Labour Party has failed on the internal housekeeping of CLPs.  With the frequent re-organisations in Victoria Street, is someone actively looking internally to avoid future losses?

        • Duncan

           Okay, see your point.  That is part of the danger of the extent to which the membership has reduced since the 90s (in all parties to a greater or lesser extent) and that in itself is clearly related to the extent to which party members are taken for granted and seen as a footsoldiers rather than the heart of the party.  We do have a situation where even in some relatively safe seats, local parties are running a fairly skeletal operation.  I think sometimes people forget that local parties are volunteers, with jobs and lives and the like!

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Thank you Duncan.  I can understand your points.

            To make it more difficult, I would suggest that whoever is looking at this needs to examine 2 things:  is the CLP running itself for the benefit of members and officers, or for the benefit of the next election?   Not quite the same, and the latter should always be the focus.  Secondly, how good is the local political intelligence?  By that I mean of the electorate in the constituency, not merely ensuring that existing members are kept in touch, but also intelligence on those who did not vote at all last election, or who voted for other parties.

            I appreciate that is asking a lot of a small group of CLP officers and volunteers, but if in this case the CLP were outwardly focussed and not inwardly focussed, they would have spotted the problem well in advance.

          • Duncan

            I think all mainstream parties have neglected the people who tend not to vote at all.  There is a depressing logic to concentrating on those who are likely to vote, but of course there is always the chance that somebody might come along and get them out. 

          • This is the direct result of focusing on marginal swing voters all the time

        • Jimbennett

          “The shock of the Scottish elections last year. The Tower Hamlets Mayor election. Bradford West. All point to losses because the Labour Party has failed on the internal housekeeping of CLPs.”

          So, the lack of a coherent left narrative is nothing to do with it, it’s all down to organisation? Don’t think so. It’s about policy, philosophy and trust. New labour is perceived by it’s former base as having none of these. Opportunism to the core. and of course the murder of tens of thousands of innocents.

        • It is possible to put a CLP into ‘special measures’ – its only done as a last resort, but it is an option.
          We do need to remember, though, that being involved in politics is a voluntary thing. There aren’t hordes of people clamouring to do the donkey work (although they come out of the woodwork and get selected often over the people who do the hard work when it comes to the council elections!)

  • mikestallard

    I want to thank you for a really interesting and frank article. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it too!

    Two little points:
    Thank you for the Tweeting and phone and school kids remarks – very helpful indeed. A big lesson there.
    Secondly what about the scandal of the postal votes? You didn’t mention that.

  • Brumanuensis

    Magnificent article and exceptionally informative. Thank you for writing it. I’m even more convinced than ever that the local party needs a huge shake-up.

  • Just_Another_Voter

    Perhaps if the campaign coordinator, Tom Watson had bothered to do his job things might have been different. Instead he was writing FOI requests to find out where David Cameron bought a pasty, obsessing about Murdoch and his Australian press  and having a good time at some Guardian event.
    Things like by-elections seem to beneath Labour’s untouchable star these days.

    • The thing is though I don’t want to give the impression we were ever complacent, we fought it (I felt) as if it was a marginal from day 1. I think it was just the organisational approach which was wrong, though I’m equally as guilty I guess, I never thought our vote would collapse outside the young asian male group that was constantly seen around Galloway, except perhaps until the last 2 days.

  • JoeDM

    Religion + Politics = Social Poison

    • treborc

       Religion + Politics = Social Poison

      Nope not really socialism

  • “… he even said on Sky that he wants to see a Labour government in 2015.”

    Looks like we’re all on the same side.

    If, as suggested on this site, Labour could do a deal with the medics who are planning to oppose the privatisation of the NHS with candidates in 2015 then why not also with Galloway/Respect?

    The Party should be big enough and confident enough to include all varieties of Labour, including Real Labour.

  • Peter Barnard

    Excellent facts- and evidence-based article from Sean Dolat.
    As far as the local party is concerned, I did notice in one of Mark Ferguson’s early article that the candidate was both deputy leader of the Labour Group and had been CLP Chair for ten years. Such an arrangement is always unhealthy – a CLP should have as few elected representatives in its management as possible, ideally none.

  • Silent Hunter

    Good article – thanks for sharing this.

  • trotters1957

    Great article Sean.
    You should post this on Facebook and Twitter and send a copy to Ed Miliband.

  • Jayazz

    real comments about an outcome, that was waiting too happen, we took our eye off tha ball, the show peice in GREGGS, was not growing up politics, we are lacking in raw politics, we look 2nd rate when it comes to presentation. i,am sorry to say this but ED is out of his dept, he can,t carry the party with him and i say that with a heavy heart. may elections will be his last chance, if he fails we must call a leadership election for the summer with the memberssip havin the biggest say not the unions,

    • The unions are part of our membership. Given that individual membership is low, how do you think that outcome would be better than involving more people??

  • bradford weaver

    excellent article – but you will get nowhere if you continue to tell yourself that Bradford’s decline is Maggies fault. Labour’s years of power accelerated the problems so that now Bradford (and many other post industrial towns) is in a deep hole. The disaffection of the people (young and old) crosses both party’s years in power. Mainstream politics has not provided any solutions for Bradford in 30 years.

    • You’re right actually, Labour did have a chance to improve Bradford, they did with a lot of other northern cities in fairness, though by neglecting Bradford to an extent gave Galloway a fairly legitimate arguement

    • lloyd_rm

      Bradford was a Tory held city until the recent election in 2010 so actually much can be blamed on Tories!

      • Winston_from_the_Ministry

         He’s talking about the government bright spark.

  • Jamie29

    I would disagree with the thrust of the article, I think its clear we were complacent in Bradford.

    1. It was clear, weeks before the election, that the Conservative plan was to try an unify the white vote with literature attacking Labour’s immigration policies. Labour who was relaying on the majority Asian vote should have realised at this point that the primary competition was Respect.

    2. If the article is correct and from over a week out it was clear the Asian vote was turning on Labour, why did no one inform Labour HQ that a problem was building? Why was there only a realisation of a major problem when the ballot boxes were opened?

    3. Who’s choice was it to have a Sunday Politics hustings? I don’t remember that happening in the Feltham and Heston by-election. It should have been clear to Labour that as much as Imran Hussain may have been a good local candidate, George Galloway was an orator and would easily be able to best any other candidate.

    There is still going to be a lot of questions that need answering from the this by-election. My personal view is its clear that Labour lost connection with the community in Bradford West and took what they presumed to be the non-voting young Asians for granted. However more seriously is the clear failure on the ground, the lack of a campaign strategy and the poor communication between the campaign headquarters and Labour HQ. I am not sure which Regional Director would have been running this campaign but clearly he or she should consider their position.

    • On point one > Yeah we should have engaged Galloway from the start, though we all had this mentality that the only party that could beat us were the Tories, and that by engaging with Galloway would only give him more attention. i understood the logic behind this, and i agreed with it too, though maybe by the final week we should have noticed something? Though again who would have predicted a 35% swing? < That in part answers your second point. Also when i said Asian I (to some extent we) genuinely thought it was a young asian male thing. I didn't canvas many Asian areas at all tbh so i'm not sure what the people there were feeding back to HQ, and thus what was being done about it. Sorry :l
      On point 3 yes i suppose i agree, Imran didn't look humiliated at all, but Galloway looked good. Perhaps all the other candidates were going to show up and it would look worse if Imran didn't show up, and therefore something else Galloway could shout about?

      "There is still going to be a lot of questions that need answering from the this by-election. My personal view is its clear that Labour lost connection with the community in Bradford West and took what they presumed to be the non-voting young Asians for granted."
      As far as i'm aware we didn't all, i think the Asian areas collapsed over Galloways personal appeal and policies and his attacks on Imran. Though i agree that these areas clearly didn't have a proper and robust link with the party like they should have and that us dearly.

      There were things we did wrong in hindsight, but i think it was more Galloway who objectively just ran a fantastic campaign. 

  • A good article. You’re right to give a slight dig to the “Shadow Cabinet Showcase”. In a seat like Bradford West, Labour fought a national campaign, not a local one, so the show piece photo ops with Yvette Cooper was never going to work. 

    Galloway might not stand here again (such is his track record). But it’s a wake up call to all political parties that a campaign like this can happen. 

    • Well i don’t want to appear like i’m bashing the MPs. The example i gave was just an organisational failure from those managing them. The MPs themselves were always willing  to get stuck in and do the door knocking etc, so i hope i didn’t give the impression they were after the glamour.

  • Bill Jefferies

    So supporting the Iraq war, supporting drones massacring people in Afghanistan and Pakistan and supporting the cuts had nothing to do with it? Get at grip.

    • Duncan

      Not nothing to do with it, certainly, but you have to see it in the context of there having been a swing to Labour in 2010 (and Respect did stand a candidate, as far as I recall) – so you can’t put it down to anti-war sentiment alone.

      • Well, this time there was a charismatic celebrity candidate – and it was a by election so no ‘general election’ feeling going on. These issues have always been important

        • Duncan

          I don’t disagree – I just don’t think it’s the whole story.

    • It had something to do with it, though not to the extent as Galloway had hoped i thought.

    • Redshift

      I think the foreign policy angle is actually an integral part of George Galloway’s celebrity and the key to his victory. 

      Strange that Labour can still suffer from the hangover of the Iraq War, etc in 2011, but then Bradford is an exceptional place. Throw in some local Labour nepotism and it makes a fair amount of sense.

  • treborc

    The fact is people voted for Galloway because his message was one of socialism, while labour was one of what?.

    New labour is dead fine good  it’s dead lets have a pint to celebrate, OK it’s dead so labour is working class then socialist then, nope we are the party of the middle class, we will fight for the squeezed middle, hang on that is what New labour said.

    The problem is labour is still middle class with all the ministers and MP  the activist who brought us the middle class labour party.

    You went to Bradford and Miliband spent the time going off on his pet love affair telling the poor the working class the unemployed the people on benefits, that labour was the party of the squeezed middle.

    Labour did not lose by a few votes, you could then say well OK we were unlucky as one poster said they were all Muslims no they were not they were a mix of people across the political spectrum.

    Labour lost because like in Scotland the squeezed middle is getting boring, most people on the min wage do not seem them selves as middle class.

    Galloway spoke of hope, labour spoke about helping the middle class.

    The one thing you did get right was David would not have done better, that because Ed and David speak the same posh voice about the same posh middle class, they are not speaking to the people who use to matter, the poor the sick the disabled the working class.

     Miliband said labour was always about working people, nope it was never about working people it was about the people who came back from a war agry, a group of people who were not about to doff the old cap and say yes sir no sir three bags full sir.

    labour was the party of the working class, now it’s the middle class and your fighting to become not a socialist party but the dam whigs.

    • “The fact is people voted for Galloway because his message was one of socialism”

      Nice try! He won because of a number of factors, but largely because he is a smooth talking, highly eloquent populist who talks utter bollocks in such a charming way that disenfranchised people fall for it.  Socialism has nothing to do with it.

      • Galloway “talks utter bollocks”? The electorate aren’t idiots – you think the 18,341 who voted for him were duped? You’re burying your head in the sand – not the best response to bad news…

      • AlanGiles

        I’ve only just seen this Jon. I would caution against saying anybody talks “utter bollocks” because one mans “utter ****** might be another man’s genuine view.

        For example, to use your delightful phrase, I find the utterances of certain New Labourites to be “utter bollox”. Most of what Rob Marchant writes, for example,  and prize for the greatest chutzpah of recent weeks has to go to the unlamented Tony McNulty, who wrote, seemingly blissfully unaware that it was his sort of lying decietful expenses scrounging MP that helped Labour lose in 2010. If he had stood down Brent East might have gone to a more honest candidate.

        And of course, the biggest “utter bollox” of the lot – James Purnell threatening benefit claimants with proseuction “no ifs or buts” if they broke the rules, when he had been dihonsest enough to submit a bill for “cleaning” his flat when no such work had been undertaken. That and the fact he claimed maximum food allowance on top of his ministerial salary. That is “bollox” with knobs on!

  • Bill Jefferies

    Its not down to anti-war sentiment alone, but the fact that Labour support the massacre in Iraq and Afghanistan, while slashing public services and opposing public sector strikes, obviously explains why one of their parrots got a stuffing.

  • Sean, I think that this is a very good article. As someone who joined you for a few days on the doorsteps at the start and then at the end of the campaign I saw a huge change in the doorstep responses. When we were doing knocking up on election day it was clear that we had lost in some of our best wards.

    I think that way that we target Labour voters to get them out is also a problem that restricts us being able to reach out to the younger vote.

    On the day that the guy in the Toller Lane/Heaton Office said that he thought Galloway was “good!”, we asked what our strategy against Galloway was as it was a concern that he would take alot of our votes (to be fair I thought he would split the vote and let the Tories win, but still we thought he was a threat to our vote) and we were told that the strategy was to ignore him.

    I dont think that its useful to blame local, regional or national people, although all I know is that that local members worked their ass off and certainly were not complaisant. When we asked about why certain strategies were being taken I often got the answer back “its the advice from regional/national”.

    You were there much more than I was so I guess that you saw the change, and clearly if anyone other than Galloway had stood RESPECT would not have won. I don’t think that Imran is to blame, he had in the past worked against the Bradree system in campaigning for Marsha, but his is a victim of the end of a system which needed to end here in Bradford.

    Moving forward what we must see is how the local party can re-build the links to the community. They need to re-engage with young local activities, which we have been very involved in, in the past and one of the reasons I joined the local CLP. This means take clear policy statements like, saving the local Odeon, putting forward a real plan for re-developing the city and not just the space outside city hall as well as wider political campaigns, many of these issues we are close to already but too soft in our advocating for different things.

    What I look forward to is locally for us to have an open CLP meeting with all members to discuss how we move forward and then take this direction.

    • “Moving forward what we must see is how the local party can re-build the links to the community.”

      The clock is ticking – Galloway has said Respect will contest all wards in the May elections. A victory such as Galloway’s/Respect’s with all the attendant enthusiasm and excitement will most likely produce a number local activists who are keen to enter politics, this is a bottom up process and contrasts starkly with Labour’s top down command and control habit that allows Labour’s Westminster/Oxbridge elite, along with local time-servers, to enjoy disproportionate representation and wield too much influence. 

      Most of all Labour need to up their game at grassroots level, this is more important than leadership beauty contests, and appeal to all sections of society. Not just the scallops and celeriac purée brigade.

      • Jimbennett

        What’s wrong with scallops? Maybe instead of celeriac, try them with black pudding – lush!

      • Redshift

        The result of those council elections will be interesting. 

        If I were the Respect organiser, my primary strategy would frankly be lots of pictures of the candidates next to Galloway. If they get any delusions of the by-election result being a win for Respect per se then they will lose. 

        If I were the Labour organiser, I’d hope to God Respect do buy into their own rhetoric and think this is a wave of anti-austerity feeling, rather than Galloway’s popularity and anti-war record (and Labour’s bad foreign policy whilst in power). Labour need to be out on the doorstep, assuming no ward is safe because many councillors won’t have seen a threat like this in their ward for a long time. And I probably wouldn’t give that advice to any other local Labour party outside Scotland at the moment. 

    • I’m still suprised how little has been said about the collapse of the Tory vote. I also thought there was a damn good chance of Galloway splitting the left wing vote and letting them in. Their candidate was a small business owner, which I thought would play well in an area with lots of small businesses. But their vote share ended up down about 75% on 2010. It was obvious from early on that Galloway would do well. Quite how well was a suprise, but not as much as the fact that he seemed to be taking votes from both the right and the left.

      • Redshift

        This is because it wasn’t an economic ideology battle. Muslims of all economic persuasions backed Galloway because of his foreign policy positions. 

        I didn’t see it coming, but in hindsight the explanation seems to be fairly clear.

      • I’m still suprised how little has been said about the collapse of the Tory vote. I also thought there was a damn good chance of Galloway splitting the left wing vote and letting them in.”
        You’re right, i thought this a lot too in the very early days, but we were seeing that the Tory vote had collapsed, even before the last two weeks, it was just seeing where they were going to collapse too. 
        I’m not sure if GG took right wing votes, i think the Tory vote collapsed with GG getting Labour and first time voters

  • A very interesting article – plenty of food for thought in there, and it’s also very well written. Thanks to Sean Dolat for taking the time out to put it together.

    It has got me mulling over the relationship between HQ and CLPs.

    We surely need more local democracy, but that is very different to certain self-selecting cabals and cliques being left alone to sew and stitch everything up and engage in other dubious practices.

    As it is we seem to have a tug of war relationship going on between local and national, but I am thinking that the centre’s job should be to ensure CLP processes are fair and open and transparent, and leave it at that, or if the situation is as awful as it seems to be here, to intervene and reconstitute the CLPs.

    This would probably seem too much like hard work for over-stretched staff and it would certainly cause a lot trouble, but it would show the world that Labour’s ‘fairness’ agenda is not suspended at its own front door – very important.  It would also be interesting for the world to look at, and would set us up as the good guys, rather than siding with the bad guys as seems to have happened here.

    This is politics after all, and sometimes you’ve just got to be prepared to have a fight. The real test of your values comes with what things you regard as being worth fighting over.

    • This does happen Ben – its called ‘special measures’.
      However, we do need to remember that politics is a voluntary activity and all parties rely on those prepared to do the work. There is a limit as to how much people will be prepared to give of their time if they are then bossed around by , for example, regional party offices

      • I thought ‘special measures’ was something of a standing joke. I am relatively new to Labour, but I have only seen or heard them mentioned negatively as not achieving very much. As for your comment about being bossed around by regional party offices, this is not what I was talking about – I am up for the regions/centre working to facilitate and ensure fairness for everyone.

  • A very informative and interesting article.

    One point, however.  You say ” I don’t think that Imran is to blame, he had in the past worked against the Bradree system in campaigning for Marsha”

    And yet, according to press accounts Imran got his council position because of his father (also a Labour politician) and advanced to Asst. Council leader precisely because of the bradree (or biridiri) system.  Then he got the candidacy.

    I look forward to an article on the bradree system, and also, crucially, whether it is in operation in other wards or constituencies.

    • I’m not sure its fair to focus just on this seat. A lot of areas have ‘dynasties’. And lets be honest, having a husband and wife team in the cabinet, twin sisters as shadow ministers, and brothers as the contenders for the leadership makes it a bit rich to see this as an Asian issue!

      • Daniel Speight

         Ho-ho Mike, and that’s not even going into sons, daughters and grandchildren of ex-MPs in the PLP.

        • This does happen Ben – its called ‘special measures’.

          However, we do need to remember that politics is a voluntary activity and all parties rely on those prepared to do the work. There is a limit as to how much people will be prepared to give of their time if they are then bossed around by , for example, regional party offices

  • The total failure to recognise the importance of national issues in this election is rather telling. No mention of troops in Afghanistan and Labours pathetic support for Tory policy on this.  Are we really to believe that Galloway’s campaigning for an immediate troop withdrawal and Hussein’s support for continuing a lost war played no part?

    No mention of the fact that Galloway fought on an anti cuts/anti austerity programme in the face of Labours craven inability to offer any real opposition to the coalition attacks played no part? 

    Ths election showed that people crave real opposition to the coalition policies and that Labour have singularly failed to provide one. The fact that this article ignored this indicates that no real lessons will be learned from this. People don’t want a Labour Party that is tory lite and they don’t want austerity lite, they want and deserve real opposition and that is something Labour have failed to offer

    • treborc

      sadly once you enter a war you have to show to people that when you leave it’s better then you went in.

      Iraq was about Oil and Blair and Bush having a history.

      Afghanistan  should  have been about the killing and murder of innocent people, but it was about a base  to attack Pakistan without Pakistan being able to say to much as in Bin laden death.

      Afghanistan we will be out in 2014 but if anyone says we won, or the place is better only has to look at the Poppies and the drugs.

      One good think I will not see another war from labour I pray not

  • Labour Member London

    I have many reservations about Galloway himself, but he puts his finger on the central problem – that there is little to choose between all three main parties on the key issues (a bottom with three identical cheeks as he delightfully put it).

    Unpacking this a little, it means, I believe, that on the economy Labour’s crtique of T0ry/Libdem policy as ‘cutting too much too fast’ is well understood by our core supporters as meaning merely that we would cut a bit less and a bit slower. Our core supporters are not stupid. They understand that Labour Party policy amounts to dismantling the welfare state a bit slower and a little less than the Tories.

    Until we have meaningful policy differences with the Tories and LibDems we will have at best only luke warm support from our core support.

    There is a related, and far greater danger than Bradford lurking for Labour – the end of the union (i.e. UK). Cruddas’s comments recorded by the Sunday times show that the Tories would not really mind this. We are faced with the prospect of an independent England with an inbuilt Tory majority. My point here is that the reasons for the imminent breakup of the UK are similar to the reasons for the loss of Bradford. We have little to offer our core supporters – and we have consequently already lost much of our core support in Scotland and Wales. If Labour has any future at all (other than a permanent English opposition or at best a coalition partner) we have to offer genuine policy differences that benefit the interests of our core support – what used to be called the ‘working classes,’ along with the liberal-leaning middle classes. What we are offering at the moment is just not good enough.

    Bradford is a clear warning – we are courting disaster.

  • Madni

    I strongly disagree with the view that Imran has relied on the Biradari system to get to where he is in the Council.  Imran has never promoted clan/tribal politics; if this was the case he would not have strongly supported Marsha Singh, a Sikh, all these years over the string of Muslim Candidates of other parties.  This is baseless propaganda by his opponents.    Imran has done a lot within the Council.  Odeon and Westfield are not the fault of Imran or the local Labour Party.

    • “Odeon and Westfield are not the fault of Imran or the local Labour Party.”

      Exactly, that’s what i said. 

      Imran as far as i was aware fought against the Biradari system a lot, and if that didn’t come across strongly then i definitely apologise. The point i was trying to make was that fairly or unfairly Imran was perceived that way on the doorstep.

  • Chris Dean

    Great article, very open and honest. It’s surprising just how late into the campaign that Galloway was recognized as a serious contender.

  • rabbas

    I asked a colleague at work if she had voted.  Her answer was this.  “I received a phone call from my cousin asking if I had voted.  I said no, he ordered me to go down to the polling station and put a cross next to number 2 for George Galloway.  I don’t know who this George guy is or what his Party is about.”  She further went on to say that her cousin and her brother made sure that they rounded everyone up and ordered them to the polling station to put a cross next to the number 2.  I find it shocking as well, gangs were going around the streets, rounding up herds of young people and ordering them to go to the Polling Station.  Is this what we call a true representation of the win or can we even call it democratic!

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      “He ordered me to…”

      “They rounded everyone up…”

      “Ordered them to the Polling Station…”

      “Gangs were going around the streets…”

      We have to take at face value this being what was said to the lady, or reported to rabbas.  I accept that there is only rabbas’ word for this.  

      Is this something confined only to the single election in Bradford West 3 days ago?  Or is it  perhaps also a “feature” of other constituencies?  Perhaps even endemic in certain constituencies over the years?  There is a lot of reportage and circumstantial evidence that communities heavily influenced by hierarchical / patriarchical ethnic minorities routinely see this on multiple elections.  It is little different to the Americans’ “Machine Politics” or even technical “adjustments” of their voting calculators.

      My estimation is that there is enough talk about this practice, over multiple elections and multiple constituencies to judge that this is a widespread and long-term abuse of democracy.

      Latterly, British postal voting has come under the spotlight, with accusations that the head of household fills in block votes with no consultation of his wife or adult children.  That cannot last, and I am glad that new legal proposals for voter registration will do away with that, despite some Labour dinosaurs hating the idea.

      Why would Labour oppose the end of household voter registration in favour of individual voter registration?  Time to let some sunlight in on these practices, I think.

      • Because the evidence shows clearly that voter registration in poor and deprived areas always drops considerably. Thus, politicians take no notice of the poor, because they are seen as non-voters, hence non-persons.

        I don’t know anyone in the Labour party irrespective of where they stand who supports this, and the social outcomes will be very dangerous – look at urban America

        • Bill Lockhart

          Labour’s enthusiasm for  patriarchal ethnic ballot-stuffing has evidently turned round and bitten them on the arse. The law of unintended consequences is universal and inescapable.

  • Billmajor

    Good article but you missed out two words “Afghanistan” & “Iraq”  -the present Labour crew are still tainted bythose two crimes.

  • Billmajor

    Point 7 – the author calls it “bizarre” that GG should want a return to an “old” Labour ? Not bizarre at all. Although I’m not sure when there was a true “old” Labour. 1997 was the best chance, with the biggest majority and the enthusiasm of the population, but Blair and Brown had no understanding of such possibilities.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      Well, Blair had just been elected on a huge swing to a sensible Labour manifesto, he had the technical support of the NEC behind him for a sensible raft of policies, and he had banished the Labour dinosaurs back into the cupboard under the stairs after their works outings in the late 70s through to the early 90s, including such successes as the Grunwick dispute, Clause 4 and the miners’ strike.  Most importantly, he had the support of the majority of British people, if not the 5% or less of miserable, selfish, mule-like and whining socialists.

      Why on earth would he in May 1997 suddenly discover his hidden socialist persona?

      Unfortunately, he only put the Labour dinosaurs to sleep for a while, not managing to shoot them with silver bullets.

      • I think what would have happened – and what would have been the case under John Smith – would have been a smaller majority.

        That would have been a much better outcome, as in 97 a lot of people voted Labour largely because of the enthusiasm of the rhetoric and the sheer uselessness of the Tories.
        They remained Tory in terms of their views and quickly abandoned Labour, largely to abstention.

        It was largely a top-show revolution, lacking substance, and many of the reforms were equally temporary and flimsy.

        It was also , as the previous post indicates, an attempt to take over a party. I’d love to know who was at the bottom of it – I think it likely that there were external forces at work, for why would anyone choose to join a clearly democratic socialist party in order to change it, rather than opt for the Conservative or Liberal parties? Dishonest and in my view, organised entryism.

        Thankfully, it didn’t destroy us altogether, but it has clearly left us with a poor perception amongst some of our usual supporters and the job of altering that perception remains. It will mean killing off New Labour for good. Still a way to go!

      • Daniel Speight

         …if not the 5% or less of miserable, selfish, mule-like and whining socialists.

        …not some little coterie of complaining and greedy socialists who still
        exist today mostly funded by the largesse of the taxpayer.

        Jaime, this is trolling. You are on a social democratic Labour Party supporting website. If you really feel this way about socialism you should find somewhere else to use your time. These statements would be more expected on South American military governments website. Not to suffer the slings and arrows that Livingstone suffered for suggesting others should go back to whence they came, I will not make such a suggestion.

    • Well  that’s an interesting interpretation of what  i said :p

      It was bizarre for one candidate from one political party to solely speak positive of  a party he is no longer in without mentioning his party (Respect) at all, that IS bizarre.

      The politics of what GG wanted Labour to return to had nothing to do with my point. It’s fairly clear.

  • OK, Hands up. I am neither a Labour Party member or supporter. I am one of that “odious” band known as Cybernats, and I thought a little contribution from up here in Chilly North Britain may be of some interest to you all in your time of tribulation.

    The Labour Candidate Imran Hussein seems to have been quite poor. I have seen quotes, allegedly from within Bradford West CLP, that describe him as “being unable to debate his way out of a wet paper bag”. Gorgeous George was always going to slaughter him at a hustings and he should have been better prepared.

    George Galloway is a name. However, it is interesting to note that his
    name and notoriety did him no good whatsoever when he stood for a List
    Seat in Glasgow in the 2011 Scottish General Election, so I don’t think
    that you can “blame” the defeat simply on his Celebrity.

    I see clear and very direct parallels with the Scottish Election. Labour got Slaughtered because they campaigned, much as you seem to have done here, not on What Labour Could Offer, but on a platform of “We aren’t the Tories”.(Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out, Out, Out)

    Unfortunately, in the face of a credible centre-left alternative such as the SNP, or a candidate such as Galloway who Appears to be a “traditional”, “Old Labour” figure, the toss up between one set of Eton-Educated Millionaires and a party led by a Millionaire PPE Graduate from Corpus Christi and the LSE who has never held a job outside of the Westminister Bubble was a no-brainer.

    Bottom line. You want to take England back, Less New. More Labour.

    • Christian Wright

      Yes indeed, Ewen. 

      Now Galloway could not win in the List Vote which for those  who don’t know, is a parliamentary assisted place scheme in Scotland for election losers. You can come 5th in the constituency ballot and STILL  get a seat. The current leader of the Tory party in Scotland garnered 1800 votes from around 35,ooo cast and still got a seat in Holyrood.Galloway could not manage even that in the Holyrood elections. His campaign appears not to have been that different in style or strategy in Bradford. The DIFFERENCE was that there was a credible alternative to Labour in Scotland (the SNP), and there was NO ALTERNATIVE in Bradford except for Gorgeous George. The outcome evinces a sickness at the heart of Labour; its alienation from its traditional support, whose values it has rejected, and its deserved reputation as a cabal of party apparatchiks, more interested in their career and their own well being than the welfare of the constituents they are sworn to serve.I don’t know how you put that right without a complete overhaul of personnel and organizational infrastructure, but Ewen provided a succinct prescription for what ails you in the North: Less New. More Labour.

      • The List (Or “Additional member”) System isn’t as bad as Christian is making out. It was placed in the system (Revised De Hondt) as a sop to pretend that there was a degree of proportionality in the system. You vote for an FPTP Constituency Member, and then for Seven “List” members from each Region with a Second Vote.

        By The Weird and Wonderful Electoral Mathematics, over the 9 Glasgow Constituencies that comprise Glasgow Region (List), Ruth Davidson (Tory, now Leader of “Scottish” Tories) got 12,749 Votes. George got 6,972. Over 9 Parliamentary Constituencies. He came well short, although he did get nearly 1,700 votes more than the Lib Dems.

        So, My point remains. George could only muster 6,972 votes over 9 Constituencies, the 9 in Scotland where there were the highest “Asian” population. So, it wasn’t about who he was, or even his unique and interesting take on Iraq and Afghanistan appealing to a target demographic.

        He was voted for because at the end of the day, People have left the Labour Party because the Labour Party no longer stand for what they believe.

        • Redshift

          Bradford’s muslim population is a far greater proportion of the electorate than it is in Glasgow. His anti-war record, position on Palestine, etc makes him a very popular figures with muslim voters. This would not have happened with just any Respect candidate.

          I’d seriously love this to be about anti-austerity feeling and that Labour’s position on this wasn’t strong enough, but there is no evidence from this elsewhere – e.g. where the Greens have stood, where other assorted lefty parties and coalitions have stood.The polls similarly don’t back up your position. 

          • Redshift,

            There’s the figures there. The last “real” poll.  Over 9 constituencies with the highest proportion of Asian voters in Scotland, Galloway could muster only just over 650 votes a constituency.

            As I am sure that Call-Me-Dave and Call-Me-Ed will be saying, the only polls that matter are at the ballot box.

            The Polls had a comfortable Labour win in Bradford West. With a (?) 12 point lead mid-term, a notionally safe seat where you should have been able to count on a deal of goodwill from the fact that your MP was retiring on Ill Health rather than, oh, for having fiddled his expenses or Living The Dream and Hammering a Tory in the HoC, you should have romped home with an increased majority.

            There was not a positive Labour Vote. In exactly the same way that there was not a Positive Labour Vote in Scotland. You offered Nothing other than “we’re not them”.

            You have had the warning. Your colleagues in Scotland haven’t been smart enough to read the writing on the wall. Tory or Tory Lite is not an alternative. Where there is a credible centre-left alternative, the votes will flee.

            Now, Gorgeous George is a one-off. Or is he ? How many Respect Councillors do you think are going to come from Bradford in May ?

          • There are more Asians in Bradford West than in the whole of Scotland so the comparison isn’t a particularly good one.

          • You really are missing the point Andy, which is that there was NOT a Positive Vote FOR Labour in a safe seat held by your party for over 35 years.

            You offered nothing. You got back what you offered.

          • You really are missing the point Andy, which is that there was NOT a Positive Vote FOR Labour in a safe seat held by your party for over 35 years.

            You offered nothing. You got back what you offered.

  • Albagubrath

    Well you just keep believing that this was a freak result and normal service will be resumed.
    In scotland labour are a spent force they too are like deer in the  headlights waiting on normality resuming.
    the bottom line is throughout the UK ,Westminster and Labour are seen as self seeknig carpetbaggers.
    They have no policies beyond attacknig the tories ,SNP ,Plaid whoever.
    Negativity does not win elections.
    ermine chasing champagne socialists to not enthuse the voters.
    westminster needs massive reform or this country will experience a political implosion of gigantic proportions.
    To say this election was lost because you did not smear GG enough is exectly the reason that labour will be in the political wilderness for decades.
    The Uk is about to end and those in the Westminster Bubble are too busy gorging inthe trough to see it coming.
    The Voters have not abandoned Labour ,it is Labour that have abandoned their core vote.

    • To smear  is  to lie. We would have been telling people the entire left establishment hate him.

  • Redshift

    This is the best explanation I’ve seen of the result anywhere.

  • The Lady

    I would not give up Bradford. Galloway plays dirty games and soon those games will be exposed! Galloway calls his party ‘Respect’ however he does not respect people. As you said Galloway snatch some of his ideas from the Labour campaign! Galloway is a bully and he like to have a millitant point of view. He just concentrated on area that has majority of Asians community, which he was using Labour principles! What are his principles? Sometimes to win an enemy you need to be silent and just watch this space!

  • UKAzeri

    The author is upset about the fact that local CLP didn’t use the ‘dirt’ on Galloway during campaigning. At the same time the author describes how GG praised old Labour and its policies as well as concentrating on the issues that a an MP is elected on – LOCAL ISSUES.

    Why am i a member of  party that at best is not brave enough but in reality far more neoliberal than i would like to admit??

  • Julie shacks

    Labour lost the election because they selected the Deputy leader of the council who in july 2011 closed the local swimming pool in Manningham to save the miserly sum of £140000 even though there was alot of interest from local people to run it privately i was one of the parties interested in taking it over and went to see Imran Hussain he made it quite clear that he wanted it to close even though it is in his own constituency, so the people who he wanted votes from were the same people who he had denied them the right to have a local pool especially the ladies who could swim in total privacy and the school children who could walk to the pool instead of having to get a bus to pools a few miles away. I for one am grateful for George Galloway for standing if only to stop Labour putting up third rate local councillors that  are obviously not up to the job as a MP 

  • mojo

    The Bradree issue has to be looked at in depth and acted upon if we want the support of the  younger generation of Asians. In the past the Labour party has not even seen this has an issue of concern yet it is driving the youger generation of Asians away from the Labour party. I am experiencing this at first hand in my ward (Cheetham) in North Manchester and its a similar pattern in all Asian areas across Greater Manchester. 


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