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Bradford West: Respect redux?

Anything other than a win for Imran Hussain in tomorrow’s Bradford West by-election would be astonishing. After all, the seat has consistently returned Labour MPs since 1974, and with the party currently well ahead in the national opinion polls, there is no real reason to expect any other outcome.

Much of the interest – for outside observers, anyway – will come from watching the performance of former MP George Galloway, who has effectively relaunched his Respect party especially for the occasion.

Certainly his supporters are upbeat. A sympathetic commenter at Britain’s most widely-read leftwing blog insists: ‘News coming out of Bradford is that George’s campaign has really caught fire and has managed to recapture the buzz of his campaign for election in Tower Hamlets back in 2005.’

Even the Guardian is suggesting that ‘Labour should be a little worried’ about the intervention of a man apparently viewed as ‘a superstar’ by many young Asians.

Should it? Well, Respect did not fare particularly well in 2010, with Arshad Ali getting just 1,245 votes. But by-election upsets can never be ruled out.

Galloway is a far higher profile candidate, of course, and will inevitably do rather better than his colleague. The bookmakers apparently predict that he will finish second.

On the assumption that many of those votes would otherwise have gone to Labour, an element of unpredictability has been injected into what would otherwise have been a routine race. That can only work to the advantage of the Tories.

But were I out on the knocker on behalf of Respect this week, I would certainly apply a substantial discount factor to the canvass returns.

I spent a week in Newport West when Arthur Scargill stood for the Socialist Labour Party in 1997. Based on what I heard on the doorstep, I was confident that he would top the 10% mark; in the event, he secured a deposit-saving 6% or so.

The Guardian article is also worth reading for its observations about the extent of communalism in municipal Labour politics. This is not exactly historically new, as those aware of the history of Labour in Scotland will be aware. But it is obviously cause for concern.

Finally, a good showing by Respect would also have implications for the electoral strategies of left-of-Labour groupings. Suddenly it would be back at the bargaining table, alongside the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, as this milieu mulls plans for the next general election.

Observations welcome from those on the ground.


  1. Andy Newman says:


    I would think that Galloway might be very pleased with “a deposit saving 6%”

  2. Jon Lansman says:

    I don’t have any local knowledge but I too would be amazed if George could improve so much on the last Respect vote in Bradford West to get elected (as opposed to just depriving Labour of the seat).

    The real question for me is what is the strategy? I can’t see one, beyond the by-election that is, for George or Respect. The main effect is to postpone the day when George and, even more importantly, Salma Yaqoob, can (re)join the Labour Party where they both belong; and to encourage other good activists to waste yet more of their time on lost causes like the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

  3. Dave says:

    I agree with Andy and (half) agree with Jon.

    Yes, saving a deposit is about as good as it gets for a left of Labour candidate, and surely GG will realise that.

    Singh’s majority was healthy enough, but if there is a low turnout tomorrow, a couple of thousand votes might be enough to deny Labour the seat.

    I have never gone along with ‘outside lefties split the vote’ type arguments. If a party doesn’t win a seat, that is because it could not get enough people to back it. But nobody wants to see the Tories win.

    I suspect the Gorgeous One just happened to notice a by-election coming up in a seat with a substantial Muslim electorate and decided to suck it and see. There probably is no master strategy.

    I’d rather GG did not rejoin Labour, though. I don’t personally consider him a democratic socialist.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      I have criticisms of George too, the lack of a master strategy being a serious one for any would-be or has-been leader being one of them, and he was never part of a Left group when he was a Labour MP. But he never should have been expelled from Labour, and if we were a broad enough church then, we surely are now.

      However, I’m much more concerned about Salma Yaqoob who does not share any of George’s shortcomings as far as I know. She’d be a tremendous asset to Labour in Birmingham and the West Midlands, and to the Labour Left nationally. And yet Respect’s continuation delays the possibility of her recruitment.

  4. Graeme Hancocks says:

    Although not a Labour member now, I have been so incesnsed by what Galloway has been saying, that I have decided to give up tomorrow to help Labour, the neighbouring seat to where I live. I would like to believe that Galloway will do as badly as others have indicated and that he does not either sneak in or allow the tory in by default, but I am not so sure. He has a certain appeal to certain types – for eg younger muslim voters – and says what they want to hear. Anyway, I felt that I must do something, however small, even if it is just knocking on doors and driving people to polling station.

  5. Mick Hall says:

    True George at times feels like a stone in one’s shoe, but on the wars, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, he has been solid. Parliament could do with him tweaking the tails of the blue-yellow and New Labour war mongering neo liberals.

    In any case, a Galloway victory cannot but be viewed as a special situation and it just might give Miliband a slight leftward nudge.

    I to found the communal state of the Bradford LP disturbing, although hardly surprising, they make some of the accusations George has faced seem like small beer. (not all)

    It is time the left in Labour revisited local candidates for local people, and by local I mean in the constituency not some far off village in god knows where.

    I find the use of blow in candidates which is inherent within the British parliamentary system so disheartening, totally designed to staff parliament with middle class professionals.

  6. andy newman says:

    Well we all got this wrong. With regard to salma Yaqoob’s future I suggest her prospects becomming next MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook have resurrected

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Maybe Salma Yaqoob’s chances of election as a Respect MP are improved, but to what effect? Having one MP is a significant step forward for a “minor party” because it greatly increases the party’s media exposure by bringing them into daily contact with political correspondents. The second MP brings little benefit. The outside left’s exaggerated estimation of the importance of MPs is surely a form of parliamentary cretinism. Unless you have enough MPs to form a government, or at least the government-in-waiting, they bring little advantage – indeed, by orienting the party towards parliamentary elections they could actually cause damage by taking activists away from other activities.

      By example, the Communist Party’s influence on the Labour Party, especially from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, was entirely the product of their influence in the trade unions and in spite of their risible electoral performance.

      In contrast, Salma Yaqoob as a Labour MP, Mayor, even a councillor again, would be an articulate and charismatic figure, who would immediately become a key figure on the Labour Left, capable of attracting activists into the party and into activity, thereby strengthening the Labour Left.

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