Labour leader, Ed Miliband, recently took himself back to Bradford to ‘listen’, as he had promised to do, to local people. He said he wanted to learn the lessons for Labour’s monumental drubbing at the hands of George Galloway and his ‘Respect Party’. The lessons have of course been writ large for years. Bradford was just waiting to happen. Next stop, at this rate, Birmingham Hodge Hill.
Am I the only one to wonder whether Ed may soon be promising to do some more ‘listening’, but this time with more than hint of desperation in his voice – should Ken Livingstone lose in London? For should Livingstone lose, there will be many who will quite rightly point the finger of blame at those in the party who have gone out of their way either to damage Labour’s London campaign, or who have deliberately sat on their hands and done nothing to help.
Throughout the New Labour years, when Tony Blair was in his pomp, Labour people – despite their misgivings loyally supported the party. The same may not be said about some of the unreconstructed Blairites, for let’s be clear; their trade is treachery. Many of them actually want Boris Johnson to win.
Should Livingstone fail to beat Boris Johnson next month– and should Labour also lose Glasgow (which began seriously unravelling with the arrival in the city of the same party officials who had been busy screwing it up for Livingstone in London), have no illusions, it will be open season on Ed Miliband. His leadership may not survive such a calamity. The outrage would be especially keenly felt, because Labour is currently ahead in the national polls.
Fortunately, there is still time – just – to turn things around. Ed, Ken and Labour have to do a number of things in London, not least motivate core supporters to come out and vote. But Ed in particular needs to understand that one vital component of the core vote which has been resolutely loyal to Labour, the London British Muslim vote, is increasingly de-motivated and disillusioned. The Bradford effect may be about to repeat itself in London, and tragically, because in this scenario the only winners are the Tories and Ed Miliband’s Blairite critics, who are almost willing Ken to lose in order to weaken Ed.
The message to Ed Miliband must be loud and unequivocable. Do not wait until after the event to come and listen, get listening now – to real voters. Do not listen to unreconstructed Blairites. These people, between them, have, through their actions done so much to damage Labour’s standing amongst Muslim voters. The Blairites for their support for foreign wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Harman and others through their crass misjudgement of the situation in crucial inner London boroughs such as Tower Hamlets.
This week, Ed Miliband need to pick up the phone to Mayor Lutfur Rahman of Tower Hamlets. He needs to apologise for the quite disgraceful way in which he and his supporters have been treated by the Labour Party. He has to ask Lutfur Rahman for his support and heal the wounds by readmitting Rahman and his supporters into the Labour Party forthwith. He needs to understand that tens of thousands of London Muslims and many others of all faiths and none, have been hugely offended by the way in which Rahman was prevented – like Livingstone before him – from being the party’s standard bearer, and subsequently expelled.
Ed Miliband needs to know that the small minded actions of a small minority have indirectly led to open season being declared on Rahman and a significant section of the London Muslim community by deeply destructive elements on the racist and Islamophobic right. These same voters are proud – as Labour should be – that a British Bengali has become the first directly Mayor of an East End borough, rich in all the better traditions of real Labour. They are dismayed that what should be seen as unalloyed good news, is constantly tarnished by the steady drip of a foul malevolence that now knows no boundaries of common decency. Above all Ed Miliband needs to comprehend that the difference between winning and losing London, lies in places like Tower Hamlets and with people like Mayor Rahman.
So, get a grip Ed! Don’t wait until after the event to listen – when it may be too late. Listen now. And act decisively. Your leadership now depends on it.