Bradford West – A Neutral’s View

by Ray_North on March 30, 2012

When she was asked to assess how and why Labour had done so badly in Bradford West, Harriet Harman suggested that Bradford had its ‘particular problems for Labour’ and that this was a strange result. She then suggested that Labour would mount an internal investigation into the result.

As I listened to Ms. Harman, I felt myself sigh and a little bit more of my precious will to live seep from my aching limbs.

Why do Labour need to have an internal investigation into this defeat? Anyone with a natural understanding for politics and an empathy for people knows why Labour failed in Bradford West, dismissing it as uniquely ‘problematic’ is indicative of their shortcomings.

Whatever people’s opinion of the victorious George Galloway and his eclectic Respect Party, one can’t deny that George is an angry man – I have my suspicions that some of his anger may be faux and that George is as much concerned about George as he is about other matters, but, he is angry and clever and bold and able to articulate this is a far more effective way than Labour can.

Take this week – Ed Milliband did ok at the budget, his soundbite was a good one – but, as I watched and applauded his efforts, I was still ultimately left feeling underwhelmed – Labour and Ed Milliband are still not speaking for me and they are still not speaking with a clarity and passion that surely should come naturally when in opposition to a government as pernicious and incompetent as this one. Their first instinct is still to be timid and reticent or go for the cheap stunt – such as sending Ed Balls and Ed Milliband to a Greggs Bakery for a pasty photo-op to emphasise their concern about the ‘pasty tax’. They are still apologising for their own existence, as demonstrated by their failure to support the lorry drivers of Unite who have a proper grievance and a proper mandate for their proposed actions.

I have long suspected that some elements of the Labour party take for granted what they believe to be their ‘natural voters’ and have forgotten the fact that, now more than ever, these people really need them to stand up and fight for them. Now is the time for Labour to be angry, now is the time for Labour to be very, very clear about why the Coalition is wrong.

George Galloway didn’t win in Bradford West because Bradford West has unique problems for Labour, George Galloway won because he is an extremely charismatic and persuasive politician who is not afraid to speak up for what he actually believes in, rather than what he is told will go down well with the swing voters. Now, I accept that I will be accused of being naive and ignoring the fact that Labour has to win power and that it can’t ignore the psephologists, and I understand that, but, politics must also include leadership and the instinctive desire to create something that is better and the ability to articulate that passion. I suppose that it is easy for George Galloway to do that in Bradford West at a by-election, and it may be that no party will ever really be able to say what it actually wants to in an age when every utterance is poured over and criticised, but Labour must get beyond its current instinct to placate and become emboldened, and until it does, I fear that it will struggle.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert March 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Labour Tory, the difference has become so very small the difference are hardly noticed any more, if your sick or disabled poor at the bottom I suspect voting is a waste of time

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Nick Evans April 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm

“George Galloway won because he is an extremely charismatic and persuasive politician who is not afraid to speak up for what he actually believes in, rather than what he is told will go down well with the swing voters”

You don’t think there was any pandering with all the ‘praise be to Allah, he knows who is really a Muslim, I never drink alcohol, which other candidates can say that’ stuff?

And is a candidate who supports Assad really “speaking up for what he actually believes in” when he compares his own byelection victory with the Arab Spring?

It’s possible.

Reply

Ray_North April 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Hi Nick,

Yep, fair point – I wrote this article before I’d read the stuff about his rather crass populist Muslimism.
There is a fine line between charisma and populism – and, fair point, George waded across it with both feet.

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