Bradford West by-election: 5 initial thoughts on an astonishing result

Here are some inital reflections on George Galloway’s stunning by-election win in Bradford West…

Devastating for Labour…

It is not simply the fact that Labour lost a seat they’ve held at every election since 1974. It is not simply the fact that they’ve become the first opposition party since William Hague’s Tories at Romsey 12 years ago to lose a by-election. It is not simply the fact that Labour must have thought they’d enjoyed a good fortnight in which the Tories have been given a good pasting. It is not simply the fact that this by-election suggests Labour’s current national lead in the polls is very, very soft. It is not simply the fact that Labour and Ed Miliband have shown they cannot connect in a northern, urban heartland seat. It is not simply the fact that Labour’s until-2003 tencacious grip on the BME vote has been shown to be vulnerable even as the Blair/Iraq memory fades. No, it is that all these facts combined reveal quite how far Labour is from winning in 2015 that will devastate the Labour party.

… And bad for the Coalition

The Coalition parties combined won just 4,251 votes in Bradford West — less than 13% of the vote — meaning 87% of votes cast in this seat were for a non-governing party. At the general election in 2010, the Conservatives and Lib Dems polled 43% of the vote. It is easier for the Coalition to portray this result as a mid-term protest than for Labour, but the plain fact is that none of the three major parties can take any pleasure in this result. In fact the Tories’ reversal was even more stark than Labour’s, their vote collapsing from 31% to just 8% in a seat where the Tories haven’t polled less than 30% in recent history. (Interestingly, Iain Duncan Smith polled 37% there in 1987.) Labour’s concern this week had been that the Tories might be able to slip through the middle as a result of Mr Galloway splitting the left’s vote, a fear which seems a tad hollow now!

Disappointing for the Lib Dems

Eight or nine yearsw ago this would have been the kind of seat the Lib Dems might have hoped to snatch to add to the party’s litany of by-election shocks — after all, the Lib Dems’ David Ward holds neighbouring Bradford East. Instead Bradford West joins a rather more inglorious roll-call of lost by-election deposits, following on from Barnsley Cental and Inverclyde. That said, the party doesn’t have a great track record here — our best performance was 18% of the vote in 2005 — and the party expected fourth place. What is evident is that the Lib Dem by-election vote is suffering not only from being implicated in the unpopular reality of governing the country in difficult economic conditions, but also from no longer being regarded as a ‘safe’ protest vote. For years we have noted that if everyone who said they wanted to vote Lib Dem (but who didn’t fearing a wasted vote) actually did so the party could win power; now we are seeing the (partial) unwind of people who voted Lib Dem thinking the party wouldn’t win power.

Time for a media post mortem too

As I tweeted early this morning:


This has been a week where political news appeared to eat itself. While the Westminster media led a patronising focus on so-called #pastygate, with Westminster politicians fighting for a photo-op in Greggs to show how of-the-people they are, the public in Bradford West were casting their votes based on issues that mattered much more to them, including continuing UK troop involvement in Afghanistan. No-one saw this shock result coming, least of all the London-based media. Westminster-obsessed journalists have spent the last few days berating the Tories for being too posh to understand the public, apparently without any self-knowing irony until David Rennie’s Bagehot blog called them out on it, noting that the Village’s media and poltiical classes are pretty much inter-changeably ‘well-fed and well-dressed’.

George Galloway’s sectarian appeal for votes worked

Below is a letter George Galloway distributed in Bradford West in which he states: ‘God KNOWS who is a Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not. Instinctively, so do you.’ and ‘I, George Galloway, do not drink alcohol and never have. Ask yourself if you believe the other candidate in this election can say that truthfully.’ Here it is in full:

(Image from Harry’s Place blog.)

Nasser Butt, a former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate who spent a week in Bradford West, was one of the few who predicted the scale of George Galloway’s insurgent victory:

I don’t like George Galloway and what he stands for but facts are facts and I have seen madness in Bradford West by election over the last seven days here. Open meetings at community centres every night with standing room only and overflows outside. People throwing buckets full money at Respect for their campaign against Labour. Businesses offering main premises for Respect Posters. Long-standing Tory and Labour activist parents bowing to their young ones to vote for George and openly admitting to this. The old Labour voters have the Labour board in their garden but telling everyone they are voting for George. The results will be out in a few ours and we are looking at something amazing in Bradford West? The only question is whether these youngsters are registered for vote and whether Respect has got the Muslim vote to vote today. A high turnout would give George the lead! [Editor'#s note: amended only for typos.]

It’s an extaordinary result, and one which will reverberate in the coming days.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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53 Comments

  • Richard Dean 30th Mar '12 - 10:19am

    Lessons 1, 2, and 3: Know the electorate. George did that far better than anyone else.

  • George’s leaflet looks nothing like a Focus leaflet, but it is CREDIBLE because he has a reputation. You don’t need three things to remember if everyone already KNOWS the one thing that matters in the election.
    Did young voters turn out? Is this different to Clegg mania, when lots said they would vote but didn’t? Important question for LDs.

  • Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera 30th Mar '12 - 11:27am

    I could not agree more with Richard than “Know the electorate”.

    This is true wherever we are seeking to represent the communities and win seats, and this is dependent on adopting new approaches, and seeking ‘intelligence’ that includes knowing and being able to engage with more diverse ethnic and other social needs than we as a Party are used to.

    We have much to learn from both ‘Gorgeous George’ and the Respect Party and how they ran their campaign, as it clearly demonstrated weaknesses in our current approach, which may well be overly localised, when these particular communities are not only concerned with ‘potholes, but personally interested in international matters as well.

  • Richard Dean 30th Mar '12 - 11:51am

    George’s letter shows how well focussed he is, and shows that he had relevant credentials, but is otherwise not too remarkable. It would be interesting to know what he said in his speeches. Here are some more suggestions …

    Lesson 4. If the constituents perceive that the status quo has failed them, don’t field a candidate from the status quo. A difficult lesson to learn. Requires a main party to see itself from outside.

    Lesson 5. Don’t offer the electorate a choice that involves them losing something. If Jeanette is perceived to be a good politician, people wouldn’t want her to give up her present job. If she’s perceived to be a bad one, people wouldn’t want to give her the new job.

  • He ran a good campaign.

    I wouldn’t vote for him because of my opinion on his judgement and previous associations, but he campaigned well on a popular view (no cuts, bring troops home now) and his already high profile anti-war image. Now we see he leveraged an anti-alcohol message too – great work.

    I don’t forget this that easily tho : http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/galloway-says-murder-of-blair-would-be-justified-479788.html

    Not that I was Blair’s biggest fan but I don’t think that was responsible, in fact downright dangerous.

    But he’s proved he can win in London and also in the North.

  • I kept seeing comments from Galloway supporters last night, about the Labour candidate needing to “drown his sorrows” and “leaving early for a pint” etc. It didn’t click what those were about until I read George’s letter. I find it hard to believe he’s never touched alcohol. Hell, I find it hard to believe he hadn’t had a drink before going on TV last night.

    But the mention of Iran is an important one. If the Republicans beat Obama this year and take America to war against Iran next year, and David Cameron wants to lead Britain in support of America, what will the Lib Dems in government and Parliament do?

  • “If turnout had been as expected we believe we would have fared much better, but the Galloway factor brought out thousands of extra voters, hitting all of the three main parties. While we were always expecting to fight for fourth in this election, it is quite astonishing for Labour to lose this seat and the Conservatives to see such a drop.”

    Comments from the party like this are very sad. Why is it that we can’t get people to turn out? Because the party’s message – if it has one – is blurred by the Coalition and by the party’s current lack of a persuasive philosophy.

  • I’d like to make what seems to me to be the most comparable by-election, that in Bermondsey that saw Simon Hughes elected for the first time.

    There again was the classic Labour mistake of assuming that the seat was their’s by right and had hardly ever put up a respectable election campaign. Again, there was a simmering undercurrent of resentment against a local Labour council who seemed to be able to achieve nothing substantial and, dare I say it, a candidate who was chosen for hiss personal background rather than his qualities as a potential M.P.

    As far as the votes for the coalition are concerned, I do not think we should be too worried about what appears to be the classic two-horse race with the consequent squeezing of the third and fourth party votes. In the very special circumstances of this by-election, the result is likely to have no major effect except to throw Labour into a blue funk.

  • In what way was Peter Tatchell chosen for his personal background? Surely he was chosen in spite of his personal background. It was seen as his biggest liability in that election, and was exploited by all the other candidates.

  • paul barker 30th Mar '12 - 1:49pm

    The big picture is that the labour coalition is slowly coming apart. Big chunks will go to extremist parties of left & right, more will stop voting & abig chunk will come to us if we display abit more self -confidence. We can replace labour as 2nd party if we hold our nerve.

  • >McClusky

    Different cases but comparable I think. Tatchell was a local member who was seen as being a ‘politically correct’ candidate for Labour to field because he was openly gay in much the same way that Labour appear to have chosen their by-election candidate on the basis of his being Pakistani and Muslim.

    The letter from Galloway also contains a thinly veiled allegation that the Labour candidate was not a strict Muslim and went against the traditions of the Pakistani community – “God knows who is a Muslim”…”I, George Galloway do not drink alcohol and never have”. This surely had traction in distancing the Labour candidate in the same way that Tachell’s history in the Gay Liberation movement did in the Old Kent Road housing estates.

    In addition, I think we should note the change in the share of the vote in view of the turnout. You may note that the party with the greatest loss of share of the vote was not Labour but the Conservaties. It would be interesting to see how many of those moved because there was a credible white alternative to a Pakistani.

    I am afraid I am not familiar with the detailed ethnic backgrounds of either the Labour candidate or the electorate of Pakistani origin. As you are probably aware, there are some very different traditions among the different tribes the British lumped together in dividing up the sub-continent. Did Galloway’s anti-war messages about Afghanistan resonate more among the Muslim electorate because they are fellow Pashtuns as well as part of the Ummah? Was the Labour candidate from the same tribal group or even branch of Islam? The latter might explain the “real Muslim” reference in George’s letter.

  • @Peter
    “Tatchell was a local member who was seen as being a ‘politically correct’ candidate for Labour to field because he was openly gay”

    In 1983, fielding a gay candidate was very much not the politically correct thing to do. Tatchell was a politically incorrect candidate for the time, even in Bermondsey. Besides that, Tatchell wasn’t actually open about his sexuality until after the election (though he didn’t deny it either, he just dismissed it as a private matter and irrelevant to his candidacy).

  • I think the important thing to remember when considering this result is that George Galloway attacked them from the left as well as a sectarian position. Whilst the result is not good for Labour I don’t see it being replicated unless by some miracle Respect or the SWP or some other leftist/anti-establishment party spread their influence. This verdict definitely does not show that Labour are vulnerable to the lib dems or the conservatives.

  • devastating for Labour – yes, definitely devastating for Milliband, but be honest guys, devsatating for us too – there was a time that we could have won this by-election, instead we lost our deposit.

  • >McClusky

    Peter Tatchell was a fairly prominent member of Gay Liberation ten years earlier to my personal knowledge. He had always been open and his sexuality could not have been unknown within the local Labour Party, even if they chose to downplay it in the early stages of the campaign. The whole point about the Bermondsey and the rest of Southwark’s CLPs was that they were isolated from their core electorate and were either corporatists only interested in office to run Southwark or trendy radicals. This faction was centered in the north of the Borough due to the low cost of housing and the availabilty of “hard to let” flats from the GLC.

    Neither should you dismiss the hugely popular candidacy of Simon Hughes, again comparable to that of Galloway. If you went canvassing at that by-election, you will probably remember that in many cases they were not intending to vote Liberal but “for Simon”.

  • @Paul Barker
    “The big picture is that the labour coalition is slowly coming apart. Big chunks will go to extremist parties of left & right, more will stop voting & abig chunk will come to us if we display abit more self -confidence. We can replace labour as 2nd party if we hold our nerve.”

    Optimism is one thing but really, come on, the LD candidate lost their deposit.
    All this shows is that the Lib Dems being seen as the natural home for left-leaning voters who don’t want to vote Labour are well and truly over.

  • Tony Greaves 30th Mar '12 - 2:59pm

    How interesting that none of the commentators here (apart from Nasser Butt, and he is only half way there) seem to have much clue about what this by-election result is about. And the Westminster Bubbleites haven’t got any points of contact so are just prattling on about nothing much at all.

    And I think it is sad that no-one is paying any truibute at all to Jeanette Sunderland who stook her head over the parapet and took on an impossible task on behalf of this party when it would have been all too easy to hide. Thanks, Jeanette.

    As for everyone else, just find out a bit before sounding off.

    Tony Greaves

  • David Evans 30th Mar '12 - 3:37pm

    @Stephen Tall

    “now we are seeing the (partial) unwind of people who voted Lib Dem thinking the party wouldn’t win power.”

    I’m sorry, but this really is a thin excuse. There is no evidence this, and I doubt if it has been tested at all.

    I have been knocking on doors for the council elections for many months now and I have never had anyone who was a past definite or probable say “I’m not voting for you this time because when I voted for you I did it because I didn’t think you would win power .” I have had far too many say “I’m not voting for you now because you are in coalition with the Tories” …… or any of a list of specific issues to do with the detritus from the coalition.

  • @Peter
    I don’t disagree with your characterisation of the Southwark CLP, but again Tatchell was not chosen because of his personal background as you originally asserted. He campaigned hard to win the nomination and he was chosen because of his campaigning and his politics (and therefore his qualities as a potential MP), not his sexuality.

  • Richard Dean 30th Mar '12 - 5:26pm

    Lesson 6. Denonstrate committment. George has done this all his life. Jeanette did indeed take on an almost impossible task – by taking it she could be seen to be demonstrating a lack of committment to the voters who elected her to her present position. She us also now in the embarrassing position of doing a job she presumably would prefer not to be doing!

    Lesson 7. Work through local opinion leaders. Look at the pictures of George triumphant and it looks pretty c;ear that he’s dfone this, and not only through Pakistani supporters, but other ethnicities too

    Lesson 8. KISS. Keep it simple, stupid! The election leaflet cited by Steohen Tall baiscally says Bradford West is beautiful, spoiled by current politicians, and I support the NHS and peace. Everyone can understand this message, which can be interpreted in so many different ways that it;s hard to argue against it. And jist about anything George says now or in future can be arged to be consistent with this message!

    Lesson 9. Be ready. I bet George starting working on this as soon as the by-election became possible. By contrast, the othyer parties seem to have taken a long time to chosse candidates, let alone start building alliances and local knowldge and developing a campaign

  • I live in a Northern ex textile town, with a high percentage of ethnic voters in some wards and was quite shocked that issues such as Palestine [though important[ came into local government elections.
    I have no idea whether this is comparable, but wonder if this result is just a one off, so far as other partie’s fortunes, are concerned.

  • Paul Holmes 30th Mar '12 - 6:07pm

    I know everyone loves by election post mortems as a form of fantasy football (‘if this swing were repeated at the next General Election it would mean the biggest landslide in history for the Lib Dems/Cons/Lab/SNP/Respect etc etc ‘) but really every commentator from George Galloway down to those here needs to get a grip on reality.

    Does this result mean Respect are going to sweep Labour to oblivion in May’s Council elections and in the London Mayoral election? No.

    Does it mean Labour are about to collapse and be replaced by the Lib Dems as the second major party of British Politics -as one person suggests here -No.

    It was a major upset for a very complacent Labour Party whose campaign appeared none existent last week on the poor rundown (mainly white) Council estate I spent an afternoon on. Admittedly it was only one afternoon (although I suspect one more than almost everyone else commenting here) but on an estate which at one time would have been a sea of red posters there was not a single Labour poster -or indeed a poster for anyone. The only Labour -or Respect -activity we saw was as we drove through one of the inner city (mainly Muslim ) Wards which had a decent, although far from by election standard, display of posters.

    So a combination of a constituency with a 40% Muslim population (still furious at Blair’s illegal war) and a lot of very poor, neglected, housing estates in a declining city that Labour should be ashamed of given their local dominance for so many years. Not a combination Respect are going to find in many places however much Ed Milliband’s poor leadership and Labour’s lack of policy answers to anything contrive to help.

    But certainly not good for the Lib Dems either. With an excellent candidate in Jeanette (who has a strong local profile in Bradford where she is an experienced Cllr) and a wide open goal with Labour’s local irrelevance and complacency in a traditional, neglected fiefdom, then only 3 years ago we could have put in a major challenge against Labour.

  • David Evans 30th Mar '12 - 7:28pm

    @Simon

    Just remember Simon, in some rural areas we rely on all Left of centre voters including “those to the left of Labour” to get together a anti-Tory majority to vote good Lib Dems in. If we lose them it will be a bad thing.

  • Paul Griffiths 30th Mar '12 - 9:40pm

    @ David Evans

    I should hope you’ve been around the block enough times not to take at face value people’s self-reported reasons for voting or not voting. You will, I suggest, never meet anyone who admits they voted Lib Dem secure in the belief that the decision was without consequence. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

  • Tony Greaves 30th Mar '12 - 10:06pm

    @Tony Greaves “How interesting that none of the commentators here (apart from Nasser Butt, and he is only half way there) seem to have much clue about what this by-election result is about.”
    What is it about then ?

    I think I know some of the reasons, not clearly discussed here by people obsessed with Peter Tatchell. I may post something when I have got a much clearer picture myself. Meanwhile I recommend

    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/2012/03/30/bradford-west-by-election-baston/

    One or two interesting floating straws for the moment. (1) Galloway claims he won every ward (not an obviously unreasonable claim given the result). (2) Thornton and Allerton Ward is 94% white, rather middle class, and has three Tory Councillors (out of five in the constituency, at least until 3rd May). (3) A third of the votes cast were postal votes. (4) the constituency is apparently about 40% Pakistani but that divides into Kashmiri and (mainly) Punjabi, and within that there are the biraderi and other differences (or bradree as Bradford dialect seems to spell it).

    But there is a lot more behind all this and other than being a massive protest vote it is far from simple.

    Tony

  • Richard Dean 30th Mar '12 - 11:44pm

    On TV tonight, George explained how different wards had different issues. And lo and behold, when his battle bus was shown, every issue was on the side of the bus. But no policies, just statements of desire – like we need action on jobs, or bring our soliders home. Effective if the electorate felt that mainstream parties were not listening. So I offer …

    Lesson 10. Listen, and articulate what you hear

    In Trinidad a couple of years ago, the winning UNC/COP coalition got in on a platform of “We know things are bad, we have no policies, but we love you, and we’ll work out what to do in the first 120 days of office”. They won by a landslide.

  • “But no policies, just statements of desire – like we need action on jobs, or bring our soliders home.”

    “Bring our soldiers home” sounds like a policy to me.

  • Richard Dean 31st Mar '12 - 11:48am

    More suggestions …

    Lesson 11. Know what matters. Policies didn’t, because a vote for a mainstream party would not affect party policies. So Bradford West looked like it didn’t count, and feelings may have mattered more than policy choices.

    Lesson 12. Use everything. Postal votes are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure, and the Tories seem to have tried rigging the postal vote last time. By reminding people of this, and simultaneously “complaining” about the high level of scrutiny of voting papers (see his website), George gave people a welcome way to take effective action against corruption …

    Lesson 13. The sub-text matters?. …., while perhaps also suggesting that people would be checked up on

    Lesson 14. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings. Top Labour people visited ten days ago, then left, giving the impression Labour didn’t care – and George would have been able to use that! A campaign is a story with an introduction, a development, and a finale, and Labour missed the finale (which is when final voting decisions are made). Harriet says she thought there must have been a late surge – both she and Ed seem completely out of touch even now.

    Lesson 15. Be important. See George’s letter. Voting takes effort. Why would anyone vote for a candidate who thought his or her personal electoral success was not important?

    Lesson 16. Voters value an experience, not a dry choice. George certainly gives people an experience!

  • David Allen 31st Mar '12 - 3:53pm

    Lesson 17: Take on discredited opponents.

    Sure, it’s terrible for Labour. Why don’t we leave it to them to deal with the lesson they have been taught, and concentrate on the lessons that we have been taught?

    Galloway successfully campaigned against warmongering by the West in the Moslem world. Why, then, did the party which stood out against the Iraq war in 2005, only seven years ago, actually lose votes to Galloway on that issue?

  • Simon Hebditch 31st Mar '12 - 6:04pm

    This was a devastating result for Labour and an equally appalling one for the Coalition parties. All the mainstream parties were rejected. Of course, you can’t then immediately postulate what will happen in a general election but it is possible to envisage that Respect will fight up to 50 carefully chosen seats and if a number of health professionals contest seats as Independents on the NHS ticket, we could see a fascinating election in 2015. In any scenario, the Lib Dems are facing major losses and we may well be back to fitting our MPs into a taxi!

  • ……………….Why, then, did the party which stood out against the Iraq war in 2005, only seven years ago, actually lose votes to Galloway on that issue?…………

    Wasn’t that in 2003?

    Perhaps, because Iraq was so long ago, Afghanistan was the main cause of Muslim discontent. In a speech, on the Afghan conflict, George Galloway Lumped Blair, Cameron and Clegg together (” “It is time to end this, to announce the swiftest possible withdrawal and to close this chapter of ten years of catastrophic foreign policy, begun under Tony Blair and continued under Cameron and Clegg.)

  • Tony Greaves 31st Mar '12 - 8:53pm

    “By reminding people of this, and simultaneously “complaining” about the high level of scrutiny of voting papers (see his website), George gave people a welcome way to take effective action against corruption …”

    Err…the high level of scrutiny of voting papers in places like Bradford (which checks the identifiers and dates of birth of 100% of postal voters) is precisely to try to stop postal vote rigging. Who “organised” the postal vote at this by-election in the Asian communities? Perhaps Labour were still at it but it seems they may have been out-organised.

    Tony Greaves

  • Richard Dean 31st Mar '12 - 9:39pm

    Tony – I don’t understand what you are asking, Postal votes are insecure in the sense that they are posted in, so that there is no strong check on who filled them out and or what pressure may be applied before they were posted, I think the rigging happened in 2005 [“last time” in my original post was inaccurate}. It was organized to support a Tory candidate. The case came to court in 2010. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/7985257/Five-jailed-for-electoral-fraud.html)

  • Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera 1st Apr '12 - 12:27pm

    What did ‘Gorgeous George’ offer to a marginalised community? An opportunity to be heard.

    George Galloway does not speak at, but does a pretty good impression of speaking up for the unheard and ignored. Richard Dean has for me, wonderfully articulated some of the lessons that we within the Liberal Democrat Party need to learn.

    Why was George Galloway so successful? For me it is simple, if I were a Bradford resident, considerably younger and a member of a community that feels that no matter what they do, they will be negatively stereotype and disadvantaged, then I would have voted for Respect.

    Why would I not vote for Respect as a middle aged, middle class, British Asian? Simple really, I believe that if one wishes to change the face of politics in the UK, then there is a need to change the approach of the major political groups, and not become sidelined into what some will see as a single issue party. This task is much harder than aligning oneself to a Party such as Respect, but in my opinion this will prove more effective in the longterm.

    I was with a group of activists in Reading, Berkshire only yesterday discussing the Bradford experience, and I asked the local activists “if there was a bi-election here in Reading, which is a very ethnically diverse town, and Respect turned up with their ‘Battlebus’, how confident are you that Respect would not be able to achieve a similar success to that in Bradford West?”. For that matter, how confident are any of you, that live with other urban areas that Respect could not do the same where you are?

    Sadly, I unfortunately know the answer in West Berkshire where I reside, and where serfdom is still prevalent, as we are currently led by an ancestral politician (great-great grandson of former Conservative Prime Minister Lord Salisbury), who is the second son, of a Knight (and a former MP himself), and a leading member of the landed gentry owning vast tracks of land in the district. We need a slightly different revolution here!

    If we wish to begin to win back the support of our tradition supporters, and win new ones from within communities that have previously not seen the LibDems as their Party of choice, then we would benefit from learning from the lessons of Bradford, put aside the mantra that I so often hear “well this is the way that we have always conversed” and add to our inventory new approaches. Let’s remember, that although George Galloway won the support of many Muslim community members, he also won the support of many White Working and Middle Class residents of Bradford’s very diverse population as well.

    I would personally appreciate hearing any positive feedback about the lessons to be learnt, and I will introduce these as research areas into my future work programme for the English Party.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    English Party Diversity Champion
    [email protected]

  • Tony Greaves 1st Apr '12 - 4:16pm

    @Richard Dean Tony – I don’t understand what you are asking, Postal votes are insecure in the sense that they are posted in, so that there is no strong check on who filled them out and or what pressure may be applied before they were posted, I think the rigging happened in 2005 [“last time” in my original post was inaccurate}. It was organized to support a Tory candidate. The case came to court in 2010.

    The PV court cases in Bradford were not in Bradford West (I think they were in the then Bradford North, in Bradford Moor).

    I am not “asking” anything (other than ina general context for the aboliton of postal voting!) I am stating that in many Asian areas in places like Bradford, the “organisation” of postal votes takes place at a high level, and this too often amounts to “rigging”. The Labour Party are in my experience the main culprits, and in Bradford West will have “signed up” large numbers of Asian postal votes which (possibly entirely by legal means) they will have expected to vote Labour. It is clear that a lot of these votes went to Galloway in this election.

    The Returning Officer in Bradford (quite rightly) checks 100% of postal votes for correct signatures and dates of birth. I don’t know how many he rejected in this by-election for not complying. It appears however that Galloway was not happy with the number rejected.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Dawson 1st Apr '12 - 5:16pm

    @Judith:

    “George Galloway’s most important election statement was that the Labour candidate drinks alcohol.”

    Of course, were this to be an untrue statement, it would be an open and shut case for a Phil Woolas like prosecution under electoral law. Oh,just a minute. Phil Woolas and his agent were never prosecuted. Which allows him to prance about as a ‘political consultant’ these days.

  • Richard Dean 1st Apr '12 - 6:09pm

    @Tony. The newspaper article I linked to specifically mentions Bradford West as the constituency affected.

  • Tony Greaves 1st Apr '12 - 10:23pm

    Sorry -you are right – I think I was mixing it up with another case relating to local elections in Bradford Moor.

    Some people do it competently and others botch it and get caught.

    Tony Greaves

  • Jonathan Hunt 2nd Apr '12 - 5:31pm

    There is no direct comparison to Bradford West, but if we had to choose on it was more likely to be Orpington in terms of sheer shock.

    We had overturned large majorities in the previous decade, but nothing on the scale of Bermondsey. A few months earlier, Dick Taverne came within 5% of beating Harriet harman to take Peckham.

    Southwark was run for years by the old dockers mafia, based in Bermondsey but running the whole borough. It was right-wing working class, authoritarian, corrupt, intolerant, homophobic and often racist. Even the few Tories attacked from the Left.

    John O’Grady, the council leader, was their candidate even though a coup in the Labour party had resulted in peter Tatchell being selected and leading Bob Mellish the often volatile MP to resign when goaded in an interview with the Observer. I was the first to run the story when I edited the Observer diary.

    O’Grady and Tatchell were neck and neck up to a week before the campaign, when our camp heard of a poll taking place. activists removed rosettes and disguised as members of the public strolled pass the pollsters. As a result Simon Hughes was seen to have a big lead, and opinion shifted. And shifted and shifted, by word of mouth without any social media.

    Liberals were accused of homophobia. In fact they didn’t need to. O’Grady had cornered that market, and thrown whole footie piches of unpleasnt, stinking mud.

  • Silent Hunter 2nd Apr '12 - 7:37pm

    Disappointing for the Lib Dems?

    You lost your deposit . . . that in itself should speak volumes to you as a party.

    I voted for you people in 2010, expecting you to fight a “liberal” case in parliament . . . instead you shafted the students and have rolled over and let the Tories “tickle your tummy” whenever they require.

    You people ought to get used to losing your deposits, because it’s going to happen a lot come the next General Election.

  • Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera 2nd Apr '12 - 8:24pm

    Tony,

    Could you please state explicitly what you mean by this statement:

    “I am stating that in many Asian areas in places like Bradford, the “organisation” of postal votes takes place at a high level, and this too often amounts to “rigging”.

    If your statement were true, then Labour would have secured the election. The reality is that as in other areas young people generally do not vote, but George Galloway was able to hear the concerns expressed by the young as well as other sections of the community and capitalised on this. There was I am pretty sure nothing underhand, unless you have evidence to prove the contrary?

    As for your comment “The Returning Officer in Bradford (quite rightly) checks 100% of postal votes for correct signatures and dates of birth”.

    Why add “quite rightly”? Surely the returning officer should be diligent everywhere, or is there again an insinuation that Asian communities cannot be trusted?

    Remember this is an open forum which, as we can see from some of the responses, not only Liberal Democrats access, and your statements could well be taken out of context.

    As I have previously stated, I am keen to hear what is the learning that we need to take away and digest as a result of this election. It is vitally important to learn the lessons, and understand how George Galloway and Respect achieved such success in an amazingly short period of time. Clearly our Party needs to build links into communities that it has previously not engaged with, for this to happen we will need to change our approach. What do you think needs to be done?

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    English Party Diversity Champion
    [email protected]

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Apr '12 - 10:03am

    As the Bermondsey by-election has been brought up, once again it needs to be noted (as Jonathan Hunt has already done) that the result has caused history to be written up in away different to what actually happened.

    Jonathan is wrong to write up “activists removed rosettes and disguised as members of the public strolled pass the pollsters” as if that was a key factor. I spent much time working in that by-election campaign, and it was not a last week thing. What was astonishing was the way the press was still writing it up as a “two-horse race” between O’Grady and Tatchell when one only had to spend a little time in the place and see so many orange diamonds up to realise it was not so. Far from it being a late swing based on a dirty trick fixing the opinion poll, this was a steady build up which the press did not catch on to until it had already happened.

    Jonathan is right, however, to say it was the O’Grady camp throwing the homophobic mud. In fact it was disgust at that which led to many of us being prepared to come over and make sure there was a third choice, more so than we might in a normal by-election. Also, the Liberals had been quietly building up in Bermondsey for some time before the by-election was announced, this was not picked up at all by the press who assumed it would be a lost deposit situation, and made jokes along the lines “the Tories and the Liberals have candidates with the same name and will get the same share of the vote” (the Tory candidate also had the surname “Hughes”).

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