Report raps Labour over Bradford West by-election selection process (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Report raps Labour over Bradford West by-election selection process
George Galloway’s shock election for the Respect Party at the Bradford West by-election in March last year, in which he overturned a large Labour Party majority, is an opportunity for mainstream politics rather than a disaster, according to a report published today.
The Bradford Earthquake, a 64-page document by Lewis Baston of the independent research group Democratic Audit, was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.
The object was to explain the implications of the extraordinary by-election result, following the resignation and then death of Bradford West’s sitting Labour MP Marsha Singh.
One of the key findings of the report says in recent years local politics in Bradford, especially Bradford West, has been marred by patronage, neglect and even electoral fraud and has been more about “mutual accommodation between elites of each community” which voters have found alienating.
It talks about the influence of ‘Biraderi’, clan-based loyalty among Bradford Pakistanis, which has in the past “offered parties an apparently easy mechanism to amass block votes” and goes on to say that Labour in Bradford needs to learn the lesson of the by-election and change itself radically.
“There is a danger of a political vacuum developing in the city which may be filled by fringe politics, despair or violence.”
Bradford Council leader Councillor David Green said: “Without seeing the full report, I am clear that there is an issue of direction that we need to go in – community cohesion – so I don’t accept there is a political vacuum.
“I am not saying we have got things right; but it has been recognised for a number of years that there is an issue of integration of different communities within the district, not just based on religion and colour – we have got the recent migration from Eastern Europe.”
Former Lord Mayor and deputy leader of the Labour group Mohammed Ajeeb – named in the report as a past victim of clan politics in inner city Bradford – said: “The decay of organised politics in Bradford I think is true. The Labour Party has got to take serious notice and do something before it’s too late.
“For the past 20 years clan politics have developed and some white politicians have exploited it by securing their own position through manipulation. That tactic has failed the radicalism in local politics.”
Former Labour Group leader Ian Greenwood, who lost his Great Horton seat to the Respect Party in May last year, some think as a direct consequence of Labour’s Bradford West disaster, said that some points in the report’s findings seemed right, others did not.
He rejected the report’s contention that the selection of Councillor Imran Hussain at the Midland Hotel in March to defend the Bradford West seat “merely reflected a good clan turnout and superior manipulative organisational skills rather than a genuine consensus.”
He said: “I was at that selection meeting and the vote for Imran was 200-odd and the next one got about 22. A significant percentage of people were white. The idea that it was done on the basis of clan politics is not right.”
Coun Hussain said that he had not seen the report. “I will reserve full judgement until I have seen it,” he added. “I have not spoken to anyone about it and no-one has bothered talking to me or more senior party officials.
“In terms of the selection process, it is very rigorous and many people applied to the national selection committee. If you look at the shortlist they were of a very high calibre. I got more than 230 votes at the selection meeting with 300 members.”
Sadiq Khan MP, who headed up the Labour National Executive Committee panel which carried out an investigation after the by-election, said: “We are determined to win the seat back at the next General Election. That is why Ed Miliband visited Bradford several times and set up a panel to launch an immediate investigation into how we can learn lessons from the result. We produced a report with recommendations which are being implemented.”