The Galloway EffectOctober 16 2015
Today sees the people of Bradford West wake up with the news that they have a new MP, George Galloway. There was some concern yesterday day time amongst local Labour activists that Galloway might come within 1000 votes of their candidate, Imran Hussain. But, nothing prepared us for the final result. A 10,100 majority, and a 36% swing from Labour.
So, what went wrong? Firstly, speaking to people where I work (many of whom live in the constituency), they think that the clear factor is Galloway’s “celebrity” status, if you can call pretending to be a cat “celebrity”. Secondly, there’s the clear fact that Galloway choose to stand in an area with a large ethnic population. The feeling amongst people is that Galloway clearly waited for the opportunity to stand in an area of this make up. There have been five by-elections since the 2010 General Election. If Galloway was so determined to get back into Parliament, why didn’t he stand in Barnsley Central?
But then there’s another aspect. Whilst Labour were out on the streets knocking on doors and leafleting (myself included), the party clearly weren’t getting their message across. After knocking on doors I felt quite confident. The majority of people I spoke to claimed that they would vote for Labour. The complacency that this generated was quite clear. Based on national opinion polls, there was a definite expectation early on that the majority from 2010 (5763) would increase. The clear message being delivered by Labour on the streets was that the Coalition isn’t working and that Labour are the clear alternative. The threat of Galloway wasn’t particularly acknowledged.
Galloway played a very good game. He was able to target his campaign and highlight how he is a true alternative. A protest vote if you like. What Labour need to do now is to dust themselves down, reflect, and to work on the feedback they receive. Using the “this Coalition isn’t working” message is all well and good, but the party really need to understand all of the threats to their electoral chances. The national polls are all well and good, but the party seem to miss the local issues and voices.
The only thing that I have heard a few people say this morning that is good for Labour is that the Tory vote went down by a larger percentage. Tory vote was down 22.78%, Labour’s was down 20.36%. Hardly something to shout about is it?