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Why the Left Just Don’t Get It

This is a guest post by Phil

George Galloway’s win this morning in Bradford West and the huge Labour defeat accompanying it can be put down to some, and I stress some, mitigating factors. True, the constituency contains a large Muslim community. True, the three major parties were unable to enthuse voters and true, Galloway got out his own core voters in huge numbers.

But this bye-election defeat for Labour above all shows that Labour just doesn’t get it.

When I woke up this morning to be greeted with the news, I read the Guardian report going on and on about the specifics of the Bradford – and by extension, Bow and Poplar vote, as an “immigrant” one.

It is not an “immigrant” vote. The masses of 20 and 30 somethings Galloway brought to the polling stations yesterday are not immigrants. They are second and third generation British Muslims. And it’s because they are not immigrants that simplistic tribal politics employed successfully by Labour in the past do not work. These people voted as Muslims not as immigrants because their principal religious and political identity is Islam.

Galloway recognised that and Ken Livingstone is recognising it in London.

Treating British Muslims as an immigrant community is principally the failure of the centre-Left. It reinforces stereotypes and builds more layers on already existing ghetto walls. There is room for multiculturalism in the politics of the Left but never at the expense of integration.

The biggest failure of last night’s result will be for the Labour Party to see it purely in electoral terms, to be dealt with by pandering to communatarist politics in constituencies with large Muslim populations.

The failure though is of Left ideology in the Labour Party, not as Galloway portrays it in relationship to “imperialist wars”, but in relation to regarding all people in the UK as members of a collective society not a rainbow patchwork of interest groups.

And there is a practical lesson too for Labour voters. Communatarist politics will entrench Islamism in the Muslim community and destroy the Labour Pârty as an electoral force. It needs to be absolutely strangled now. It is not Labour ideology.

And frankly, even if it means higher Tube fares in London, no self-respecting Labour supporter should even consider voting for it – particularly after Bradford West.