Toby Perkins: 'Our campaign was lacklustre... Galloway's was a masterpiece'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

As George Galloway held his victory parade with hundreds of supporters after his by win in Bradford West, it seemed a far cry from the lonely announcement, on the town hall steps three weeks ago, of his intention to stand.

In those three weeks, Galloway was able to change the terms of the election, reach many who were previously disengaged, create a false but believed perception of Labour's candidate, and build a remarkable momentum.

The inquiry into lessons we must learn will need to reflect on a number of things. Firstly, in seats where there has been a long history of Labour representation, a powerful fourth voice that gets momentum can pose a huge threat.

Secondly, safety first can be a dangerous game. Galloway's campaign was outrageous and exciting; ours looked comparatively cautious and lacklustre. We were listening to voters; he was telling them what they ought to think.

His strategy was to paint Labour's Imran Hussain as a dull councillor. By contrast, he claimed to be a famous "statesman" who would bring colour to this grey city. His campaign was a masterpiece of show and visibility. Imran had 300 Twitter followers; Galloway's Facebook page had 82,751.

Labour's focus on the failure of the Government was well received. But the Government's ineptitude only strengthened people's view that it was time to vote against politics. Many of those who voted for Galloway will still be hoping for a Labour government. But the sense that there has to be more to politics than this was palpable and will serve as a reminder that Tory failure does not Labour success make.

The author, Labour MP for Chesterfield and shadow Business minister, helped to run the campaign team in the Bradford West by-election

Comments