Labour needs to end its decades-long practice of relying on blocks of minority ethnic votes to be delivered by community leaders, Tony Blair’s former race adviser Faz Hakim said on Sunday.
Hakim says the party must recognise the practice is sexist, unhealthy, undemocratic and ineffective in modern politics.
The remarks come as the Labour party’s national executive digests a report admitting it lost the Bradford West byelection to George Galloway of Respect partly because it believed that a small group of British-Pakistani community leaders could deliver the election for Labour. Ed Miliband ordered a no-holds barred inquiry into the Bradford defeat and visited the city to discuss why Labour was rejected.
The report calls for campaigning in which the party connects directly with increasingly young and ideological minority ethnic voters, particularly women.
The NEC report remains confidential, but Labour sources said the party acknowledged it had turned a blind eye to the internal democracy of some communities so long as people voted Labour.
Hakim warned the party about the practice in an internal report in 1996, which found the Bradford party suffered from a reliance on small groups of community leaders. who They believed they could deliver a Labour victory for the community through their relationships with party councillors. Hakim had been asked to look at how the local Pakistani membership had been riven by the selection of the Labour parliamentary candidate. Labour settled the issue by appointing a Sikh candidate.
Hakim said: “What we found was usually male leaders of families were basically deciding how whole families should be voting, and councillors would then trade those votes in return for favours. There was a highly sexist element to it, which would not have been allowed anywhere else. It was completely undemocratic.
“Usually the councillors were the ringleaders, they had groups of people that were their supporters and it was often about planning applications. Often these ringleaders said they supported Labour, but then there was this massive switching all over the place. We were pretty horrified then. We realised then that the young generation were not going to accept this for much longer and were going to get increasingly annoyed about it.
“They kept saying ‘we are not being represented by these people and nobody speaks to us’. To me the same thing happened in Bradford this time. Those young voters we spoke to have grown up and said they are not going to go along with it any more.”
Hakim, who advised Blair until 2000, said her inquiry was “very worrying for the party in the centre. They knew it was happening because we made it absolutely clear, but I think partly because they were benefiting from it, they just let it go.
“It was not really Tony Blair’s personal fault. He talked about wanting a Labour party that is rooted in local communities and that reflected their concerns. But the party machinery at the time, unlike now, was not interested in this vision and preferred to look at voters as blocks and getting the Labour vote out, as well as controlling any debate that ‘could get out of hand’.”
Hakim said politics has changed and the byelection shows those block votes no longer exist. “I think Ed Miliband has a different style of leadership. I think he knows it is going to need harder work. Labour will have to stamp out something from which they have benefited from for so long.
“It means when the ringleaders come along Labour is going to have to say: ‘no, sorry we don’t do politics like that any more’. It’s quite tough. Instead of talking to a few leaders, Labour is going to have talk to individual voters and gain their vote on different issues, rather than ‘what we will gain you’. It is a less transactional relationship, and instead a more ideological one.”
“The first generation of immigrants probably just voted Labour on immigration issues, the second generation exploited the political system quite effectively, probably not in the most healthy way. But the third and fourth generation are much more individual and don’t think solely in terms of their identity.
“I think a lot of people who voted for George Galloway thought he was standing up for Muslims, so identity is more important. But it is about identity, as opposed to getting something back from the MP.”
She added: “I don’t think this is a problem is exclusive to with one ethnic minority or even to ethnic minorities in general. They learned from the Labour and Conservative parties. They learned from how trade unions or other interests groups organised for instance in the Labour party. It is quite tempting to say this is just a Pakistani or ethnic minority problem, and I really don’t think it is.”
Recently on twitter I asked for clarification on why should any political parties engage with BAME community leaders when most I have come across are only believe in tribalism. Not one person would have a proper debate on it.
What I’m against is when any political parties bend over backwards to open up to all community leaders they(so called community leaders) stab political parties in the back by switching political parties when it suits them. The so called BAME community leaders attitude has been what’s in it for me and my organisation I have to say they would rather line their own people into a political parties for mass recruitment for selections so they push for their own agendas like selecting for one of their own clan people to stand in local, parliamentary and European elections.
Take the example of when we had a Labour Govt in power many community leaders switched over to the Fibdems and Respect parties over the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. As soon as the Respect Party chairperson announced that she was stepping down guess what all of a sudden they(community leaders and their followers) defected back to Labour.
As soon as the Fibdems broke their promise over tuition fees some of the so called community leaders and their followers defected back to Labour.
Oh I also fail to mention even some African Caribbean community leaders and their followers has done the same as well. It has been noticeable when community leaders and their followers do not get selected they decide to switch political parties just to get a seats at any levels of elections.
Selections should be based on merit and the best person suitable for the position and not who you know or how to pack a selection to get a certain clan or cast that is not suitable in the interest of a political party which leads to tokenism which all political parties can do with out. In a nut shell this what I call third world politics and needs urgently challenged in all political parties from top down.
I would welcome any political parties to challenge this issue first before addressing the wider communities. So I say let’s start to get all our house in order.
In theory this leads me to the next subject most political parties needs to address the rise of the British National Party(BNP) membership for some white working class who used to vote Labour turning the backs towards Labour which is very worrying trend.
BNP have managed to hoodwink some white working class for their own gains and it does not help when the newspapers spread right wing views which only feeds to serve the Far Right organisations with their recruitment to field candidates for or on behalf of the BNP.
Before the last general elections 2010 Labour started to address the issue of the raise of the BNP membership and white working class and went as far as providing some leaflets of the danger of voting for the BNP in the wider communities yet the guardian newspaper fail to mention.
I would like to address the Bradford West By-elections which is traditionally Labour went to a former Labour MP who was expelled from the party who later went to Respect.
Bradford West and the rest of the country woke up to read that George Galloway Respect MP won the Byelections then later on field five candidates in the Local Elections in Bradford they took seats from sitting Labour candidates that says a lot but remember this that Respect party is a one issue party their agenda is to stop the war.
The reality is some former labour party members defected to Respect as the alternative to Labour and yet a consistency like Bradford West turn it’s back on Labour one has to ask the question why the answer in my view is tribalism like certain community leaders and their followers where not happy with Labour for whatever reason.
Some will say its Labour policies others will say they still harbour ill feelings to wards Labour over the war against Iraq and Afghanistan lets not forget in the Byelections that certain community leaders and their followers were members of the Fibdems and Conservatives they decided to switched to Respect Party. As far as I’m concern they made their bed they can lay in it.
Most political parties takes votes for granted and it takes courage for members to speak out but it should be within the political party process to which they belong to. There is a Chinese saying talk is cheap action speaks louder.
In Birmingham less than 30 African Caribbean people decided to demonstrate outside the Council House accusing Labour of not taken the African Caribbean votes seriously as there are no African Caribbean Councillors in the cabinet. The question that I would ask the organisers of the demonstration is how many of African Caribbean Councillors put their names forward for the positions in the cabinet and how many of them lobbied for votes. Er I’m sure that I don’t have to remind them yet the Guardian fail to mention that in their news coverage.
Instead all the media should be concentrating on Labour’s popularity is continuing to rise in the midst of plunging Lib Dem membership and stagnating Tory support.
Public support for Labour has “increased markedly” since April, according to online public opinion poll Angus Reid on Monday.
Forty-five per cent of decided voters across Britain said they would vote Labour in their constituency in the next general election – up four points since April.
The Tories saw no change in their support as they languished in second place on 29 per cent.
And the Lib Dems continued to take a drubbing with only 9 per cent of people admitting to supporting the party in their local area – down two points from April.
The poll follows Independent on Sunday revelations that the party haemorrhaged one in five members last year, with the greatest losses in constituencies represented by government ministers.
Hapless Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency saw an 18 per cent decline in party membership.
London’s Hornsey and Wood Green, represented by Lynne Featherstone, saw a 21 per cent drop.
But the largest loss in membership came in Brent, represented by Children’s Minister Sarah Teather, where a massive 42 per cent of party members quit.
And it was clear that the tuition fees rise had hit the party hard as more than half of the 6,000 members of the party’s student wing quit.
The figures came as no surprise to economist Roger Seifert who said the Lib Dems had “burnt their boats” ever since they formed a coalition with the Tories and helped them to push through brutal health, education and welfare reforms.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said: “The Lib-Dems chose opportunism over principle in 2010.
“Since then, they have presided over £40bn cuts in the welfare state, the whole sale job losses in the public sector and youth unemployment running at over 25 per cent.
“There are lessons here for both Labour and the Lib-Dems that austerity is not the way forward. We need to reject the whole austerity economics and pursue a policy of wealth redistribution and investment instead.”