What dangers await Labour in Manchester Gorton?

The seat should be super-safe, but some have doubts


Amid the horrific events of the past few days in Westminster, it’s hard to remember the parliamentary by-election underway in Manchester Gorton, following the death of Gerald Kaufman.

Following the selection of North West MEP, Afzal Khan as Labour’s candidate and George Galloway’s decision to stand, the race looks set to hot up.

On paper, this should be an uber-safe seat for Labour, considering that Kaufman secured a 24,000 vote majority in 2015.

But as we know, majorities don’t really count for much these days. Scottish Labour’s performance in the General Election is proof that what can seem like the most solid majority can melt away.

Likewise, just last year, the Liberal Democrats victory in Richmond Park saw them overturn an over 23,000 majority secured by the Conservatives in 2015.

But it’s not just history that warns Labour against complacency.

Since 29 per cent of the constituency’s population is of Asian, mostly Pakistani, background, Labour should think hard about how to handle George Galloway, who famously in 2012 took Bradford West in a by-election by targeting the Muslim community alienated with action in Afghanistan and Iraq. Galloway has already said that he will to run to further his efforts to see Tony Blair tried for ‘crimes against humanity and lying to the British Parliament and people’.

Then there are the Lib Dems, who have found their mojo by establishing themselves firmly as the pro-EU party. It worked in Richmond Park, where some 70 per cent of those who voted opted to remain in the EU in last year’s referendum.

In the City of Manchester, just over 60 per cent of voters opted to remain in the EU. While Labour’s selection of an MEP as its candidate should help in this regard, the question is whether it would be enough to overcome Jeremy Corbyn’s clear reluctance to espouse a pro-European message.

It should be remembered also that the until 2015, the Lib Dems held the nearby seat of Manchester Withington, and the party is clearly in buoyant mood. Tim Farron has declared  that George Galloway’s decision to run boosts his party’s prospects in the election as a result of a potential split in the Labour vote.

Labour’s candidate also has the daunting prospect of having to bring the party machine wholeheartedly behind him, having been a spanner in the works of the Corbynite plans to see Momentum activists selected for such seats. As Paul Waugh recently wrote in a report on Labour’s candidate selection battle:

“HuffPost UK has…been told that the Leader’s office and its allies have made a series of missteps over the affair, ranging from under-estimating the black and minority ethnic nature of the Manchester constituency to inexperience in knowing party mechanics.”

So is a surprise on the cards? Perhaps Stephen Bush at the New Statesman has summed it up best by concluding that while ‘highlight unlikely’, a Labour party selection battle that ‘irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting’ raises the prospect of a Lib Dem surprise. ‘But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched.’

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward

See: George Galloway’s colonial politics deserve a crushing defeat in Manchester Gorton

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7 Responses to “What dangers await Labour in Manchester Gorton?”

  1. David Lindsay

    Not least by means of the hashtag #GG4Gorton, through which the posters that are already up may be viewed, George Galloway’s by-election campaign is in full swing at Manchester Gorton, using the same means that succeeded at Bradford West, and using much the same pitch, too.

    The Labour shortlist has again been designed to placate the various factions of the Pakistani braderi system, which is in fact the carrying over of ancestral caste into Indo-Islam. Caste itself also persists even among Sikhs, founded though they were in a rejection of it, and among people whose families have been Christian for many generations, even centuries.

    Braderi, however, just does not interest second or third generation Mancunians whose first language is English and who easily pass any cricket test (but who are far more interested in football), as it just did not interest second or third generation Bradfordians whose first language was English and who easily passed any cricket test (but who were far more interested in football).

    Moreover, the concentration on it alienates everyone else. In 2012, Galloway topped the poll in every ward of Bradford West, including those which were more than 90 per cent white. The seat itself had been a Conservative target only two years before.

    The election of Galloway at Manchester Gorton is as important as the re-election of Len McCluskey as General Secretary of Unite, and it is as important as the removal of Labour from Durham County Council, a removal on which depend many thousands of new jobs that would simply never occur to the know-nothing, do-nothing, right-wing-if-anything Labour Establishment here.

    As much as anything else, Galloway’s return to Parliament would restore the situation that obtained between 2012 and 2015, when members of the House of Commons from outside the Labour Party and to the left of most of its MPs were taking their seats on behalf of all five of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the South of England, and the North of England.

  2. Mia Clark

    My ward Gorton North is nearly 67% white working-class. The local CLP has been torn apart by vote-rigging and intimidation under Luthfur Rahman who was also arrested with 4 other men for kicking a man unconscious in the mosque. I voted for Gerald Kaufman. I’m voting Lib Dem this time.

  3. Jeremy Hoad

    Galloway’s campaign launch was a low key affair in the Klondyke Club, Levenshulme. About 50 people attended, predominantly Asian with a few curious locals standing at the bar. Galloway chose to not advertise his campaign launch locally despite opening his campaign HQ about 150 yards away. In fact it wasn’t very local at all with Galloway managing to speak for over an hour without mentioning where he was, barely referencing Manchester at all apart from praise for Sir Gerald Kaufman. There was more mention of Afghanistan and Kashmir, Iraq and Bangladesh than Longsight or Levenshulme. Levenshulme was recently described as a bastion of “liberal intelligentsia” by a political blogger this week and is increasingly seen as a young, trendy area undergoing gentrification so maybe Galloway is seeking to win over a new demographic for him.

  4. paul

    george galloway is a moderate,had pledged to represent the forgotten working classes,not part of the political establishment,give him a chance.

  5. John Reilly

    Just imagine a constituency that was 71% ethnic minorities and all five on the shortlist were white…….and to think that Labour considers itself a “progressive” party!

  6. MancyGit

    Is it true about the election for labour cnadidate? Was the only hustings segregated with women forced to sit at the back? Did the men candidates speak first and the women not allowed to pitch until the meeting had broken for refreshments? We need to be told!

  7. Sandy

    I’m a lifelong Labour voter from Gorton North, but Labour needs to be sent a message this time. I’m voting Lib Dem.

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