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If Labour Ignore the Lesson of Bradford West It May Cost Them at the Croydon North By-election

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There's a by-election taking place at the end of this month, in the parliamentary constituency of Croydon North.

The election, which is being held following the death of Labour MP Malcolm Wicks, has the potential to be a more closely fought battle than Labour might realise.

Interestingly, last weekend, Labour's shadow business secretary, MP for Streatham, Chuka Umunna, described the election as a "two horse race" between Labour and the Conservative party, despite the news of Lee Jasper's candidacy for the Respect Party.

This is familiar terrain. We've been here before. Six months ago, in the by-election which took place in Bradford West, a 'safe' Labour seat of 40 plus years, the Respect Party swept to a sensational victory, smashing Labour's majority, while establishing a sizeable one of their own. Upon the result, an inevitable media stampede ensued, committed as always to distorting the facts in order to fit a preconceived narrative.

Lazy pseudo-journalism, particularly from a prominent state run outfit, quickly characterised the result as anything other than what it was; A direct message to the Labour Party, telling them that for too long they had taken the voters of Bradford West for granted.

'Respect targeted Muslims'. 'The result is a one off'. These were the popular themes peddled by the darlings of the left, refusing to acknowledge any significance in the result, which was decided upon - and this is the key bit here - by the people of Bradford West in a fair election. Democracy in action. End of story. Incidentally, Galloway won a sizeable majority in what some might call 'white' areas.

Such a knee-jerk response is similar to the manner in which silly so-called Liberals label Hugo Chavez a tyrant, swallowing the line fed to them, rattling off equally stupid platitudes that perpetuate a rapacious cycle of lies - you can spot them a mile off, they're the same ones who believe that we are bombing and butchering people abroad, committing acts of terrorism, in a quest to free the world from terrorism. Genius.

The mainstream media however, have less of a stake in the understanding of the implications of Bradford West than politicians do; Labour therefore, should ignore the lessons of Bradford West at their peril.

The truth, however uncomfortable it might be for some, is that George Galloway won more than half the popular vote in Bradford West, not because he 'targeted' British voters who happened to be Muslim, (presumably all voters are targeted by political parties regardless of their personal beliefs) and certainly not just because of the anti war message - though its true most people in this country are indeed against war.

The Respect Party won because at present, the Labour party is so unrecognisable from the values it was founded on, that in many peoples eyes it is indistinguishable from the Conservatives, a million miles and a distant memory from its roots as a party reflecting values of working people. Instigating, supporting, and continuing illegal wars in other countries, supporting austerity measures that are disproportionately affecting poorer communities, cutting investment in services for our young people are some of the reasons that people are turning away in droves from the Labour party. They no longer trust the party they once did.

These kinds of issues, are not, black or white issues, Muslim, atheist, or Christian issues, they are key issues that matter to all British people, however much the media and party politicians might try to define such political upsets like Bradford West, along racial lines.

It does a disservice to the people of Bradford who spoke very clearly, and smacks of an arrogance that is itself, a reflection of just how far removed most politicians are from the things that matter to most people. We know this is the case, because otherwise Labour would have held on to Bradford West.

Many people feel that Respect is speaking to voters of all backgrounds, who want to drag Labour back to where they should be, and that there is a demand for their type of politics.

Many traditional and lifelong Labour supporters feel this way too. Lee Jasper, former adviser to Ken Livingstone, an equality campaigner of many years, was endorsed last Monday in his candidacy by the much revered and respected civil rights activist, and two time US presidential candidate Reverend Jesse Jackson.

The Labour candidate and council leader is Steve Reed a figure many associate with the Blair era, an era which saw the Labour Party dramatically lurch to right following the death of John Smith - marking the beginning of New neo-liberal Labour.

Given the possible implications of this election, it will be very interesting to see how all the candidates are received at the ballot box. One things for sure. The Labour party shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the Respect Party, especially with the humiliation in Bradford West still stinging.

It's true that it's a tall order to expect Respect to turn over strong a Labour majority. But a good result could have the potential to bode well for the general election. In short, there is everything to play for.

Bradford West was meant to be a 'one horse race'. The result however, highlighted a serious disconnect from people whose vote had been taken for granted. The same people who say they want Labour to sever its association with the Blair era should remember that Ed Miliband re-appointed Tony Blair to a new advisory role just a few months ago. What does he think people will make of that move? The question should be, who really speaks for the wider labour movement at present?

Many people were surprised at Labour's selection for this race, decided by a margin of three votes, and It's likely that some of the support Labour will require in Croydon North won't be able to be relied upon unless they show they have learned the lessons of Bradford West.

If they don't and the Respect Party run a good campaign, there might be electoral upsets ready to happen, including at the Croydon North by-election at the end of this month.