17:20 Friday 30th March 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: Gorge Galloway is back in Parliament. The firebrand anti-war campaigner is the new MP for Bradford West, after a shock by-election victory for his Respect Party last night, a very big shock. The win is humiliating for Labour, who just didn’t see it coming. Tariq Sadiq joins me now. He is the Leader of the Labour Group on Cambridgeshire County Council. Tariq, hello to you.
TARIQ SADIQ: Hi.
CHRIS MANN: You didn’t see that one coming.
TARIQ SADIQ: Well yes. I’ve been busy, so I haven’t actually been following the news very much, but lasty night, when I caught up with what was going on, I was actually quite shocked that there was even a possibility that Galloway could win. I heard a few rumours that he was going to do quite well, but it was expected to be a Labour hold in a reasonably safe seat for us.
CHRIS MANN: It was a 10,000 majority, so this wasn’t just by a whisker, this was a totally sensational turnaround. He says it was his anti-war message, and it was the Muslim youth that supported him. Now don’t you have to pay attention to that?
TARIQ SADIQ: Well, you know, democracy can throw up some quirky results, particularly mid-term, as we heard earlier on. In one w ay it’s a positive thing, because people are able to express their views, and vote for a candidate they feel represents them. On the other hand, I think one of the issues is whether or not he’s actually going to be a good MP. Because he is a bit of a one-trick pony really. He’s going to go, he’s going to talk about foreign policy issues, he’s going to talk about the Middle East, which will obviously resonate with a lot of people. But it’s not the only issue. We’ve got major economic problems at home. We’ve got all sorts of social issues. We’ve got the health service. We’ve got education, major reforms going on. And the real test will be how well is he going to represent the people of Bradford West on those issues.
CHRIS MANN: The real test surely is how Labour react to this, And Ed Miliband must be looking really stupid here, and there’s quite rightly questions about his future. How could you get it so wrong, that you don’t see this coming?
TARIQ SADIQ: I don’t think this is indicate of politics in general in this country. We’ve recently seen polls that are putting the Labour Party ten points ahead. Not just one poll, but several.
CHRIS MANN: The one that mattered was the one at the ballot box Tariq, and …
TARIQ SADIQ: Well it’s a by-election ..
CHRIS MANN: .. and you’ve been left hugely embarrassed.
TARIQ SADIQ: It is embarrassing ..
CHRIS MANN: Should the party machine have not been paying attention to that?
TARIQ SADIQ: Well if there’s one criticism that I would make. it’s that this by-election was held rather quickly, and it was compressed into a short space of time.
CHRIS MANN: So now you’re blaming the organisers. Anyone but yourselves. Isn’t it time to say we got it wrong?
TARIQ SADIQ: I am blaming ourselves, because the Labour Party moved the writ on the by-election. So we decided that was going to be the timetable. And my criticism is this, that if we’d allowed longer for campaigning, we could have got across the very excellent qualities of our candidate much more. We would have been able to expose the shortcomings ..
CHRIS MANN: Well he had the same amount of time as you. Bradford has been Labour for as long as anyone can remember. You’ve got a traditional Mulsim vote there that you have completely lost, because of the message that he was giving. What my question was, don’t you have to pay attention to what people think there?
TARIQ SADIQ: Of course you do.
CHRIS MANN: The anti-war message was the one that they were interested in, he said.
TARIQ SADIQ: Sure, but if you remember in 2005, two years after we went to war in Iraq, we won a general election. So this is an unusual result. It’s to do with the fact that we’re in mid-term, it’s to do with the particular character of George Galloway, it’s to do with the fact that we had a very compressed election campaign. There are lots of unusual circumstances here. And if you look at it against the background of other things that are happening, the Labour Party is doing pretty well in the polls at the moment. The Government is in deep trouble on a whole range of issues.
CHRIS MANN: Well they were until this came along. And Mr Miliband looks a little bit embarrassed. Tariq Sadiq, thank you for join us now.