30/03/2012 Newsnight


How did George Galloway snatch a safe Labour seat? The latest on the petrol queues. Plus, who is up and who is down at the end of all that? With Emily Maitlis.

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Ahead in the polls, kicking the Government after its terrible week,


floating along until Friday, then balm, you get trounced in a by-


election in one of your safest seats. Ed Milliband was reminded


last night, you underestimate George Galloway at your peril. The


victory was hailed, by the victor, as the Bradford spring. It was


certainly the Bradford swing, the biggest against Labour in 30 years.


Six years ago you were lapping milk from the palms of Reulla Lenska?


can't have done me any harm. Does a dead cat bounce?! A woman


sets herself on fire after decanting petrol in her kitchen.


The greater the extent to which people have petrol, have fuel in


their vehicles, with maybe a bit in the garage as well, in a jerry can,


the longer we will keep things going. The Tory chairman dismisses


calls for Francis Maude to resign. We convene our political panel to


pass judgment on an extraordinary Good evening, the political


establishment is reeling tonight, after a week that has shaken both


the Conservative Party, and now, after last night's extraordinary


by-election result, Ed Milliband's Labour Party. Having spent the week


of accusing the Government of being out-of-touch, could the same charge


be levelled at the Labour leadership. Bradford west, Labour


for 40 years, was won in the early hours of the morning, by the


maverick politician, and who could forget, me owing Big Brother


contestant, George Galloway. 12 hours after his most spectacular


triumph, Gorgeous George was having a sly smoke of a celebratory cigar.


By the heftiest odds he had taken Bradford, now he was ready for the


open-topped bus. A uprising and total rejection of the mainstream


parties, particularly Labour, they were George Galloway's word, and on


the evidence of last night it is fairly hard to disagree. How did he


achieve it? At party headquarters, where he stayed until 4.00am, he


was back, enjoying embraces and bouquets, did he really think he


would win. Yes, surprisingly, he did. When I arrived I was 200-12,


by the end the bookies had -- 200-1, the bookies suspended betting in


the end. I felt we had the zeitgeist and the mood on the


streets, which is one of alienation from the political system and class,


from double-dealing, double-talking politicians. And a consensus on


issues of war and neo-liberal economics. Iraq and Afghanistan,


your anti-war stance, that is the bedrock of your support isn't it?


It was a significant factor, but not the most important factor.


There were different factors in different areas. For example, I won,


I know it is hard to believe, 85% of the votes in the university ward,


and the issues there were about tuition fees. In places like


Minningham and Tolor the issues were mass unemployment and poverty.


In both sets of wards, the war is unpopular, not least because we


can't afford the blood and the treasure that we are currently


expending there. It is said you relied very heavily on the Muslim


vote. You yourself have said in the past that you have the Muslim vote,


you like to think you have the Muslim vote? I reject this concept


of "the" Muslim vote, Muslims are individuals like everybody else,


you wouldn't say there is a Christian vote, because they vote


in all sorts of ways. The Labour candidate, I remind you, was a


Pakistani Muslim. I don't think that is a valid question, every


voter is an individual, and every voter has to be appealed to.


you claiming you are a better Muslim than the Labour candidate?


That was a response to his campaign that people should vote for him


because he was a Pakistani Muslim. If you read the letter, you will


see that. The Labour MP for Bradford South,


Gerry Sutcliffe, took me through the city's newly revamped centinary


Square, and he did -- Centinary Square, and he did what all Labour


politicians have to do today, eat humble pie? It is a tough result,


we didn't expect t and in the end the votes went to George Galloway.


When did you realise you were losing it? It was in the last week,


when we realised things weren't going as well as we hoped. One of


the lessons we learned, was social media campaigns and social text


messages affected the campaign. Text messages and new media, for me


they are excuses from the older generation when things are


perceived to have gone wrong. But in Bradford, the young leader of


Labour's student, says George Galloway did indeed convince the


youth. Young people have really been galvanised by this election,


they have come out in their droves, and taken part in the democratic


process. For me the young people have won the election. It is


believed in the campaign there was rebellion against the old clam


politics which had been used in the past to get the Muslim vote, the


called Brad-ree. I have heard of that name, I think it has no place


in politics. I'm glad that whatever the clam system, it has no part to


play in politics. People it does play a part? I don't think think so,


using family ties, people should focus on the candidate. George


Galloway is a maverick, there was a great day on Capitol Hill, when he


outfoxed the Senate over Iraq. Senator, in everything I said about


Iraq I turned out to be right, and you turned out to be wrong, and


100,000 people have paid with their lives. 1600 of them American


soldiers, sent to their deaths, on a pack of lies.


Pussy cat, yes. Against that there was his display in a leotard on


celebrity Big Brother, lapping milk from the palms of Rula Lenska.


Today, in triumph, he was unrepentant. Six years ago you were


lapping milk from her hands? Amazing, and the people voted for


What is it about Ed Milliband's Labour Party? That is a very


interesting dichotomy, by the time it goes out, it might be David


Miliband's Labour Party. The Labour leadership is in trouble now, they


have decisively failed to break from the path that Tony Blair laid


out for them F a back side could have three cheeks, they are the


three cheeks of the same back backside. The Tories, Labour and


the liberals are seen as the same as each other. People in Bradford


feel neglected by politicians. They will show you the hole in the


ground created years ago for the new shopping centre, they are


stilling for it to appear. When politicians are in power, people


have expectations of politicians and they expect things to happen.


Bradford has had a hard time over the last decade? It has had a hard


time in the sense of its image, perceptions people have of the city,


the high levels of unemployment, particularly in this constituency


where we have had the by-election. Hard times for Bradford, now good


times for the man who keeps bouncing back, the indefatigable Mr


Galloway. Why didn't the Labour Party, and let's be honest, the


rest of us, see this one coming? There is a disconnect, there is a


wide disconnect, and we are seeing why people are excited about


mayors: a YouGov poll showed people would rather unelected technocrats


running the country. There is the broader problem. There is spesif


sicks about Labour, they were acknowledge anything their inquest


today they have a big problem with places with heavy ethnic votes.


They have relied on an old fashioned idea about how you get


out that vote. How did we miss it, it was supposed to be somewhere you


Way weigh the vote for a Labour MP. You didn't have the tell tale signs


like people like Harriet and Ed Milliband running up there to hit


the doors, which you normally have if they think they will lose it.


Who would have said a few days ago you have a by-election decided, we


have to front it up, a war that was nearly ten years ago with Iraq.


There were other issues too, but for that to be one of the strands,


and then you have the guy who is the leader of the Labour Party, Ed


Milliband, is the one who talked about it most during his leadership


campaign. He would be the one most able to talk about it. Does Ed


Milliband have a real problem on his hands? He could make an


argument this is not applicable more broadly. Some of his critics


said this evening he has had bad luck, he had a ten-day run and it


has ended cruelly. I don't buy it, I don't think we will get many new


policies from him any time soon, as long as he doesn't do new policies,


you will have George Galloway, admittedly, a unique individual,


who will be able to storm a March, and Labour, not yet, has anything


to answer with. What are the lessons for the Labour


Party from their Bradford West drubbing, the party's deputy leader


is with me now. After a long night, thank you for coming in. Did you


have any idea it was hurling towards you? I did go up to


Bradford a week ago last Thursday, and Ed Milliband went up too. When


I was up there people were saying they were going to vote Labour, the


same people that said they were going to vote Labour before the


general election and did vote Labour. And the question is,


whether or not actually we were out-of-touch, and those people


weren't going to vote Labour, or whether or not there was a last-


minute momentum ahead of steam, a bandwagon built up. Either way, the


reality is, that if our connections with those people had been strong


enough, deep enough and robust enough, that bandwagon wouldn't


have built up, that is why we have to really learn the lessons


about...You Are in a position, you should have a Miliband -wagon, that


is what this is about for you now? There are particular issues in this


constituency. We will have to look into it, if it is a more general


issue, which I suspect it isn't, obviously we will have to learn


those lessons. I think our starting point is to talk to, not only the


Labour Party people in Bradford, but also people who aren't in the


Labour Party in Bradford, and particularly those who switch their


votes. But if you remember, the last four by-elections, we have won


with Ed Milliband's leadership. is extraordinary language, Harriet


Harman, 18 months ago, when Ed Milliband was elected, he talked


about the need to reconnect with the party, and learn the painful


truths, that started nearly two years ago, why hasn't it worked?


have had the process of refounding Labour. Which is looking at our


organisation from top to bottom, it is based on the notion that we have


to deepen our engagment, as well as reviewing our policies. And we are


doing that. But that doesn't happen overnight. But, we made progress


last May in the council elections, taking 450 seats off the Liberal


Democrats, and 350 off the Tories, and we won four by-elections. So


actually, the question is whether or not this is a particular thing


that has happened in Bradford, which is very serious, and we need


it address, or whether it is a general thing. I would say to you,


George Galloway wants to generalise it. The Tories want to generalise


it, anybody who wants to predict our problems will generalise it. My


own view is it is actually...It not just politicians, it the people


of Bradford you heard -- it was the people of Bradford you heard there,


locking at the shopping centre never built. It must have shown you,


when you are in opposition and you have a Government doing


phenomenally unpopular thing, you have to do more than bash the


Tories, you have to come up with policies and come off the fence?


has shown us that the people in Bradford voted 2-1 for Respect,


compared to Labour, that is not what happened in Oldam or Barnsley,


or Feltham or Leicester. The question is, how we understand this.


I think we do have to learn lessons, but I don't think that we should


generalise it if that is not actually the situation. We do have


to deepen our engagment across the piste, and we do have to review our


policies, we are doing that. years, when Ed Milliband was


elected Labour leader, did you ever think that you would be sitting


here, on a Friday night, two years after Gordon Brown had left,


Labour's most unpopular leader since records began, explaining why


Labour had lost a safe seat. Parliament tearly, you are worse


off -- patrol men tearly you are worse off than under him. There is


no disguising it, it is very disappointing, that is why we have


to learn our lessons from it, we have to rebuild in Bradford. And


win again at the next general election. It might well be it was a


laid bandwagon, but we should have had deep connections so that


wouldn't have happened. How long has he to prove he is a winner and


somebody with the charisma and force to take you into the next


election and win it? At the last council elections in May, we had a


bigger share of the popular vote than all the other parties.


start by saying the fightback begins in Scotland, that was a


disaster? If you look across England, we had more of a share of


the popular vote than the Tories. We won seats off them. I'm not


saying we are all the way there yet, or we have the engagment we need at


local level, or all our policies are where they need to be, we need


to make further progress. To generalise out from Bradford, a


very bad result, to take it to the general picture, it is wrong. We


have work to do, but we will set on doing it.


There is no threat of a petrol strike over Easter, that much


became clear today. This week Britain learned how to act as if it


was in the middle of the crisis even though it wasn't. Panic hit


the country, fuel tanks ran dry, and the Fire Brigades' Union urged


the Government to make the public aware of the dangers of storing


fuel, after a woman accidentally set herself on light. The minister


had urged people to store fuel for a strike.


Today unions made clear no tanker strike was imminent, making this


seem as nothing. Yet as the Easter gt gettaway grb gettaway -- get


away begins it has turned into a political disaster. People may have


fuel in their vehicles and a little bit in the garage in a jerry can,


the longer we will keep things going. Yesterday a woman in York


suffered 40% burns after attempting to decant petrol in her qichen. We


don't know if there is -- kitchen, we don't know if there is a link,


but calls for Francis Maude to resign followed quickly.


Are people supposed to have jerry cans in garages they may or may not


have. You can't store that amount of petrol. It was a mistake by the


cabinet minister, he didn't understand the size of a jerry can.


Nobody quite seems to know to whom he apologised or when, it all adds


fuel to the narrative of a failed communications strategy.


The Conservative Party has had arguably its worst week since David


Cameron entered Downing Street, earlier I spoke to their chairman.


Labour's disappointment in Bradford has disguised what was also a


terrible night for you there. This is the kind of place you need to


win seats? It wasn't a good result for us, it was a disastrous night


for Labour. And this was a seat which even in 2010 for us didn't go


our way. We made some great strides in Yorkshire, and in the north


generally in 2010, but again, this was one of the seats that swung


against us towards Labour. So we knew it was going to be a difficult


night for us. The Tory of the night really is that this was a terrible


night for, and a bruising night for the Labour Party.


We are dealing with Labour acceptrately but you came second


here last night. Your share of the vote dropped last night by 23%.


What went wrong for you, the Conservatives? That that's right. I


think the swing really notable last night was the 36% swing away from


Labour. This hasn't been the best of weeks for the Government. What


surprises me is that if the Labour Party and Ed Milliband can't win a


seat in the week that the Government have had at the end of


this week, then when are they going to win seat. It says a lot for the


weakness in the leadership within the Labour Party, and the fact that


the people of Bradford West have woken up and said Labour can no


longer take us for granted. That is why we have delivered this stunning


change in result for George Galloway. You concede it has been a


bad week for you, let's turn to the fuel chaos, worrying many people


tonight, would you agree the Government got us into a right mess


by advising motorists to fill up their cars and jerry cans?


remember before being stranded in London during the last fuel crisis,


that was because the Government didn't prepare, didn't put in place


contingency plans, and didn't advise the public to be prepared,


and use common sense and make sure we had fuel resilience, fuel


outside the picket line. So Francis Maude was right, was he, to tell


people to fill up cars and jerry cans? I think it was right for the


Government to say that people have to be resilient, and have to be


prepared for this. Let's not forget, the unions may have rowed back now,


but what they were saying is they were intending to strike over the


Easter break. The time when most families do get in the car with the


kids and go out for a day or couple of days. Had that strike happened


over the Easter break, it was important that the Government was


preparing for that, and making sure that all necessary measures were


taking place, and were informing the public. In York a woman has


suffered 40% burns, reportedly after decanting petrol in her


kitchen. Labour is suggesting Francis Maude should resign if her


tragedy can be linked back to his comments. Should he go? I have


heard about the strategy about Diane Hill, she is being treated


not far from where I live, at the specialist burns unit in Wakefield,


this is a strategy for her and her family. At the moment our thoughts


should be with her and her family. His words were incredibly


irresponsible, it wasn't about being resilient or advising people


to be resilient. His words were incredibly irresponsible? I think


what is deeply irresponsible, and frankly, quite sickening, is the


fact that the Labour Party want to make political points out of this


personal tragedy for this lady. Putting the case aside, should


Francis Maude apologise for words and phrase that is were deeply


irresponsible? Francis himself would agree that the way in which


he phrased what he was basically saying to the public, let as use


our common sense and have some resilience, and let's be prepared


for when the unions cause an irresponsible strike, they are


words I might not have used. have not heard a public apology for


him? That is a matter for Francis. I would much rather be part of a


Government. We would love to, he won't do interviews. Do you feel as


Party Chairman he should apologise? I would much rather be part of a


Government that is looking ahead, and saying to the people of this


country, the unions are being deeply responsible for calling for


a strike over the Easter break. last been a bad week for the


Conservatives, you have recognised that, the job of the Party Chairman


is to connect the party to real people, you have failed to do that?


That is a matter of opinion, Emily. I have been out on the streets


campaigning each and every week, up and down this country, as I do each


and every week. I'm deeply connected to the area here, in West


Yorkshire, I was born and raised here. I have deep connections in


the comounties, it is my job to make -- communities, it is my job


to make sure the Conservative Party remains connected and committed to


campaigning, and remains committed to listening to people up and down


the country, especially in the north. Why is the Conservative


Party home website saying they need a new Party Chairman, is it time


for you to go? It is a matter for Conservative Home, you have to ask


them why they have that view. The script of the last few days has


been bluntly, could have been drept up for The Thick Of It, we have


Daniel Finkelstein and our other guests. Great of you all to come


far and wide, and see us. We could start anywhere, let's do


the Maude thing. Is he finished now? I don't think it is a


resignation issue. All of the things that have dominated your


programme are all interconnected. When there is an economic backlike


we have, whacky things happen. You have a petrol panic when there is


no petrol strike, and pasties, and a row about party funding. You can


see how there is disillusionment, which feeds on different subjects,


and a basic fear over the economy. I think it is all interconnected, I


don't think it is about one individual cabinet minister and one


rather misjudged interview. And nor will any of this end if he were to


go. We have all gone loopy because the economy is so rocky? I do think


he should go. You have a minister saying something possibly illegal,


it is illegal to store these things in your house. Secondly, there was


a fantastic piece in the Telegraph tomorrow, by Charles Moore in the


Telegraph, saying the Government concocted this in order for the,


the Labour Party gets its funding are from the unions, it is exposing


the facts that they are trying to blame everything on the Labour


Party, it undermines their competence. If you have Charles


Moore in the telegraph, criticising the Government for its intelligence,


it is something, because they are trying to make everything into a


political issue rather than running the country. The reason why your


blog is called "conspiracy" is revealed. Nobody will put the


communications strategy of the Government over the last week on


their CV. Someone has to? Jo I agree with Steve, it gets it out of


perspective to suggest Francis Maude should resign. I also think


it is about low growth. In fact, in that way, it is more serious for


the Government. It now has reached the point, the budget was the point,


where it can't give to anybody without taking from someone else,


the politics become scratchy. The Conservative Party has had a long


standing brand problem, people think it is for well-off people.


This becomes a particular issue when there is low growth. This was


the week that narrative finally took hold, where they looked at the


cabinet and said too rich, too posh, too unconnect today anyone else?


has always been an issue for the Conservative Party, and the reason


which led it not to win the general election. The gradation of poshness


between David Cameron and Ed Balls which people don't know or care


about it, but the fact that the Conservative Party is thought, they


are worried that the Conservative Party would look after its well-off


friends. And when there is low growth, that becomes a particular


issue. Yes, I think around now, it is going to be a big issue.


Of course what the Government has to try to do is get the growth that


moves you away from that. reason why these stories are


interconnected, there is a playing on all the houses mood about. --


plaeing on all the houses right now. The failure of Cameron to win an


overall majority. We have a hung parliament, the last time we had


one was in 1974. And Bradford into the mix now? Yeah, Labour did badly,


but it was bad for the other two mainstream parties. The Liberal


Democrats lost their deposit, they may have wanted to win such a seat


on the back of the protest vote before. All three parties are being


challenged by events. One will get itself together, and it has been


since 2008, I didn't think a party would win from an overall majority.


I don't think they will the next. We are in hung parliament territory,


during that period all kinds of strange things will happen.


point I disagree about Bradford, someone said this to me, if your


main message is that we are not as bad as the Conservatives, and they


are not the main opposition, then you are going to get decimated.


This is Labour's problem in Wales, and Bradford.


Was it Labour's problem, or was it something to do with the Galloway


magical streak? It was a mixture of both. Galloway clearly comes in and


he has a message to sell to young people. But the point is, if the


Labour Party is not ready for someone who is not the


Conservatives, and they are in trouble. I think actually in one


sense it strengthens Ed Milliband. It is not a point that even Harriet


Harman made. But he has been trying to make this point within the


Labour Party that they need to change the internal culture, in


terms of campaigning, and in terms of the way they pick selections


strongly. There is a lot of dinosaurs in the party who don't


want to take that further. I think if some within the Ed Milliband


team said they need to make the case stronger and rad qal reform


within the party needs to go further. It is a lovely they are


year, but they lost lost 58% of the vote in a safe seat.


Moving away from Bradford, and going back to the communications


strategy. Arguably this all happened with, you know, a moment


over a pasty, where George Osborne couldn't find a response, and sort


of followed up with, our programme being run by somebody saying it


might have been a different situation. It is like asking


somebody when they last ate a fish ball, and accusing them of anti-


semitism because they can't remember. If you ask somebody


sufficiently ridiculous questions, which a question like "when did you


last eat a Cornish pasty", frankly is, you will get a ridiculous


answer. There was something deeper underneath it, that this


Conservative brand problem means, and the fact that they can't


finance anything like increasing the income tax allowances, without


taking the money from other things. Evens that it is very difficult for


them when the fairness agenda dominates. It crystalises the


problem, it is a symbol of the fact that they don't really care that


the price of pasties was going to go up. The Government has to hope


to heaven that a Cornish pasty becomes the symbol of that. I


really think it won't. You have a contrast, you are trying to reduce


taxes at the top, increasing the price of Cornish pasties. To people


says it is you will increase my prices in food. You can't look me


in the face and say the pricing of Cornish pasty is the point. This is


the whole point, people don't feel the Conservatives are in touch.


Government are relaxed if the Cornish pasty becomes a symbol of


their economic success. They should be extremely worried about the way


the budget went down. The granny tax, the budget was badly handled.


I still don't know what they all thought they would get out of the


budget. That is a real problem for them. It is very important, they


think they are going to get out of it growth and competitiveness. They


realise that for the Conservative Party, growth and competitiveness


is the solution to the debate about fairness. If you have growth, the


distribution issue, that is what they were trying to do, it is much


too early to judge if that was successful. As you know, I thought


the 50p reduction was a very big political risk, I also think there


were strong economic arguments for that, and corporation and tax


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