He called it “the most sensational victory in British political history” and few will argue with that this morning. Until a few days before the Bradford West byelection, when Ladbrokes suspended bets on his candidacy, almost no one had spoken of the possibility of a George Galloway victory. Today he stands as the constituency’s new MP with a majority of 10,140 [a 37 per cent swing away from Labour].
Unlike his famous victory in Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005, attributable to anti-war sentiment, there was no obvious trigger for a Galloway win. But his demand for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan and his calculated appeal to the seat’s Muslim voters [in a letter to “voters of Muslim faith and Pakistani heritage” he wrote: “I, George Galloway, do not drink alcohol and never have. Ask yourself if you believe the other candidate in this election can say that truthfully.”] allowed him to take votes from all three of the main parties. The Tories, who might have expected to benefit from a split in the left vote, saw their share of the vote plummet by 22.78 per cent to 8.37 per cent.
But it is the scale of Labour’s defeat, in a week when the party is leading by 10 per cent nationally, that is truly remarkable. Ed Miliband’s unbroken run of byelection victories [five in total] has come to an end in the most dramatic fashion. What began as a disastrous week for David Cameron has ended as one for the Labour leader.
Was this a one-off or does it represent a new far-left threat to Labour? The former is the answer. In British politics, Galloway, a formidable campaigner, orator and political pugilist [as well as a supporter of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar al-Assad], is a unique figure. Respect, the party which he founded and will represent in Parliament, has neither the financial nor the organisational capacity to mount a national challenge to Labour. Yet Galloway’s victory marks the start of a dangerous period for Miliband’s party. If, as the polls currently suggest, Ken Livingstone loses the London mayoral election and the Scottish National Party wins Glasgow City Council then May could prove a month of defeat for Labour.
We’ll have more analysis and comment on The Staggers shortly but for now here’s that stunning result in full.
George Galloway (Respect) 18,341 (55.89%, +52.83%)
Imran Hussain (Labour) 8,201 (24.99%, -20.36%)
Jackie Whiteley (Conservative) 2,746 (8.37%, -22.78%)
Jeanette Sunderland (Liberal Democrat) 1,505 (4.59%, -7.08%)
Sonja McNally (UKIP) 1,085 (3.31%, +1.31%)
Dawud Islam (Green) 481 (1.47%, -0.85%)
Neil Craig (Democratic Nationalists) 344 (1.05%)
Howling Laud Hope (Monster Raving Loony Party) 111 (0.34%)