Galloway takes Labour 'safe' seat with 10,140 majority30 March 2012
His luminous leotard days may be behind him forever now that George Galloway has trounced Labour and taken the 'safe' Bradford West seat off them with a staggering 10,140 majority (18,341 votes in all). His Respect party was fifth in the seat at the last general election.
This time around, Labour's Imran Hussein came second with 8,201 votes (down 20.36 per cent on the general election), Tory candidate Jackie Whiteley came third (2,746, down 22.78 per cent) and the Liberal Democrats' Jeanette Sunderland fourth with 1,505 votes (down 7.08 per cent). Turnout was 50.8 per cent.
Galloway's victory is the first time an independent candidate has won a UK by-election since 1973 and it is the first time in 12 years that the main opposition party has lost a seat in a by-election.
Labour figures such as Keith Vaz and the deputy party leader Harriet Harman tried to put a brave face on the Respect victory, suggesting the result was a one-off and even that Galloway won it because he focused on the Iraq war. But it is thought that behind the scenes serious questions will be asked of Labour's statements about backing public sector cuts in principle and choosing this week to focus on dinners for donors and sausage rolls from Greggs.
Respect said that they were the true voice of Labour supporters who had become fed up with the choice of austerity from the Tories or austerity 'lite' from Labour.
Galloway's victory was all the more incredible because the seat had been Labour since 1974 and at the last general election Marsha Singh won with a majority of 5,763. There was a suggestion that Galloway galvanised the Muslim vote to get his 55.9 per cent but this was dismissed by Respect as a silly notion.
Calling the "mammoth majority" a "Bradford Spring", Galloway said voters had rejected the three main parties and sent a clear message to Ed Miliband that just because people detest the coalition does not automatically mean that they will vote Labour.
Galloway said: "This, the most sensational by-election result in history bar none represents the Bradford Spring. This is an uprising amongst thousands of people, many of them young people never involved in the political process before who have demonstrated in this mammoth majority, this mammoth vote, a total rejection of the three major parties on the British political scene.
"I care nothing for the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats. I wish them political perdition. But I do care about the Labour party in which I served for 37 years, 18 of which as a Labour member of parliament. And I want to through this medium and through this result appeal to the Labour party to turn away and break decisively from the path of treason set for them by Tony Blair almost 20 years ago and from which they have not properly resiled.
"They must stop taking their supporters for granted, they must stop imagining that working people and poor people have no option but to support them if they hate the Tories and the Lib Dem coalition partners. They have to stop supporting illegal, bloody, costly foreign wars because one of the reasons why they were so decisively defeated this evening was because the public do not believe that they have atoned for their role in the invasion and occupation of other people's countries and the drowning of those countries in blood. So I appeal to the Labour party to be a Labour party again, to unite the coalition they once had and of which I was once part. That's the way to really defeat the Tories and the Liberal Democrats."
Although he insisted there were "clearly" local factors, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "It was an incredibly disappointing result for Labour in Bradford West and I am determined that we learn lessons of what happened. I'm going to lead that. I'm going to be going back to the constituency in the coming weeks to talk to people there about why this result happened.
"We've got to understand the reasons why that happened in Bradford. Above all it reinforces for me something that I've emphasised throughout my leadership which is that we need to be engaged and rooted in every community of this country. We need to show to people that our politics, that Labour politics, can make a difference to people's lives."
Harman told the BBC: "It was quite a last-minute phenomenon. It was a real bandwagon. The evidence is that this is a particular problem in Bradford. It is a serious problem that we need to address".
The Conservative Party co-chair Baroness Warsi said: "If Ed Miliband can't get his act together after a week like this when is he going to get his act together? This is a Labour seat, has been for many, many decades and last night they lost it in spectacular fashion."
• Just over a week ago, a founder member of Respect, 28-year-old Abu-bakr Rauf, collapsed and died of a heart attack while electioneering with Galloway in Bradford West.
Galloway, who was just yards away when it happened, said: "I'm deeply shocked and saddened that someone so young and so vibrant should go in this way. I knew Abu-bakr for many years, since he was a teenager. We campaigned together against the Iraq war and he was a founder member of Respect in 2004. I just can't believe he has gone. He had so much to give but he gave so much to so many as anyone who knew him can confirm."