Bradford - an extraordinary one-off
- 30 March 2012
- From the section UK Politics
An extraordinary result but surely a one-off political coup by a political one-off.
George Galloway has proved that he has the charisma, the celebrity and the message to appeal to the young, the disillusioned and the angry particularly in the Muslim community.
His victory is the first time an independent or smaller party candidate has won a parliamentary by-election from another party in Britain since March 1973, when Dick Taverne won the Lincoln by-election (taking it from Labour).
It is also the first time since the May 2000 Romsey by-election (when the Conservatives lost to the Lib Dems) that the main Opposition party has lost a seat in a by-election.
The BBC's psephology guru David Cowling points out that Bradford West is not a typical seat. In the great Labour landslide of 1997, when the Conservatives suffered their worst result since 1832, Bradford West swung to the Conservatives (though remained Labour).
In the 2010 general election, when there was a national swing of 5.1% to the Conservatives, and a regional swing of 6.8% to the Conservatives in West Yorkshire, Bradford West swung 2.7% to Labour.
Having said all that, it is a setback for Labour since opposition parties during government crises are meant to win and win big.
I posted last night on the reasons the Tories might want to panic about the events of the past couple of weeks.
The news this morning brought one reminder of the one thing which is keeping them (relatively) calm in Downing Street.
They believe - to put it politely - that Ed Miliband is not a winner. Their hope is that Labour's defeat in Bradford will soon be followed by defeats in London - with Boris beating Ken - and Glasgow - where the SNP are hopeful of defeating Labour in the council elections.
Boris Johnson and Alex Salmond are, arguably, one-offs too but if Labour loses to all of them they will have a problem. Opposition parties need momentum and election defeats would rob them of that.
None of this should cheer up the Conservatives much. They came a poor third in Bradford and were meant to be looking to increase their vote in order to try to win the 2015 election having failed to win the 2010 one.
PS: I'm told that the pasty tax is not so unpopular in Bradford where small independent curry shops have had to charge VAT on hot takeout whilst big, wealthy chains like Greggs and the supermarkets have not had to on their hot takeout food. Anyone from Bradford like to tell me whether that's true?
Update: Welsh colleagues have pointed out that Dai Davies - an independent - won the Blaenau Gwent by-election from Labour in 2006. He actually successfully defended the seat that had been won by an independent at the previous general election in 2005 - so not the same as Galloway's achievement.