Bradford - an extraordinary one-off


George Galloway: "This most sensational result... represents the Bradford Spring"

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.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 12.

    After reading your article it really does beg the question Mr Robinson how on earth you got your job. This result was not just a defeat for Labour but also for mainstream politics in general. People are looking for something different to the Westminster club that has made a mockery of the so called democratic system. The message from Bardford West is simply that we need a change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Look forward to PMQ's, if Boring Bercow gives Galloway the nod

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    Comment number 10.

    Ugh. Galloway. I would congratulate most political independents, but this creature? He's every bit as self-serving as the rest of the cretins, with the bonus of gutter level self-publication.

    Defended Sadaam Hussein, who killed more than Assad has managed so far, and hasn't the greatest record of representing his constituents by bothering to turn up to vote.

    Not exactly a new dawn for politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    "This is not a surprise. Labour are very weak at the moment."

    Of course it's a surprise, and has little to do with Labour being 'weak' or otherwise (the ConDems were annihilated, note). It's one of those rare occasions when voters have rejected the whole system wholesale. And particular demographics aside, the politicians need to take on board the anti-war sentiments in particular.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Westminster just got an almighty injection of rhetoric. Galloway's vitriolic outbursts should make things a bit more interesting.

    Catastrophic result for Labour and Ed Miliband though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Should be bit of a wake up call all round, not just to the Parties but the people.

    But, BUT it has to be observed that Galloway is not an answer to present problems, at least not a good or right one, in my view. He's a big government man, he's a borrower & spender.

    We cannot go on that way. {The Coalition are announcing MORE spending today!} There is no money left.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    George Galloway is what the Labour party used to be and should be again, an actual ideological opposition to the conservatives and that's why he's won in a traditional Labour stronghold and why he's beaten Labour candidates repeatedly in the past. people only vote for Labour because there's no viable alternative against the horror of tories. it's like choosing which stick to beat yourself with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The Conservatives are right, Miliband is not a winner. The sooner the Labour party realise this and rectify their mistake the sooner they can begin to rebuild themselves into a credible opposition.
    Why else are some of Labours better performers deserting the ship to go for the mayoralties - they also know they are unelectable with their current leader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    This is all down to Gorgeous George's barnstorming performance at the senate enquiry in the USA. It was so good watching him slap them down that he'll always be forgiven his less glorious moments (Big Brother, Saddam etc). It's time we had a bit of colour in parlaiment instead of the usual clones. Well done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Nick Robinson, you are so obviously a Labour voter!

    This is not a surprise. Labour are very weak at the moment.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    "An extraordinary result but surely a one-off political coup by a political one-off."

    If there was ever voice of the political status quo you just nailed it Nick. What we need is a new voice to shake politics out of its merry-go-round of failure. MPs shorn of party dogma may be the way forward.

    Well done Mr Galloway!


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