UK Politics

Analysis: What does Galloway win mean for Labour?

George Galloway celebrating his victory
Image caption He's back: George Galloway is no stranger to the limelight

George Galloway has done it again.

His surprise victory in Bradford West is the second time that he has snatched a previously safe seat from Labour since he was thrown out of the party in 2003 for outspoken comments about the war in Iraq.

In 2005 he won Bethnal Green and Bow in east London for the party that he founded, Respect.

Previously he had been the MP for Glasgow Kelvin.


This win puts him firmly into the history books - few candidates from outside the main parties manage such by-election gains from the big three.

And it marks the return to the House of Commons of an assured orator and noted controversialist, who met Saddam Hussein twice and purred like a cat on Celebrity Big Brother.

George Galloway overturned the majority of more than 5,000 that Labour won in Bradford West at the 2010 general election, which is embarrassing for the party and its leader Ed Miliband.

Hours after the result, Mr Miliband appeared in front of the cameras to swear that lessons would be learned.

And he is prepared to learn personally, by revisiting the constituency in the coming weeks to work out what went wrong.

Mayoral race

Aides say that is a measure of how seriously he takes the result, rather than a suggestion that he is to blame.

And no MPs have come forward to complain about their leader in public.

But his deputy Harriet Harman admitted that the result came as a complete surprise, which raises questions about the party machine on the ground.

Left-of-centre commentators have made several other contributions to the post-mortem.

Some have suggested that Galloway's victory may pull the party to the left.

Others that it makes the election for the mayor of London this May an even more crucial test.

A few think it demonstrates that the party has taken voters from its heartlands for granted.

The Labour leader would prefer that we see the result in the same way that George Galloway does - as a judgement on all the major Westminster parties.

Between them, they won only four in ten votes in Bradford.

Bucks trends

The Conservative and the Lib Dems both lost votes.

And polling experts point out that Bradford West often bucks national trends.

In the midst of the 1997 New Labour landslide, the Tories picked up support. Labour's share of the vote went up in there in 2010, even as it slumped virtually everywhere else.

But experts question whether Respect can even become a force to be reckoned with nationwide.

In 2010 they lost many of their council seats and polled a total of 33,251 votes in the general election - half the number they won five years earlier.

Most of those votes were concentrated in just a few areas.

And Respect's leader Salma Yaqoob could only manage second place in the party's number number one target seat for that election, Birmingham Hall Green.

There is a big Asian vote in Bradford West but there is a complex pattern of different religions and ethnicities, and Mr Galloway denied that he won on the back of votes from any one community.

The party hopes this surprise victory gives them momentum to pick up more council seats in the local elections this summer.

With George Galloway's unerring ability to generate headlines, expect Respect to attract plenty of attention in the next few months.

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