The Guardian reports: George Galloway, the leading figure in Respect, has grabbed a remarkable victory in the Bradford West byelection, claiming that “By the grace of God, we have won the most sensational victory in British political history”.
It appeared that the seat’s Muslim community had decamped from Labour en masse to Galloway’s call for an immediate British troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and a fightback against the job crisis.
On a turnout of 50.78%, Labour’s shellshocked candidate Imran Hussain was crushed by a 36.59% swing from Labour to Respect that saw Galloway take the seat with a majority of 10,140.
Labour had held the seat in 2010 with a majority of 5,763. It marks an extraordinary personal and political comeback for the controversial politician who lost in the UK general election in 2010, and in the Scottish parliament in 2011, appearing to confirm that the remainder of his career would lie in broadcasting and celebrity programmes.
It is also a bitter blow to [Labour leader] Ed Miliband, who failed to capitalise on the suddenly plummeting support for the [Cameron-led Conservative-Lib Dem] coalition, and did not see the threat posed by Galloway until too late.
Ian Dunt writes: Galloway’s post-Labour political career is a testament to the possibility of allying young people, radicals and Muslims against the mainstream Westminster agenda.
The Respect party has often been described as an unholy alliance of Muslims and radical leftists. It was treated as a historical curiosity. With Iraq the dominant issue in British politics for several years, it seemed like a unique moment in which these two groups would share an agenda. The rest of the time they would naturally tear each other apart debating homosexuality or the role of women.
In truth the relationship is not as historically specific as is often claimed. In a slightly different context, Barack Obama showed that social issues do not prevent broad alliances between minority groups, leftists and idealistic young people. The Latin and African-American communities who voted for Obama are just as conservative when it comes to hot button topics like gay marriage as Muslim communities are here. In fact, those issues tend to have a more dominant role in the discourse across the Atlantic. But they can still both be galvanised to vote for one party – and not just based on the identity politic.
In certain constituencies, an alliance of young people and minorities – both groups utterly alienated from the Westminster system – can win elections.
The Bradford West result does not so much mark a rejection of Labour as a rejection of Westminster. For many voters (not just minorities and young people) Labour is barely distinguishable from the other two parties. In actual policy terms that assessment is not entirely unfair. Their differences are far less substantial than any of the parties would like to admit. In cultural terms, the viewpoint is entirely accurate.