Cat that got the cream: George Galloway stuns Labour

Mar 30, 2012

Anti-war pro-jobs message wins sensational 36% swing from Labour to Respect in Bradford by-election

Matthew Lloyd

THE FORMER Labour MP George Galloway, one of the most divisive figures in Westminster politics, has created political history by winning yesterday's Bradford West by-election for his Respect party with a stunning majority of 10,140, grabbing a seat held by Labour since 1974.

In doing so, he achieved a 36.59 per cent swing from Labour to Respect, overturning a comfortable Labour majority of 5,763 at the 2010 general election. Labour's candidate, Bradford-born Imran Hussein, was so shocked he left the count last night without commenting.

Galloway was cock-a-hoop, claiming, "By the grace of God, we have won the most sensational victory in British political history".

How did it happen? The Guardian's Patrick Wintour writes: "It appeared that the seat's Muslim immigrant community had decamped from Labour en masse to Galloway's fundamentalist call for an immediate British troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and a fightback against the job crisis."

Galloway's victory is a horrible blow to Labour leader Ed Miliband just when he should be reveling in the Conservatives' media problems over the Budget and the petrol crisis, and an extraordinary personal victory for the politician they once called Gorgeous George.

A former Labour MP in Glasgow, he was expelled from the party in 2003 for urging British soldiers not to fight in Iraq. He went on to become a founder member of the anti-war Respect party and and won the 2005 election for them in the east London seat of Bethnal Green and Bow.

But the man who has made enemies throughout his political career - he told Saddam Hussein in 1994 that he admired the dictator's "indefatigability" - went on to become a laughing stock when he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006, dressed in a cat costume and pretending to drink milk from the hands of actress Rula Lenska. As The Times puts it today, "His credibility as a serious political figure appeared to have been finished."

It wasn't. And despite his failure in the 2010 general election – when he quit Bow to fight the neighbouring constituency of Poplar and was unable to pull off a win – he now returns to Westminster emboldened, the cat that got the cream.

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Looks like theweek doesn't approve of democracy. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are opposed by a majority in this country. Time to end the bloodshed.

"The cat that got the cream" - that's the best line I've seen today.

Patrick Wintour's comment about GG 'fundamentalist' appeal betrays a worrying trend to write off a amazing victory as some sort of ethnic ghetto led triumph. Whatever one may think of GG his views regarding the costly and pointless war in Afghanistan resonate and the fact that he polled more votes than all other candidates combined suggests that his views are clearly shared across the social spectrum. Nothing 'fundamentalist' about the appeal of his core message or its audience.