Galloway won by taking on 'cosy conspiracy' over Afghanistan
He was once called the member for Baghdad East – he now risks being labeled the MP for Kabul East
GEORGE GALLOWAY is back with a vengeance after his astounding by-election victory last night over Labour in the Bradford West by-election when he won 18,341 votes for his Respect party against 8,201 for the Labour candidate Imran Hussein. He now has a national platform from which to attack the cosy conspiracy of silence at Westminster over Britain's role in Afghanistan.
In his victory address in the small hours, Galloway said the humiliating defeat for Labour was a wake-up call for all three mainstream political parties. He accused Labour of taking their core voters for granted, particularly for going along with Cameron's cuts.
But Bradford was not won on attacking austerity economics alone and, as the dust settles, more questions will be asked about how exactly 'Gorgeous George' achieved his victory and what the ramifications might be.
The fact is, he appealed directly to the large Muslim vote in Bradford by calling for an immediate withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.
He is now planning to use his seat at Westminster for his Respect Party to challenge directly the three-party consensus about the need to keep British troops in Afghanistan until 2013.
Nowhere is that consensus more apparent than each week at Prime Minister's Questions when David Cameron and then Ed Miliband read out the names of the soldiers who have been killed by the Taliban.
Opinion polls show consistently that Galloway's call to stop the war and pull out immediately will have far wider resonance in Britain than just in Bradford.
Since failing to win Poplar at the 2010 general election, Galloway has appeared a fringe character, best known to the general public for his absurd appearance on Celebrity Big Brother back in 2006.
But while he may be a maverick - as former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett described him on the Today programme this morning - he is undoubtedly charismatic, and one of the best debaters in Parliament.
Cameron and Miliband will have reason to be worried that he is going to arrive in Westminster with a populist message which is going to make it much harder to hold the line over Afghanistan.
This morning, Harriet Harman, the Labour deputy leader, hid behind the fig leaf of an internal Labour inquiry into the party's defeat at Bradford West lost, and refused to "pre-empt the results of the inquiry" by offering any analysis on the reason for the 35 per cent swing to Respect.
Galloway was ridiculed as “the member for Baghdad East” when he courted Saddam Hussein before the Iraq war. In some quarters, he is likely now to be rubbished as the MP for Kabul East and an unwitting friend of the Taliban. But with a new platform at Westminster, he represents a serious challenge to what he - and others - call the continued "occupation" of Afghanistan. ·