‘This represents the Bradford Spring!’ said George Galloway after triumphing in the Bradford West by-election last night. So, let’s get this straight: comparing his victory in one of
the many fair elections held in this country each year to the dangerous and fragile struggle for democracy across the Arab world? Yep, that’s right — and it leaves a nasty, bitter tang in the
air. But we shouldn’t be one bit surprised. Bluster, exaggeration and provocation are, after all, what Galloway does best.
And now he will be able to do these things in Parliament for the first time since May 2010, when he was deposed from the Bethnal Green seat. The extent of his victory last night really was quite
something: 18,341 votes, representing 56 per cent of the total, and a 37 per cent swing away from Labour at the general election. Labour, for their part, came in second, some 10,000 ballot slips
behind Galloway, and with only 25 per cent of the vote. The Tories and Lib Dems were left in as comprehensive a state of languishment as you’d expect.
Although it wasn’t just the scale of Galloway’s victory that shocked, but also its likelihood. A couple of days ago, Ladbrokes suspended betting on the by-election, after a rush of money was put
down on the Respect man. But, even then, his odds were 10-1, against Labour’s nothing-bar-natural-disaster-can-really-stop-them-now odds of 1/25. This was a massive upset, if not on the night, then
certainly over the campaign as a whole.
Labour will be eager to downplay the result. It is, I think, the first by-election defeat that they have suffered under Ed Miliband’s leadership — and it could hardly be a worse one. Expect
them to spin it as an anomalous victory for an anomalous candidate. But you do wonder whether some Labour MPs will recognise a truth behind Galloway’s taunt that they ‘must stop imagining
that working people and poor people have no option but to support them if they hate the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition partners.’ Miliband’s pasty and petrol fuelled mini-surge may just
have hit a bump.