29/03/2012 22:29 BST | Updated 30/03/2012 08:25 BST

George Galloway Wins Bradford West By-Election

George Galloway has shocked the political establishment by winning the Bradford West by-election, sending the firebrand Respect party politician to parliament for a second time.

Galloway polled 18,341 to take the seat, trouncing Labour's candidate Imran Hussein by around 10,000 votes.

It's a massive defeat for Labour, who have lost the seat previously held by Marsha Singh, who announced his retirement at the end of February due to ill health.

It will also come as a disturbing message to mainstream politicians in general, a protest vote against the major parties who have clearly failed to speak the same language as this largely Muslim part of West Yorkshire.


Labour held the seat since 1974, but Galloway ran a highly effective campaign among the Muslim areas of the city.

Labour activists have told HuffPost how in recent days that it was notable how Galloway had run a highly targeted campaign which ignored working class white areas, instead focusing on first-generation Muslim parts of the constituency.

Galloway described the vote as a "tidal wave" which reflected a "treason" which started under Tony Blair, which he claimed had taken the Labour party "so far away from their supporters."

"The big political parties have had a very salutary lesson, and I hope they take note," he said.

"Labour should have won a landslide victory, so voters are not looking for the austerity-lite policies of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls."

Galloway named his victory the "Bradford Spring" - in reference to the revolutions that have swept across the Middle East and North Africa.

"This is an uprising amongst thousands of people, many of them young people, never involved in the political process before who have demonstrated in this mammoth majority, this mammoth vote, a total rejection of the three major parties," he said.

Commenting on Twitter in the early hours of Friday morning as the result became clear he said: "Long live Iraq. Long live Palestine, free, Arab, dignified. George Galloway MP," he said as the result became clear in the early hours of Friday morning.

He added: "By the Grace of God we have won the most sensational victory in British political history."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said he would return to Bradford to "learn lessons" from the damaging defeat.

“It was an incredibly disappointing result for Labour in Bradford West and I am determined that we learn lessons of what happened," he said.

“I'm going to lead that. I'm going to be going back to the constituency in the coming weeks to talk to people there about why this result happened.

“Clearly there were local factors, but I also say only four out of 10 people voted for the three mainstream political parties. We've got to understand the reasons why that happened in Bradford.

“Above all it reinforces for me something that I've emphasised throughout my leadership which is that we need to be engaged and rooted in every community of this country."

Until earlier this week the by-election had been seen as a shoo-in for Labour, but on Tuesday it was the unlikely source of a flurry of bets among bookmakers which began to suggest the election was by far a home-run for the party.

On Wednesday William Hill lengthened their odds on Labour winning, after a flurry of what they called a "landslide" of bets for George Galloway.

But even after these bets they still found Labour the overwhelming favourite to win on Wednesday, with odds of 1/7, putting Galloway on 10/3 to land a shock victory.

The bookmakers will be paying out, but the collateral damage in the long run is really among the Labour party, which has suffered its first by-election defeat of this parliament, coming surprisingly at a time when it's significantly ahead in the national polls.

Galloway is a former Labour MP for Glasgow Kelvin, who was expelled from the party in 2003. He had the Labour whip withdrawn because of his inflammatory comments over the Iraq war, which put him highly at odds with then prime minister Tony Blair, who had prosecuted the war with President George W. Bush.

Galloway then successfully contested the east London seat of Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005, unseating the Labour MP Oona King. His popularity within the seat plummeted when he was seen to be an ineffective constituency MP, and his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006 further hampered his reputation.

During the reality show on Channel 4 he was notoriously seen pretending to be a cat, being fed milk by actress Rula Lenska.

He chose not to re-contest Bethnal Green in the general election of 2010, opting instead to stand in another east London seat. His campaign in the neighbouring seat of Poplar and Limehouse saw him come third behind Labour and the Tories - but beating the Lib Dems and other parties.

Since then he's unsuccessfully tried to get elected to the Scottish Parliament, standing as a list candidate under proportional representation.

His success in the Bradford West by-election will come as a major shock at Westminster, and will prompt further questions about the leadership of Ed Miliband and the electoral strategy of the Labour party in general.

To be clear; nobody expected him to win this seat. Questions will follow for Labour particularly, with inevitable headlines of a massive slight against Miliband. Commentators will inevitably say that his north London, apparent upper-middle class demeanour fails to resonate across the country.

It will also be seen as a failure by the wider party machine, which has obviously failed to reach into neighbourhoods that it needs to understand if it's to take back power.

That a Glaswegian stranger has managed to swoop in and talk the same language of people who actually vote throws up a lot of awkward questions for Labour, at a time when the party high command is already in significant turmoil over its future direction.