I went to bed last night not really believing rumours on Twitter that George Galloway had eased out Labour in the Bradford West by-election in a closely fought contest.
I wondered allowed if this was Labour talking his chances up in order to look good when they won the seat.
Actually not. When the result came through it wasn’t close at all. The showman, probably best known for his cringe inducing portrayal of a cat on Celebrity Big Brother, gave Ed Miliband’s Labour a bit of a spanking, winning by over 10,000 votes and 56% of the poll Anyone who’s been to a count will understand that that result would have been glaringly obvious to observers within half an hour of the polls closing.
In a week when the Government has really had some challenges on pensioners’ tax allowance, pasty tax and the self inflicted own goal on petrol, Labour should have walked this by-election without even bothering. They didn’t though. That might have been something to do with the fact that, despite making a whole load of noise about George Osborne cutting the top rate of tax from 50 to 45p, Labour failed to vote against it this week, as Mark Pack showed.
This result will shine an even bigger spotlight on Ed Miliband’s leadership. More activists will likely be Losing Faith as Alex Hilton powerfully wrote on Labour List recently.
There’s no point in pretending that this was a great result for the Liberal Democrats, but it’s consistent with the sorts of results we’ve been getting in seats like Bradford West before the Coalition was a twinkle in anyone’s eye. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t just have squeaked another 0.41% to retain our deposit, though but it’s still a higher vote share than we got in 2008 in Glenrothes. I’m more encouraged by the weekly reports of Liberal Democrat wins in local government by-elections across the country including a victory in Burbage Parish Council in Hinckley and Bosworth, Leicestershire last night. That sort of steady progress tells you more about what is really going on.
One thing that absolutely disgusted me, though, was Galloway’s reference to his victory today as the Bradford Spring. To equate it with the atrocities perpetrated by regimes across the Arab worlds surely shows a lack of, for want of a better word, Respect.
There is a certain irony in that Galloway’s victory comes in the week of the 30th anniversary of the Glasgow Hillhead by-election which saw the SDP’s Roy Jenkins returned to the Commons. Galloway wasn’t a candidate then, but he won the seat back for Labour at the 1987 General Election.