George Galloway, who was expelled from the U.K. Labour Party under Prime Minister Tony Blair over his opposition to the Iraq War, was unexpectedly re-elected to the House of Commons in a special election in northern England.
Galloway, running for the Respect Party, took 56 percent of the vote in yesterday’s election in the Bradford West district. He beat Labour, the main opposition party in the Commons, which previously held the seat, into second place. Labour’s candidate, Imran Hussain, took 25 percent. Jackie Whiteley of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives came third with 8.4 percent.
Bradford West had the third highest proportion of Muslim residents of any electoral district at the time of the 2001 census, at 37.6 percent. Galloway, who was expelled from Labour in 2003, took Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, the second most Muslim constituency, from the party on an anti-war ticket in 2005. He failed to win a seat in the Commons in 2010.
In his victory speech, Galloway described the result as the “Bradford Spring,” and said Labour “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.”
Bookmakers Ladbrokes Plc said Galloway, who started the campaign as a 33-1 outsider, had created such an upset it faced payouts of as much as 100,000 pounds ($160,000), the biggest ever for a British special election.
Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said the party campaigned hard in Bradford but was overtaken by the Galloway “bandwagon.”
“It’s a very disappointing result indeed,” she told BBC Radio 4. “Twice as many people voted for Respect as voted for Labour. There’s a particular issue in Bradford, and we’ve got to understand it.”
Labour had enjoyed a poll boost nationally following the government’s March 21 budget, which cut the top rate of income tax and froze allowances for pensioners, drawing Labour accusations that the only beneficiaries were millionaires.
William Hill Plc responded to the election result by cutting the odds of Miliband quitting as Labour leader before the next election.
Galloway’s appeal to Muslims is based on his vocal opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In the run-up to the attack, he expressed support for Saddam Hussein and called on British troops to refuse to obey orders.
With debating skills honed on the floor of the House of Commons, in 2005 he saw off accusations from the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that he had been given the right to buy oil from Iraq in return for his support for Saddam.
The Bradford seat became vacant when Marsha Singh, who won the district for Labour in the 2010 general election with 45 percent of the vote, retired at the start of March due to ill health.