This week George Galloway was elected as the Member of Parliament for Bradford West. To those who are not aware of George Galloway, here is a quick introduction. Galloway is the infamous British politician known for his support of Hamas (from whom he received a Palestinian passport) and his admiration for Saddam Hussein’s indefatigability. He was kicked out of the Labour Party in 2003, after which he formed his own party called RESPECT (Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, and Trade Unionism). It was during his time as a RESPECT MP that he impersonated a cat on the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother. He is perhaps best known on this side of the Atlantic for his appearance in front of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, in which he was forced to answer questions relating to his questionable relationship with the Oil-for-Food Program.
I would not usually waste much time discussing Mr. Galloway, except that his win in Bradford West might well be as he described it: “the most sensational victory in British political history.”
The election in Bradford West was called after the sitting MP, Marsha Singh, resigned on medical grounds. To put Galloway’s win in perspective, in the 2010 election the Labour candidate (Singh) was elected with 45.5% of the vote, while the RESPECT candidate won 3.1%.
Yet over the weekend Galloway, the RESPECT candidate, won 55.9% of the vote, and Labour won 25%, a decrease of more than 20%. In fact, every party that competed in the by-election over the weekend lost votes, except UKIP which won 1.3% more votes than in 2010. This is astonishing. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has one of the safest Conservative seats in the country, won 58% of the vote in his constituency in Witney at the most recent election.
The Labour leadership must be worried. A relatively safe seat has been lost in a humiliating defeat to a man who seems to have made a career out of embarrassing himself and making outlandish defenses of groups such as Hezbollah.
The three major parties must take note of how Galloway campaigned. It is not enough to say that Galloway exploited the sizeable Muslim population in Bradford. Not all of the RESPECT votes came from Muslims. The best way to view Galloway’s return to the House of Commons is as one not of triumphant self-gratification, but as a representation of how unmotivated and disheartened the supporters of all three major parties are. Labour supporters view their leadership as too soft, the Liberal Democrats view their leadership as sell-outs, and Conservatives view their leadership as too flexible and open to compromise. While it will be easy for British conservatives to gloat over Labour’s humiliation, it is important to remember that they lost over 10,000 votes in Bradford-West, something that the staff at CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Head Quarters) should take note of. Norman Tebbit, a key advisor to Margaret Thatcher, gave a good analysis of the result for The Telegraph.
While the return of Mr. Galloway might well make the proceedings in the House of Commons more entertaining than they already are, it is important for British conservatives to not forget how tenuous their support is. George Galloway is wrong about almost everything, but he was right when he said the “mammoth vote” signaled a “total rejection” of Britain’s three major parties.
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