Bradford West by-election result – Analysis

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By Caroline Weintz
 
Like him or loath him, you have to respect George Galloway for pulling off a sensational win in the Bradford West by-election, knocking all three main political parties out of the water.
 
George Galloway’s incredible ten thousand majority sent out a clear message to Labour in particular telling its London leadership that their once traditional voters are disillusioned and dissatisfied with the Party’s ever increasing detachment from the very people that it claims to represent.

By Caroline Weintz
 
Like him or loath him, you have to respect George Galloway for pulling off a sensational win in the Bradford West by-election, knocking all three main political parties out of the water.
 
George Galloway’s incredible ten thousand majority sent out a clear message to Labour in particular telling its London leadership that their once traditional voters are disillusioned and dissatisfied with the Party’s ever increasing detachment from the very people that it claims to represent.

Whilst government parties tend to do worse in by-elections and that was shown in the 22.7% swing away from the Tories yesterday what would seem most remarkable to many is that George Galloway and his Respect Party managed to annihilate Labour.
 
What makes the result somewhat remarkable is the high turnout that took place in Bradford West.  Traditionally, by-elections tend to attract a fairly low turnout, particularly in urban areas.  Indeed, disillusioned Labour voters have traditionally just stayed away from the polls rather than actively going out to vote against what they see as their traditional party of choice.
 
However, yesterday saw a 50% turnout in what was, until a few days earlier, deemed a Labour heartland with Labour having held the seat since 1974 (aside from a brief period when a sitting Lab MP defected to the SDP) and had increased its majority to almost 6000 in 2010.

The turnout, coupled with the result should have sent a clear loud message to Ed Miliband in London that disaffected Labour voters are no longer prepared to just stay away from the polls, they are in fact prepared to actively turn out and vote against them by turning to a party that is not afraid to stand up for them.

Although the swing against the Tories was slightly larger than that against Labour, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that these results will be much more worrying for Ed Miliband et al, than they will be for Cameron and Clegg.

This isn’t just a worrying situation for Ed Miliband and his position as Labour Leader.  It is a worrying situation for the whole of the Labour Party who will now have to look long and hard at their policies and radically change the way in which they favour the middle England vote as well as the way they are perceived by their once traditional voters.

So what will this mean for Scotland and what message will this send to Scottish Labour in the run up to the local authority elections in May?

Given Labour’s increased pettiness and arrogance particularly here in Scotland of late, it is unlikely that the party will have time to radically alter its policies and image in time for next month’s local authority elections.
 
Without wishing to encourage complacency amongst SNP supporters and others, if a similar voter ‘backlash’ occurs during the local authority elections particularly in areas Labour has historically deemed theirs by right for decades, we could very likely see a swathe of Labour administrations crumbling as the SNP consolidate their 2011 election success.

What we have seen in Bradford West is the direct result of Labour becoming increasingly detached from the everyday people that the party has so readily claimed to represent without actually delivering the things that actually matter to people.

Labour’s failure this week to oppose a Tory tax cut for millionaires, their failure to stop the devastating changes to the NHS in England as well as their opposition to minimum pricing on alcohol here in Scotland are just three recent examples of how Labour’s arrogance and pettiness was put before what was actually best for ordinary people.

Labour in Scotland have just a few short weeks to significantly raise their level of debate and to improve their petty image before we go to the polls in what will now be seen as the most important local authority elections in recent history.

It is a battle that they will fight hard and nasty in an attempt to win.  However, with Ed Miliband’s ratings at an all-time low for a Labour leader in opposition, as well as yesterday’s Bradford West result, it will become increasingly more challenging for the Party machine to suppress calls from within for him to resign as leader.

This will add a further distraction for Scottish Labour during what has already become an extremely tense and difficult election campaign, one that has increased in difficulty and significance with yesterday’s result in Bradford West.