George Galloway’s election victory in Bradford continues to draw attention to the participation of Muslims in the British political system

14 May 2012

 

Bradford accommodates the third highest percentage of South Asians in the UK. So-called ‘Muslim votes’ make up 45% of the constituency’s population, and thus these votes are crucial for any political party that wants to score a victory in the elections.

 

Political experts were taken by surprise when George Galloway scored an undisputed victory in the elections for the vacant parliamentary seat of Bradford West in March, 2012. Galloway has always had close relations with the Muslim community but performed poorly in his own constituency and lost his seat in Bromley in 2010.

 

His recent victory has been considered an indication of Muslims’ dissatisfaction in the current performance of the mainstream political parties. This of course has some ground, since unemployment rates in parts of Bradford are almost four times higher than the national average and the number of pupils who progress to higher education are amongst the lowest in the country.

Labour ‘failed to connect with Asians in Bradford’

George Galloway has proved that he has the charisma, the celebrity and the message to appeal to the young, the disillusioned and the angry particularly in the Muslim community.

His victory is the first time an independent or smaller party candidate has won a parliamentary by-election from another party in Britain since March 1973, when Dick Taverne won the Lincoln by-election (taking it from Labour).

It is also the first time since the May 2000 Romsey by-election (when the Conservatives lost to the Lib Dems) that the main Opposition party has lost a seat in a by-election.

George Galloway’s victory in Bradford West was partly due to Labour’s failure to connect with the Asian community, the shadow home secretary has said. Yvette Cooper said her party had not won over young Asians or Muslim women.

Respect Party MP Mr Galloway, expelled by Labour in 2003, held a rally before 2,000 people on Sunday after winning Thursday’s by-election by 10,140 votes.

He said he had the support of people of all backgrounds in a “democratic uprising” against established parties.

Some speculate that these results show, by-elections are usually flashes in the pan that have no lasting effect on politics. After all, the SDP is no more, and the Lib Dems may have more than six seats today, but half a century on, having just lost their deposit in Bradford, they look no nearer to that elusive return to single party Government than they did before Orpington By-elections are a chance for angry voters to let off steam and vent their spleen on establishment parties, knowing their votes will not actually change a Government.
In taking Bradford West, Mr Galloway overturned a Labour majority of more than 5,000 at the 2010 general election.  He was previously MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in east London.

Commentators have suggested Mr Galloway attracted many Asian voters because of his opposition to the war in Iraq and his call for troops to withdraw from Afghanistan immediately.

But the Respect MP has rejected that, pointing out that Labour’s candidate was, in fact, a Muslim of Pakistani origin.

He told Sunday’s rally in Bradford that his 85% share of the vote in the city’s diverse university ward showed he had support of people of all races and religions.