Antiwar Candidate Wins UK Parliamentry By-Election

By Graham Durham

“Here comes the Bradford Spring” stated new Respect MP George Galloway after his stunning April by-election victory in Bradford West. Bradford in West Yorkshire is an industrial city built on the textile industry and suffering significant decline and high levels of unemployment.

Galloway shocked the Labour Pary, which regarded Bradford West as a safe Labour seat, by polling 18,341 votes representing 56 percent of all votes cast. Labour was reduced to 8,201 votes (25 percent.)

Galloway, who is a former Labour MP expelled in 2005 for describing Tony Blair as a “war criminal” over the Iraq invasion, is a well known antiwar and anti-imperialist campaigner. He had won a seat in east London as a Respect MP in 2005.

In Bradford the Respect campaign was notable for the complete breakdown of the Labour Party electoral machine and the huge levels of participation of young people in the campaign. Following the victory national media including the BBC reported the views of young Bradford people for the first time. Young people spoke out against the war in Afghanistan, the withdrawal of education grants by the Tory/Lib Dem government and the attacks on welfare services. Bradford has a large Muslim population and hundreds of young Muslims, particularly young women, joined the Respect campaign.

The election victory has provoked a crisis for the Labour Party with leader Ed Miliband rushing to Bradford to discover what went wrong. The answer is obvious—young people do not trust the pro-capitalist warmongering Labour Pary to represent their demand for a peaceful and just world.

Respect has an opportunity to build a left alternative to Labour and to capture more seats in Parliament and on local councils. After Galloway lost his London seat in the 2010 General Election, the price of failing to build a democratic party, instead relying on his personal media profile, was demonstrated. It is now clear that an antiwar, social justice party can win significant gains and attract many new young members—the challenge for the left is to build this support in the coming weeks.

—April 19, 2012