BEATING all the odds and bestowing red faces across Labour's front bench yesterday rebel politician George Galloway has risen from his political deathbed to claim a seat in the House of Commons.
Mr Galloway, who was expelled from the Labour Party by former Prime Minister Tony Blair over his opposition to the Iraq War, has stunned pundits and opposition alike by being re-elected in a special election in northern England.
Mr Galloway, running for the Respect Party, took 56pc of the vote in yesterday's election in the Bradford West district. He beat Labour, which previously held the seat, into second place. Labour's candidate, Imran Hussain, took 25pc. Jackie Whiteley of British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives came third with 8.4pc.
Bradford West had the third highest proportion of Muslim residents of any electoral district at the time of the 2001 census, at 37.6pc. Mr 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, Mr 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 said Mr Galloway, who started the campaign as a 33-1 outsider, had created such an upset it faced payouts of as much as £100,000 (€120,000), 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."
"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," she said.
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.
William Hill responded to the election result by cutting the odds of Ed Miliband quitting as Labour leader before the next election.
Mr Galloway's appeal to Muslims is based on his vocal opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
With debating skills honed on the floor of the House of Commons, in 2005 he saw off accusations from the US 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 45pc of the vote, retired at the start of March due to ill health.