Anti-war leader wins election
BRADFORD BRITAIN’S mainstream parties were reeling on Friday after firebrand George Galloway, a fierce critic of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, won a sensational return to parliament.
The Scottish politician becomes his Respect Party’s only lawmaker after crushing his former party, Labour, in Thursday’s by-election in the ethnically mixed northern English constituency of Bradford West.
Speaking ahead of a celebratory open-top bus tour around the constituency on Friday, Galloway described his victory as a “Bradford Spring”, akin to the popular uprisings that ousted regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.
“This is the most sensational victory in British by-election history,” he said.
Official figures showed he had secured more than half of the votes cast, on a betterthan- expected turnout of just over 50 percent. He took more than 10,000 more votes than Labour candidate Imran Hussain.
Nicknamed “Gorgeous George”, Galloway gained international notoriety in 2005 when he appeared in the US senate, while in Britain he famously appeared on the show Celebrity Big Brother, pretending to be a cat lapping up milk.
“This is a rejection of the mainstream parties... It was people saying they want political leaders they can believe in, who say what they mean, do what they say and don’t lie to people,” he said.
Galloway made opposition to the war in Afghanistan a key part of his campaign, and he told Sky News on Friday that the “pointless” deaths of six British soldiers there earlier this month contributed to his win.
“I think one of the lessons of yesterday’s election result is that Britain wants out of Afghanistan,” he said.
Galloway was also scathing about the austerity programme imposed by Britain’s C o n s e r v a t i v e - L i b e r a l Democrat coalition government.
But his victory will cause most damage to the opposition Labour party, which ejected him in 2003 for his vocal condemnation of Britain’s involvement in the war in Iraq, and which had held the Bradford West seat for decades.
He went on to found the Respect party and in 2005 was elected to the east London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, although he lost this in a general election in 2010.
Galloway was criticised for targeting Muslim voters during his 2005 campaign, but he denied this was how he won in Bradford, where about 20 percent of the population is South Asian, according to the 2001 census.
“We appealed to people of conscience of all faiths, we appealed to people who opposed the war. It was the people of Bradford who voted me in,” he said.
Labour leader Ed Miliband admitted that Galloway’s win was “incredibly disappointing” for his party.
“Clearly there were local factors, but I also say only four out of 10 people voted for the three mainstream political parties. We’ve got to understand the reasons why that happened in Bradford,” he said.
Galloway’s strident rhetoric, his campaigning and his appearance on reality TV have made him one of the most well-known and controversial figures in British politics.
He vehemently opposed UN sanctions on Iraq following the First Gulf War and in 1994 he visited Baghdad where he was filmed telling Saddam Hussein: “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength and your indefatigability.” Galloway’s fame went global in 2005 when he appeared before the US Senate to defend himself over claims he received illicit payments from the United Nations Oil for Food Programme.
He used the platform to turn the tables on his accusers, saying: “I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as (then US defence secretary) Donald Rumsfeld met him.
“The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns.”