Questions for Labour after defeat
Ed Miliband is facing renewed questions over his leadership after Labour crashed to a calamitous defeat in the Bradford West by-election.
In one of the biggest by-election shocks of modern times, Respect's George Galloway overturned a 5,000 majority to storm home with a 10,000 vote lead in a seat held by Labour since 1974.
The result - the first loss suffered by an opposition party in a mid-term poll since 2000 - stunned the Labour leadership which was left groping for explanations for what had gone wrong. Mr Miliband immediately promised to return to the constituency over the coming weeks to learn the lessons of an "incredibly disappointing result" in a seat the party had been expected to hold comfortably.
"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. "We need to be engaged and rooted in every community of this country. We need to show to people that our politics, that Labour politics, can make a difference to people's lives."
A jubilant Mr Galloway - who campaigned on an anti-war ticket in a constituency with a large Muslim community - vowed to capitalise on his triumph, putting up Respect candidates throughout Bradford and other cities in the region in the forthcoming local elections in May.
In his victory speech, the maverick former Labour MP - who was expelled from the party in 2003 for his outspoken criticism of the Iraq War - drew a direct comparison with the uprisings in the Arab world.
"This, the most sensational result in British by-election history bar none, represents the Bradford spring," he declared, before being carried out shoulder-high by cheering supporters.
In contrast, his defeated Labour rival, deputy council leader Imran Hussain, walked out without giving the customary speech or commenting to reporters. Later, in a round of broadcast interviews, Mr Galloway taunted his defeated rivals, claiming that Respect now represented "real Labour".
"There is a tidal wave waiting to break all over the country, not just in Bradford," he said. "There are very large numbers of people disenchanted and alienated from the political process and from all three major parties. If a backside could have three cheeks, then British politics is that three-cheeked backside."
Mr Galloway polled 18,341 votes to 8,201 for Mr Hussain - a 36.59% swing from Labour since the general election. The Conservatives, with 2,746 votes, also saw their support slump while the Liberal Democrats in fourth place lost their deposit.