Ed Miliband today vowed that the Labour Party would ‘learn lessons’ from its shock defeat to Respect in the Bradford West by-election, while shadow chancellor Ed Balls defended his leader against criticisms in the wake of the result.
Respect’s George Galloway stole the seat from Labour last night with a majority of over 10,000 in a by-election called after the resignation of former Labour MP Marsha Singh due to ill health.
While Mr Galloway described the result as “a very comprehensive defeat for New Labour”, Mr Miliband was keen today to look into what caused his party to perform so poorly.
He said: “It was an incredibly disappointing result for Labour in Bradford West and I am determined that we learn lessons of what happened.
"I'm going to lead that. I'm going to be going back to the constituency in the coming weeks to talk to people there about why this result happened.
"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.
"Above all it reinforces for me something that I've emphasised throughout my leadership which is that 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."
Conservative chairman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was quick to point out the failings of Mr Miliband’s party, attacking its failing to capitalize on the Coalition’s recent difficulties over fuel tanker strikes, warm food tax and the ‘dinner donors’ scandal, despite her own party suffering a larger swing than Labour.
Baroness Warsi said: "If Labour can't win one of their safe seats in these tough economic times and in a tough week for the Government, how can they win anywhere?
"Not in half a century has an Opposition come back from such an appalling result to win a majority at the next general election.
"This tells you everything you need to know about Ed Miliband's weak leadership."
However, shadow chancellor Ed Balls appeared on BBC Radio Leeds this morning to defend his leader and party, claiming Mr Miliband was “winning back our heartland voters”.
One caller to the show Mr Balls appeared on accused Labour of fielding an Asian candidate to appeal to Asian voters, claiming: “People see through that now.
“You have to put good candidates up if you want to get votes.
"You can't just rely on putting a Pakistani candidate up, thinking you're going to get all the votes."
But Mr Balls insisted Labour candidate Imran Hussain was selected through a proper selection process, adding: "The reality is he lost, George Galloway won and we are a democracy and in politics the voters choose."
As he did in east London in the 2005 general election to win the seat of Bethnal Green and Bow, Mr Galloway targeted the large community of Asian voters in Bradford, but speaking denied exploiting ethnic tensions on an interview with Sky News' Boulton & Co programme.
He said: "There were no Asian voters in the election yesterday. There were British voters who have suntans like you (Adam Boulton) and I aspire to every summer. That's all.
"Every person in Britain who has a right to vote is the equal of the other. We shouldn't get into any divisiveness along these lines."
Mr Galloway, known for his fervent anti-war views in the past, also called for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, claiming that the deaths of six soldiers earlier this month were "pointless".
He said: "Most people agree with me, those six soldiers, five of them aged under 21, who came back stiff and cold in boxes to Yorkshire... they died in vain. Their deaths were, I'm sorry to say, pointless.
"The war will end on the same terms it could have last week or last year or any year in the last 10 years.
"We don't have the blood to spare and we certainly don't have the treasure to spare in Britain to be going around the world occupying other people's countries and having our young men coming home in boxes."