George Galloway and the Respect Party were celebrating an astounding victory this morning after taking the seat of Bradford West in a by-election last night, beating Labour by over 10,000 votes.
Supporters mobbed the anti-war campaigner as he left the sports hall in West Bradford where results were announced, causing him to initially retreat back inside. Chants of “Respect” and “we love you George” greeted him as he reappeared.
In what he described on stage as "the most sensational result in British by-election history bar none" Mr Galloway received 55.89 per cent of the vote with 18,341, compared to Labour’s Imran Hussain, who won 8,201 votes – a 24.99 per cent share. Conservatives secured just 8.37 per cent, with 2,746 votes.
Labour were initial favourites in the contest, which was sparked by the health problems and subsequent resignation of former Labour MP Marsha Singh, but by yesterday many bookmakers were closing stopping bets due to a late flurry of support for Mr Galloway.
A Labour source told the Press Association that Mr Galloway’s victory over his former party was down to such a “late surge” and that prior to this the contest had been “neck and neck”.
According to Ladbrokes, Mr Galloway's victory has sparked the biggest ever bookies' by-election payout in history, with some punters cashing in bets of £100,000 after beating odds of 33/1.
Voter turnout was higher than expected for such a by-election, with just over 50 per cent of the electorate making their way to polling stations.
In similar scenes to 2005’s general election, when he dramatically swiped the east London seat of Bethnal Green and Bow from Labour, Galloway targeted votes from the large Asian community in Bradford West. However, he was also successful in areas without large Asian populations.
Unlike in 2005, when Galloway said he only intended to serve one term, he said he hopes to be MP for Bradford for the long term.
West Bradford has been a Labour stronghold since 1983, and the party secured an increased majority of 5,763 in the seat in 2010, making this mid-term reverse the first for an Opposition since May 2000 when the Liberal Democrats took Romsey from the Tories.
After a week in which the Tories have come under fire for their handling of ‘pasty tax’ and fuel panics, Galloway’s win is likely to shift some attention back to Mr Miliband’s party.
Mr Galloway told Sky News: "It is a very comprehensive defeat for New Labour, it is a pathetic performance by the Government parties.
"The big three political parties have had a very salutary, unkind lesson this evening and I hope that they all take note.
"The people of Bradford have spoken this evening for people in inner cities everywhere in the United Kingdom."
Labour MP Toby Perkins called the result "desperately disappointing" and attributed part of Mr Galloway's win to his celebrity status - he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006. Mr Perkins did concede, however, that his party had lessons to learn from the way in which Mr Galloway recaptured the mood of the electorate, especially youths in the area.
He told the Press Association: "I think his celebrity was a very significant factor. There was a great deal of people, who in this city, voted for the Labour Party 18 months ago. A tiny number at that time were voting for Respect. Now since then, we have seen the Labour Party get more popular in the national polls, yet in the space of three weeks George Galloway was clearly able to capture the mood, particularly of the younger voters.
""We need to learn from that. It's a desperately disappointing result for us. Bradford is an important city for the party and it has come as a big shock the way that things have changed over the past few weeks."
Bradford West by-election full results
George Galloway (Respect) 18,341 (55.89%, +52.83%)
Imran Hussain (Lab) 8,201 (24.99%, -20.36%)
Jackie Whiteley (C) 2,746 (8.37%, -22.78%)
Jeanette Sunderland (LD) 1,505 (4.59%, -7.08%)
Sonja McNally (UKIP) 1,085 (3.31%, +1.31%)
Dawud Islam (Green) 481 (1.47%, -0.85%)
Neil Craig (D Nats) 344 (1.05%)
Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 111 (0.34%)