The most sensational result in British by-election history?

Nik Darlington 10.22am

George Galloway has completed an astonishing return to Parliament with a runaway win in the Bradford West by-election.

With typical understatement, Mr Galloway described it as a “Bradford Spring” and “the most sensational victory in British political history”. Here he is, in his inimitable - and it would be churlish not to say captivating - style.

Comparing this win with the Arab Spring - a passionate mass movement that swept the breadth of an entire continent and has claimed thousands of lives in the name of giving the unvoiced a voice - is the type of unbounded arrogance few can rival, and a hallmark of Mr Galloway’s political career.

Yet in pushing Labour into second place by ten thousand votes, in a seat that Ed Miliband and his party fully expected to win, Mr Galloway has provided a bitter bookend to a week in which the Labour leader’s star had begun to shine so brightly.

It is a frightful result for the Tories too, considering how well the party performed here in 2010 (though we should be thankful the rumours of falling behind Ukip did not materialise). And the Lib Dems lost their deposit, though these days that is hardly surprising.

But David Cameron et al will surely be smiling this morning after a torrid ten days. This was never a seat the party truly expected to win, and Mr Galloway’s stunning triumph poses more questions for his former colleagues in the Labour party than the Tories upon which he wished nothing but “perdition”.

All things considered, this is potentially a great moment for Bradford West. Few fates are more dispiriting than being one of those desperately safe urban Labour seats, taken for granted by the party’s machine. The constituencies that vote in Labour candidates with a resigned shrug year after year after year, candidates who pledge social justice, urban renewal, progressive politics and fair chances, yet deliver little.

If Mr Galloway can change the habit of a lifetime and put Bradford West before his own vanity, he could be precisely what the people there need. Someone to stand up for them as a community, not a fiefdom. Someone to shout stirringly on their behalf, instead of condemning them to suffer under a failed party line.

If Mr Galloway can manage to do this, and few have the charisma to manage it better, then he deserves our (very much qualified) support.

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