Like most people, including those usually well-informed Westminster pundits, I was pretty surprised by the scale of George Galloway’s victory in the Bradford West by-election.
The usual suspects are already braying for Ed Miliband’s head on a plate. His leadership must be weak, they crow, for the party to lose a safe seat in this week of all weeks.
This narrative is being stirred up by right-wing spinners. In a week that has seen George Osborne’s ‘Robin Hood in reverse’ budget laying the burden of economic difficulties on the poor, the vulnerable and the elderly, another Tory cash-for-influence scandal and a fuel crisis stirred up by out of touch ministers; it’s easy to see why they’d want to shift some media pressure onto Labour.
But as far as I can see, these questions about Ed’s leadership are purely opportunistic.
This is no win for Cameron. Indeed, the Conservative vote collapsed – and Bradford West was one of their target seats at the last general election!
There is, however, a salient point to be drawn from this result.
People in the inner-cities are really feeling the impact of this government’s vicious austerity programme, and Galloway’s victory shows that a staunch anti-austerity campaign does not disconnect us with voters, as some would have us believe.
The nuances and triangulations so popular in Westminster make politicians appear out of touch. People in Bradford wanted to discuss more substantial issues. In other words, it was bread and butter issues, rather than the politics of pasties, that resonated on the doorsteps and ultimately won the day.
It is important that the Labour Party learn from this for the future.