George Galloway and Respect scored one of the most spectacular election victories ever last Thursday night. They won 56% of the vote and gained a majority of 10,000.
The political establishment has been quick to try to isolate the result as a Muslim anti-war vote, even though it is clear that Respect took votes from all communities and all parties, and the ConDem austerity drive was a bigger factor than the British government's wars of the last 10 years.
It is nonetheless true that Respect was able to mobilise young Muslims and could capitalise on the clear public hostility to the war in Afghanistan in a way that the mainstream parties could not - since they all support it.
It was a particular disaster for Labour, hoping to capitalise on a very bad week for the government. But they had taken a working class community for granted once to often. While Miliband tried to bolster his man-of-the-people image by munching pasties in London, a political earthquake was happening in Bradford.
Respect now has its sights set on Bradford Council and who would bet against them?
But the question is where is all this is leading. A huge opportunity has been opened up but there is no telling where it will end up.
It would be naive in the extreme to assume (as some are already) that this result can be easily replicated by any left-wing grouping that wants to stand anywhere. Respect has been in the doldrums for some time but at its height it was the most electorally successful left of Labour force since the days when the CP had MPs. It did this through putting down real roots in the communities where it was strongest.
But we have been here before. Respect was brought to the brink of extinction by its failure to build from a small number of localities and by its failure to develop as a democratic party of the left run by its rank and file, and with a credible political programme. George often seemed more concerned with his own interests than those of the people he had been elected to represent.
Thursday's result opens up another opportunity to start to build the broad left-wing alternative to New Labour that is desperately needed.
It remains to be seen whether this opportunity will be seized or yet again squandered.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone