IT won’t happen in Huddersfield.
That was the message from a top councillor this morning following George Galloway’s stunning by-election victory in Bradford West last night.
The Respect leader won an extraordinary majority of 10,000 in the former safe Labour seat.
Mr Galloway took 18,341 votes – 56% – in yesterday’s by-election.
Labour’s Imran Hussain came a distant second, winning just 8,201 votes.
Kirklees Council leader Clr Mehboob Khan – who canvassed in Bradford West yesterday – said Mr Galloway’s “celebrity status” was the key factor.
“When I spoke to residents in Bradford West, the issue was that the George Galloway bandwagon convinced voters he was much more experienced,” said the Greenhead Labour man.
“I didn’t sense a backlash against Labour, it was just that people felt they had another choice that they didn’t previously have.
“Celebrity status greatly enhanced George Galloway’s campaign.”
Clr Khan believes his party should have been more aggressive towards the Respect leader.
“His campaign was targeted at the Muslim vote and he had a strong appeal because of his past record on foreign policy,” he said.
“The Labour Party should have reminded people of George Galloway’s performance on Celebrity Big Brother, dressed in a leotard and meowing like a cat.
“The Labour campaign should have directly challenged Mr Galloway in his claims to be able, as a single voice in Parliament, to have more influence for Bradford.
“Clearly, we failed to do that and the result was that George Galloway’s personal appeal, his cult following, followed through at the ballot box.
“The result is a one-off and it could only be pulled off by a person with George Galloway’s high public profile.”
Clr Khan believes his party needs a clearer message – but he does not blame Labour leader Ed Miliband for yesterday’s defeat.
“Our alternative options need to be shared with voters so they are aware that Labour has a plan on the economy and public services,” he said.
“This was certainly not a vote of no-confidence in Ed Miliband.”
Clr Khan believes his party will do well in May’s Kirklees elections, despite last night’s loss.
“In Huddersfield we have candidates and councillors who are well-connected to the local communities and provide a strong voice for local residents,” he said.
“The May 3 elections will be about local issues like unemployment and the local environment. The Labour Party has a very good record in Huddersfield.”
Yesterday’s by-election in Bradford West took place after Labour MP Marsha Singh stood down on health grounds. He had a majority of 5,763 at the last general election in 2010.
George Galloway, Respect: 18,341, 55.8% (up 52.8% on 2010)
Imran Hussain, Labour: 8,201, 25% (down 20.4% on 2010)
Jackie Whiteley, Conservative: 2,746, 8.4% (down 22.8% on 2010)
Jeanette Sunderland, Lib Dem: 1,505, 4.6% (down 7.1% on 2010)
Sonja McNally, UKIP: 1,085, 3.3% (up 1.3% on 2010)
Dawud Islam, Green: 481, 1.5% (down 0.9% on 2010)
Neil Craig, Democratic Nationalists: 344, 1.%
Howling Laud Hope, Loony: 111, 0.3%
Turnout: 32,814, 50% (down 15% on 2010).