The shock outcome of the Bradford West by-election ̶ the dramatic loss of a relatively safe Labour seat to George Galloway for the Respect party ̶ generated considerable media discussion in the immediate aftermath of the result. A variety of competing explanations were offered for Galloway’s victory, ranging from Respect’s use of social media to mobilise younger voters through to unsubstantiated accusations of electoral fraud. The debate about Respect’s remarkable breakthrough in Bradford continued in May 2012 after the party won five seats in the local elections, denying Labour majority control of Bradford City Council.
This report provides a detailed research-based analysis of the events surrouding ‘the Bradford earthquake’. It identifies the factors which led to one of the most surprising by-election results in living memory. It also assesses the wider significance of the by-election, both in terms of how it stands alongside other ‘shock’ by-elections in British political history, and the lessons which can be identified for the other political parties about election campaigning and political engagement in contemporary Britain.
The report was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) Ltd and written by Lewis Baston, a Senior Research Fellow at Democratic Audit. It draws on interviews with key figures in the 2012 Bradford elections, statistical analysis of the election results and fieldwork visits undertaken by the author in July and August 2012.
A pre-publication feature on the report, including an interview with the author, Lewis Baston, was broadcast on The Sunday Politics(Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) on BBC Two, Sunday 27 January (48:38 onwards).
Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Report raps Labour over Bradford West by-election selection process, Monday 28 January
The Independent: More by-election shocks ‘likely’ as party membership declines, Monday 28 January
BBC News: George Galloway Bradford West victory a ‘cry for help’ from voters, Monday 28 January