Galloway is back: Shock by-election win stuns Labour

George Galloway's colourful political career took another unexpected turn last night when he won a stunning victory at the Bradford West by-election.

Standing for the Respect party, which he formed after being expelled from Labour, Mr Galloway won 18,341 votes, a 56% share and over 10,000 votes more than the Labour candidate.

Labour "must stop imagining that working people and poor people have no option but to support them if they hate the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition partners," he said after winning the contest.

"They have to stop supporting illegal, bloody, costly foreign wars because one of the reasons why they were so decisively defeated this evening is that the public don't believe that they have atoned for their role in the invasion and occupation of other people's countries and the drowning of those countries in blood."

The scale of the victory over Labour in what should be a safe seat for the opposition party is humiliating for Ed Miliband, who has enjoyed a successful couple of weeks in the face of several government gaffes.

But many analysts believe the result was primarily due to young voters turning out to support Mr Galloway, who offered a radical alternative to the mainstream agenda of the three main parties.

Others credited the area's large Muslim community, who warmed to Mr Galloway's long track record opposing military interventions in the Middle East.

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman said: "There had been active campaigning over a long period of time, but something did go very badly wrong and our connections, roots and engagement with the local community and people up and down that constituency obviously were not deep enough, not strong enough.

"But the idea we were simply neglectful and absent is not the case, it's actually more complicated than that."

The Labour candidate left the counting hall in the middle of the night without making a speech.

Bradford East Liberal Democrat MP David Ward said: "This was the Asian community within Bradford, really, who are in some ways punishing the Labour Party for abusing them and using them in the past."

The victory will see Mr Galloway return to the House of Commons for the third time, capping a truly remarkable and colourful political career.

He originally represented the Glasgow Kelvin seat, then returned to Westminster after a bitter fight for the seat of Bethnal Green and Bow.

Labour won 8,201 votes, the Conservatives won 2,746 votes and the Liberal Democrats came fourth with 1,505.