While the pundits have pored over George Galloway’s by-election victory in Bradford West, little attention has been given to his – or his party’s – prospects of repeating the feat in 2015. Because, if the proposed boundary changes are implemented in the intervening years, that chance will be not unadjacent to zero, as a check on those changes makes all too clear.
Moreover, the chances of Labour taking the constituency back will be seriously hampered by the mix of voters being brought in, especially as the two wards being taken out of Bradford West, City and Manningham, are each represented by three Labour councillors. Both have significant Asian populations, and would also have provided the bedrock for Galloway’s victory.
So what comes in in their place? Most intriguingly, Shipley ward – which from memory was called Shipley West in the past – last returned three Green Party councillors. But historically it returned three Tories, while Shipley East, now called Windhill and Wrose, was solidly Labour (last time round, it was two Labour and one Lib Dem representatives).
The Tories could expect to benefit most at the next General Election from adding Shipley to Bradford West, especially as the Bingley Rural ward – which includes relatively upmarket settlements like Cullingworth and Wilsden – will also be brought into the constituency. Bingley Rural is solidly Conservative. And then there is the former mill town of Queensbury.
We used to joke about Queensbury being “above the snow line”. The former home of Black Dyke Mills – now long defunct – is now mainly residential, with some farming communities in outlying villages. It last returned two Independent councillors and one Conservative, and as with the other two wards being brought into Bradford West, would be expected to benefit the Tories most in 2015.
But, the objection may come, the Tory vote collapsed even more spectacularly than the Labour one on Thursday. This is true. But much of that support may have been abstention after a disastrous PR week for the Coalition – the Lib Dems also lost ground – with some habitual Tory voters switching to back Galloway as the best means of embarrassing Labour.
If it looked like the Tories had a chance – and they ran a respectable second all the way from 1974 to 2010 – those voters, in wards like Thornton and Allerton which returned three Tory councillors last time, would desert Respect and switch back. So enjoy your win, George Galloway. There won’t be another for you in Bradford.
[Trivia note: the Tories’ highest number of votes between October 1974 and 2010 was achieved in 1987 by a bloke called Iain Duncan Smith]