The Astonishing Comeback of Britain's George Galloway


George Galloway (BBC video)

A controversial British politician known as a harsh critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has made a surprising comeback. George Galloway swept aside mainstream parties in a special election Thursday night.

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Never much given to understatement, Galloway accepted his victory with his usual flourish.

"This, the most sensational result in British by-election history, bar none, represents the Bradford Spring. This is an uprising amongst thousands of people," he said.

Those words may well resonate with many in the northern English city of Bradford, home to a sizeable Muslim population. Galloway certainly knows how to attract an audience.

It happened when he appeared before the U.S. Senate in 2005. Galloway went there to defend himself against claims he received illicit payments from the United Nations Oil for Food program in Iraq. But he wasted no time going on the attack against the senators questioning him.

"I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies," he said in his testimony.

By that time, Galloway had already been expelled from the Labor party for inciting British soldiers to defy orders in Iraq. Galloway's reputation was already in trouble for going to Baghdad to praise Saddam Hussein in footage shot in 1994.

Away from politics, Galloway still managed to stay in the spotlight, appearing on the reality TV series "Big Brother," dressed as a cat in a leotard.

So, Galloway certainly had celebrity. But up until Thursday night, he was a politician without a constituency to call his own.

Now his former colleagues in the Labor party are trying to figure out just how they lost what was considered a safe seat; they even chose a Muslim candidate. Furqan Naeem, chairman of the students' union council at Bradford University and the student representative on Labour's national executive, said Galloway went around visiting the mosques in Bradford.

"He visited the Muslim communities and he even sent a letter out to all the Muslim families in the area saying that I don't drink and you know I'm a better Muslim than the other candidate, which I think was a bit poor, to be honest."

Galloway said today that his victory wasn't due to courting of the Muslim vote, but to the mainstream parties' failure to improve the lives of people who live in Bradford.

But last night, he was sounding a more familiar note, casting his win as an anti-war declaration.

"One of the reasons why they were so decisively defeated this evening was because the public do not believe that they have atoned for their role in the invasion and occupation of other people's countries," he said.

Whatever the reason, George Galloway is now set to return to the theater of parliament.

Although some may dispute whether his win was history-making there is one group likely to agree with him. Galloway beat long odds, meaning British bookies are making the biggest by-election payout ever.