All bets as they say would be off.
I am on the record elsewhere as saying I think the Lib Dems will end up at around 3/1 to make the impossible possible and take one of Labour’s safest seats away from them. It would be one of the most sensational by-election swing in modern political history but as it stands they’ll probably fall short. Yet if George Galloway decides he wants to muddy the waters…
In a piece entitled George Galloway may enter race to become Gorton MP in the Guardian over the weekend, a ‘source close to George Galloway’ stated that he was considering standing but had actually been on the campaign trail for three weeks. He believes according to the source that the constituency fits in perfectly with his political beliefs and that, ‘You’re looking at the perfect demographics – big Asian working class community, relatively poor. I think he thinks he can represent their feelings and aspirations.’
Of course should he jump into the race suddenly people will start to paw over just what happened when he swept to a stunning Bradword West by-election win in 2012. He used the turmoil within the local Labour party to his advantage and lets us just look at the local Labour party in Manchester Gorton. Are they in turmoil? Well I think the answer to that would be yes, yes they are.
Now demographically the seat is slightly different to Bradford West but they do share some similarities due to the significant Asian population. The difference seems to be there doesn’t seem (from the outside looking in anyway) the tension that was apparent in Bradford West. This would make it harder for Galloway to use the same tactics as successfully should he decide to run at Manchester Gorton.
What would definitely happen should he throw his hat into the ring is all hell would break loose. The by-election would be played on a different playing field. In all likelihood Labour and Galloway would go at each other and take their eye off the ball. The Lib Dems are already up and running in the seat and their first leaflet shows Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn together in front of 10 Downing Street trying to show that they are arm in arm on Brexit. This is a clear attempt to follow the Richmond Park strategy of this by-election primarily over the consequences of leaving the EU. It worked last year but could it work again in a seat that whilst voting Remain, didn’t do so in the numbers that Richmond Park did?
This is the big question that people are unsure of. Of course one key difference is that in Manchester Gorton the incumbent was a Labour MP. An extremely popular one. Yet in the national polls Labour as a party continue to at best stagnate and in general drop a point or two as Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership continues to stumble along. This would be the first Labour/Lib Dem battle since the end of the coalition and the EU Referendum. It is a free hit for the Lib Dems. They have nothing to lose and a good showing (anything 30%+) would be scary for Labour knowing that they are suddenly in danger of losing many of their Lib Dem gains from 2015.
When it was clear we’d have a by-election I thought that Labour would win but with a severely reduced majority. This makes sense considering in 2005 and 2010 the Lib Dems had very good showings but like it did near enough everywhere, their vote collapsed in 2015. Labour are in the weeds and the Lib Dems suddenly are not as toxic as they once were. Still winning Manchester Gorton should be a step too far unless Labour are totally done.
Yet if George Galloway does get involved then the current 7/1 you can get around on the Lib Dems seems like an incredible price. For the punters it is very much a speculative bet hoping that Galloway makes it official and the price will drop dramatically. You could probably just cash-out for a quick profit. For those looks beyond the odds though, if Galloway is in this then expect the Lib Dem machine to go from being interested to going into Richmond Park to find that kitchen sink they threw at winning that seat and bundling it in the back of a van to go up the M6 and throw it at Manchester Gorton.
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