BRADFORD Council leader Ian Greenwood lost his seat last night to George Galloway’s Respect Party as the so-called Bradford Spring heralded by Mr Galloway’s election to parliament in the city continued.
Bradford again showcased its value as a destination for hot political drama after the Respect Party - virtually unknown in the city at the start of the year - took five seats including that of the Labour leader.
Mr Greenwood lost his seat to Respect’s Alyas Karmani by just 17 votes after a night of intense drama at the Richard Dunn Sports Centre.
The city also voted against having an elected mayor, by a slim percentage margin of 55-45.
The result of the election for Mr Greenwood’s seat of Little Horton, which he has held for more than 17 years, was subjected to four recounts and was the last to be declared by some margin.
The result took on an extra dramatic significance in that Labour just needed one more seat to gain overall control of the council for the first time in more than 10 years.
The council has been repeatedly hung, with Labour either running a minority administration or the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats ruling in coalition.
Aside from the drama in Little Horton the night had proved to be a successful one for Labour, having picked up seats from the Tories in Keighley East and Keighley West, and from the Lib Dems in Clayton and Fairweather Green.
Labour now hold 45 seats, one short of the 46 required for an overall majority. The Tories have 24 and the Lib Dems have eight.
However much of the focus will be directed at Respect who now hold five seats on the council, having picked up gains from the Liberal Democrats in Bradford Moor, the Tories in Heaton and Labour in the Little Horton, Manningham and City wards.
Following the result Mr Galloway told the Yorkshire Post that he now expected Bradford’s Labour party to be put into “special measures” by the party’s main headquarters after both its leader and deputy leader suffered humiliating electoral defeats.
Mr Galloway beat Imran Hussain, the council’s former deputy leader in the Bradford West byelection last month and now his party has deposed the leader.
“Respect has emerged as a viable alternative to the grail of Labour,” he said.
“We have taken seats from all three of the major parties.”
He added that where Respect go next in Bradford would be very much informed by how the referendum on whether the city will have an elected mayor.
He pledged that future council elections, by-elections and European elections would be contested by Respect.
Despite the success for Respect, Mr Greenwood said he still expected Labour to control the council in a minority administration.
“We made gains tonight and the real losers are the other parties,” he said.
“I do not see any combination of numbers given the balance of power that would mean anything other than a Labour leader for Bradford.”
Mr Greenwood also poured scorn on the notion that Respect had gained profound influence on the city.
“Mr Galloway has made a lot of promises, particularly to young people, and there is some concern that he can deliver.
“I am not sure that bodes well for the future.”
Mr Greenwood, a Labour party member for decades, said that his loss was naturally of personal sadness to him.
“I am sad to lose, I have been a member of the party for years and know that with elections some you win and some you lose.
“It was clearly a dramatic night for people in the room. I never once took the seat for granted.”
He added that his party would learn the lessons that the latest election results have given them.
The overall leadership of the council is now likely to be determined at a Labour group meeting on Monday night. The party had run the council prior to the election with one less seat and will very likely rely on the support of independents to get their policies through.
Another upset for the evening came in the Craven ward where former Tory party candidate Adrian Naylor won the seat despite being deselected by his party.
Mr Naylor stood as an independent and took the seat with a majority of more than 600, with Conservative Andrew Rowley in second place.