Could the drama of Bradford West be rerun in Manchester Central?
Labour chooses its candidate next Monday to replace Tony Lloyd who is set to resign to stand for Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester.
Manchester Central has some of the characteristics of the Yorkshire seat that saw George Galloway’s shock victory for Respect at the end of last month.
Nearly 30% of the electorate is non-white and many feel this would be an appropriate constituency for Labour to choose an ethnic minority candidate. It is long overdue for Manchester to end its white male monopoly representation at Westminster.
If that is to happen then Patrick Vernon is the man. He is Chief Executive of the Afiya Trust, one of the leading race equality health charities in the country.
However he faces an uphill task. He is a Londoner facing three experienced Manchester politicians.
Party bosses are hoping that Lucy Powell will be chosen. She is a close aide of Labour leader Ed Miliband but failed to dislodge the Liberal Democrats from the neighbouring Withington seat two years ago.
The other candidates are Manchester councillors Mike Amesbury and Rosa Battle.
If Lucy Powell is chosen, will she face a similar challenge from Respect that Labour failed to withstand in Bradford?
Probably not as Manchesteris a city well run by Labour without a hole in the ground where a shopping complex was meant to be, as was the case in Bradford.
But there will be nervousness about the timing of the contest after Galloway’s victory and because by elections that are caused by party manoeuvrings, rather than the death of an MP, often annoy voters and lead them to punish the party that held the seat.
FROM PRISON TO TOWN HALL?
The government hoped that a different type of person would stand to be elected mayors instead of the usual political suspects.
Well they have certainly got what they wished for in Salford. Paul Massey hasn’t got a political record, but he certainly has a criminal one. In 1999 he was jailed for 14 years for stabbing a man in the groin. Mr Massey will give a whole new meaning to the description “independent candidate” when he stands against the likely winner, ex-Labour MP Ian Stewart, in the poll next month.
There are ten candidates in Salford but a full dozen in Liverpool where the race will be on to stop the Joe Anderson political bandwagon.
One blow for the current council leader will be that he will not appear at the top of the voting paper.
Normally alphabetical order prevails but there appear to be different rules for this new post. Election officials carried out a ballot which resulted in Joe being placed second behind the National Front representative.
There are a number of quality candidates including successful businessman Tony Caldeira for the Tories, experienced Richard Kemp for the Lib Dems and Tony Mulhearn who has stuck to his socialist principles all his life.
But the independent candidate Liam Fogarty should be given serious consideration. Liam was my producer at the BBC and has been campaigning for an elected mayor forLiverpool when most of the other candidates were still pouring scorn on the idea.
Nominations are now closed for the two mayoral polls and the local elections across Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside. The parties are all likely to be affected by three extraordinary weeks in politics.
GALLOWAY: THE POLITICAL TROUBADOUR
By all means the major political parties should beat themselves up over the result in Bradford West. They need to ask themselves how a political maverick and a powerful social media campaign among the Asian community of that city, left them floundering.
However it is likely to be one of those by election soufflés. We have seen a few of them in the North West.
Shirley Williams was elected at the height of the surge of the Social Democrats in 1981 as MP for Crosby, but dismissed by the fickle electorate two years later. The SDP had a similar experience ten years later when Mike Carr won Ribble Valley on the back of poll tax anger. He lasted a year.
Chris Davies managed just two years as Lib Dem MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth from 1995-97 following a by-election.
By-elections, like the European Parliament elections are classic opportunities for otherwise serious voters to let their hair down and give the major parties a kicking knowing that the government of the country is not at stake.
Bradford West was a bit different because of the complex world of Asian politics which mixes uneasily with the traditional politics of Westminster.
We saw that in the 2010 General Election in Oldham East and Saddleworth where old Labour party apparatchiks answer to Muslim voters drifting to the Lib Dems was to “get the white vote out”.
But there was was no sign of the dodgy leaflets in Bradford that did for Phil Woolas in Oldham.
One suspects that in Bradford a fairly complacent Labour machine felt they just had to put up a well known member of the Muslim community and job done. But Galloway has been riding political bandwagons since 1987 when he defeated the leader of the Social Democrats, Roy Jenkins, in Glasgow Hillhead.
After saluting Saddam Hussein and getting expelled from the Labour Party, Galloway was at it again defeating an excellent MP, Oona King in Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005.
People made the mistake of thinking that pretending to be a cat slurping milk on Big Brother would do for him. But the Muslim community of Bradford West appears to have turned a blind eye to such decadence.
Certainly the younger members of that community have anyway, because there is evidence that a frantic surge of tweeting in the final days caught the main parties napping. The doorstep encounter is no match for the iPhone amongst the young. That’s something all parties will now have taken note of.
So where have all these events left the parties in our patch with a three weeks to go to the local and mayoral polls?
Despite Bradford, Labour is set to do well. We are now deep into mid term and that is usually a bad time for the party in power. Nowadays the government is both the Tories and Lib Dems, so it’s a win win for Labour. Also Labour did really badly in this round of elections in 2008 and can regain lost seats relatively easily.
For the Tories we only have to put together a few bizarre phrases to identify their short term problems.
Just think of a granny munching on an ambient temperature pasty while trying to fill a jerry can and you have identified that the Conservatives have temporarily lost the plot. They are heading for the mid term hammering that they avoided last year. But petrol and pasties will be forgotten if the underlying economic woes can be sorted out in the next couple of years.
The Lib Dems are perhaps staring down the barrel of a pistol rather than a double barrelled shotgun this year, but it stlll looks pretty dire for them. Local elections used to be great for their party. They were grateful recipients of the votes of people fed up with the government. But they are the government now and will only be saved in some places by the individual work put in by councillors in particular wards.