Respect members in Birmingham have started selecting candidates for the May council elections. In each ward one council seat out of three is up for re-election.
Respect already has two councillors in Birmingham – Salma Yaqoob in Sparkbrook and Abdul Aziz in Aston ward. Abdul Aziz recently joined Respect.
In Birmingham the immediate beneficiaries of the anti-war mood were the Liberal Democrats. In the inner city areas they took the anti-war vote. Some people joined the Lib Dems after leaving the Labour Party in disgust.
A number of the recent recruits to Respect are people who became disillusioned with the Lib Dems.
The Lib Dems are running the council in coalition with the Tories and are showing their true colours. Ten schools in the city are being turned into city academies and thousands of council houses are being demolished.
Adbul Aziz told Socialist Worker that he joined the Labour Party when he was 16.
He said that he left because “Labour changed from thinking about the working people and local community. Their involvement in Iraq was the final straw.”
He said that Respect has the “kind of policies that Britain needs.
“Locally you look at the problems in the NHS, unemployment and bad housing. They’re prevalent in areas where Labour has represented people for 20 years, and it’s a mess.”
Mohammed Suleman was selected to stand for Respect in Springfield ward. Last year in this ward Respect came third with 1,600 votes.
Suleman spent 18 years in the Labour Party but was expelled and campaigned for Respect in the 2005 general election.
He told Socialist Worker, “Labour claimed to be a democratic party but really everything was decided from the central office. At election time they would force a candidate on us. They treated us like sheep.
“When my father came here and worked in a factory he supported Labour. The values they used to have were his values. This Labour government is a big disappointment.”
Asked about the future for Respect, he said, “We have good support but it depends on how well we can take these policies to the people.
“Once we do have power somewhere are we going to change the lives of people?”
Respect are standing for the first time in Bordesley Green ward. Farooq Hussain – also a longstanding member of the Labour Party who left over the Iraq war – has been selected to stand for Respect.
In Lozells and East Handsworth, Raghib Ahsan, a former Labour councillor who was expelled from the Labour Party, has been re-selected as Respect candidate. Last year he came third with 1,300 votes.
Mohammed Ishtiaq has been selected for the Sparkbrook ward where Respect will be fighting for a second councillor.
Respect is also currently selecting candidates for the Kings Heath and Nechells wards. The elections will be hard fought but Respect hopes to add to its list of councillors in the city.