Respect is providing a home for many former Labour Party members who are disgusted with the government’s policies of war and privatisation.
Respect candidates and activists who are mobilising to make the biggest possible breakthrough in elections across Britain on Thursday 3 May.
A new and vibrant Respect group in Sunderland is standing two candidates. One of them is former Labour councillor Keith Adshead, who has recently joined Respect.
Keith Adshead told Socialist Worker, “I left the Labour Party in December 2005 when I was still a councillor. Three other members of the party in my family left at the same time.
“We all worked in public services and thought we were safe with Labour, but instead it has privatised services. It has become distant from the communities. It has focus groups, but these are all appointed people and not representative.
“I’d heard of Respect at the time, but in my ignorance I thought it was just an anti-war party. I didn’t realise it was about so much more.
“I bought a copy of Socialist Worker and it had an article about Respect. I found out more by contacting the national office. My first political activity was with the Socialist Workers Party in the late 1970s.
“It feels like I’ve come full circle. My daughter now lives in Bethnal Green in east London and Respect’s George Galloway is her MP.
“I was a councillor for six years, in the Millfield and Fulwell wards, until I stood down. People in Millfield ward approached me to stand.
“My first Respect meeting in February was a revelation. There were young and non-white people there. It was consciousness raising event.
“I can only ever remember white people being on Sunderland council. I can’t even remember any black minority ethnic candidates.
“Respect has a mixture of people involved in it, while Labour is not moving forward.
“Respect is growing very quickly here and involving all sectors of the community. It is a very vibrant organisation, which is proved by the fact that we are standing two candidates in Sunderland—myself in Millfield and Tafazzal Hussein in Hendon.
“We began leafleting the wards last weekend.”
Sheffield activist Maxine Bowler is standing for Respect in Burngreave ward. Maxine won over 1,200 votes in the same ward in last year’s election, finishing second.
Maxine told Socialist Worker, “Around 300 people came to the Respect meeting in Sheffield on Tuesday of last week. Speakers included myself, Tower Hamlets Respect councillor Rania Khan, Rashid Khan of Sheffield’s Kashmiri community and Preston councillor Michael Lavalette.
“It was a fantastic rally. We are currently distributing our second leaflet to every house in the area.
“One of the big issues that is coming up is housing. The council is demolishing housing in Woodside.
Only 15 percent of the rebuilt housing will be classed as affordable.
“There is a real housing crisis in Sheffield, with a lot of people on the council housing waiting list. Burngreave is a deprived area and a lot of people can’t afford to buy. So there are problems of overcrowding.
“The council is making this situation worse by demolishing council housing and letting private companies build on the area.
“Respect has produced a pamphlet and one of our members did a presentation on the subject to the Burngreave Community Action Forum. It has decided to call a hustings on the question.
“Respect is demanding that the council face up to the scale of the housing crisis. Sheffield should be adding its voice to the pressure on the government to review the restrictions introduced under Margaret Thatcher, which prevent council house building.
“In the last three years Sheffield took £121 million in right to buy receipts, 75 percent of which are pocketed by central government. This money could have built at least 1,200 high quality council homes.
“Working with the Muslim community in the area is a very important part of our campaigning. Recently I have spoken at a festival organised by the Bangladeshi community.
“In February, to kick off the election campaign, the journalist Yvonne Ridley and myself spoke to around 500 Muslim women in the constituency about Islamophobia.
“We plan to start canvassing soon and also hope to stand in other wards in Sheffield.”
Respect is urging supporters in the north west of England to help the campaign to re-elect Respect councilor Michael Lavalette in Preston.
There is a mass leafleting day organised this Sunday 1 April in Preston. And on Saturday 21 April people from across the country are being asked to go to Preston to join Michael’s campaign.
To get involved in the campaign to reelect Michael Lavalette phone 07739 729 214 or 07852 937 248.
For more information about Respect go to www.respectcoalition.org