With just a month to go until council and regional elections on Thursday 3 May, campaigners for left wing alternative parties have been out in force.
Raghib Ahsan, a former Labour councillor in Birmingham, is standing for Respect in the Lozells & East Handsworth ward.
“The campaign has been going really well,” he told Socialist Worker. “We’re getting people out canvassing most evenings, talking to people on the doorstep. On Sunday six of us went out.
“The response has been positive. People are interested in talking about what Respect has to offer. Nobody says, ‘Who is this Respect party?’. It’s really good that people have heard of us, that they know what we are about – why we offer an alternative.
“Morale is really high and people feel good about the campaign. George Galloway MP is coming to support our campaign on Thursday of next week. We’ll be taking him through the wards in a cavalcade, stopping on street corners so that George can talk to as many people as possible.”
Respect activists in Wales are campaigning in the run-up to the Welsh Assembly elections. A campaign launch will take place on Thursday of this week in Cardiff’s South Wales Central district.
The meeting will include the candidates, Respect councillor Oliur Rahman from Tower Hamlets, as well as speakers and activists from the trade union, anti-racist and anti-war movements.
Local Respect supporters have set up a blog to keep people up to date with how the campaign is going. To read it go to www.cardiffrespect.blogspot.com
In Bradford, Respect is standing candidates in three wards – Ashad Khan in Manningham, Nadia MacGranthin in City and Farhan Alie in Little Horton.
Umit Yildiz, a Respect activist in Bradford, told Socialist Worker, “Our main focus is on getting Ashad Khan elected, as Manningham is the ward where we have the best chance.
“Ashad has had a very good response in the area, and people are really positive about his chances of getting elected.
“We’ve set up an office and we’re running the campaign from there. We’ve leafleted the wards once and have a new leaflet coming out next week.”
In Sheffield a leading activist in the Bangladeshi community has left the Labour Party to stand for Respect in the council elections.
Mohammed Ahbabur Rahman, known as Miron, is secretary of the Alyah mosque in Darnall and secretary of the local Bangladeshi Neighbourhood Project.
“I think it is important Respect is a new party,” said Miron. “Respect talks about the truth and talks about humanity. It’s not about Islam or any religion – it’s about human rights.
“The issue of the war in Iraq comes to the issue of humanity against war. I’m standing for the Bangladeshi community because we have nothing. I want to try to see if we can achieve something for our community.”
Miron is one of three council candidates for Respect in Sheffield. Maxine Bowler, a community worker living in Heeley, will stand for a second time in Burngreave ward where she came second last year. Anwar Ali is standing in Central ward.
Miron’s election campaign was officially launched on Sunday at the Bangladeshi Neighbourhood Centre in Staniforth Road, which Miron is campaigning to save from closure.
Council housing is a key focus for the Sheffield Respect campaign. All three Respect candidates and supporters were set to join a protest on Tuesday of this week against the sell-off of council land to private developers.
“People are tired of the main parties and their promises that come to nothing,” said Maxine. “We will fight on many issues, whether it be big issues such as the war in Iraq and climate change – or local issues like cutting Esol language class funding or the terrible crisis in council housing.”
In Preston, where Michael Lavalette is standing for re-election to the council, over 50 people were out en masse last Sunday to help with the campaign.
Martin, a Respect supporter from east London, was out canvassing. He told Socialist Worker, “We have to fight to get Michael re-elected. Labour is going all-out to stop Respect in Preston.
“People that I spoke to while going door to door told me that Labour Party people had been attacking Michael when they were out canvassing.
“They had been spreading lies, telling people that Michael had converted to Islam and was refusing to allow gay Respect supporters to canvass for him or even go to Respect meetings.
“On top of that they had attempted to claim that the recent day of cleaning up an area in Michael’s ward – when Michael and 20 or so volunteers cleared rubbish – was in fact a Labour Party initiative.”
Preston Respect is calling on activists from across the country to help with the campaign on the weekend of 21 and 22 April.