Respect had an excellent day’s campaigning in the Lozells & East Handsworth ward in Birmingham last Sunday.
Four Respect councilors from Tower Hamlets in east London, including Oliur Rahman and Abjol Miah, joined us in Lozells.
They were able to talk about the effect they have had in Tower Hamlets, and the need for people in the area to get behind our campaign.
Respect is standing seven candidates across Birmingham. We are working our way across Lozells with a petition to save the accident and emergency ward in the local City hospital. Hundreds have signed it.
It means we are getting to talk to a lot of people who usually vote Labour.
We are meeting a lot of disillusioned people, who can’t believe that their government can find £3 million everyday for the war while they are cutting the NHS.
Labour is clearly going to find it difficult to get its voters out. Unlike Raghib Ahsan, the Respect candidate, the Labour candidate has said nothing about the ward closure.
The Labour Party local organiser came to find us while we were out on Sunday. He claims we have our facts wrong and the Labour councillor has been busy fighting for the hospital.
He was short on facts though. They are clearly rattled, having ignored us last year.
On Sunday afternoon we had a public meeting with Respect MP George Galloway. Some 170 people came from our ward and from the Aston ward, where sitting Respect councillor Abdul Aziz is fighting for re-election.
The Tower Hamlets councillors and Birmingham Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob also spoke. Oliur Rahman is a member of the PCS civil service workers’ union, which is set to strike on May Day.
He spoke about how the fight against privatisation is a struggle that only Respect backs, with Labour and the Lib Dems in favour of selling off public services.
Abjol Miah talked about the need for councillors who fight for their constituents. He said, “Go in there, link the politics up and shame the Labour councillors. Let’s end the politics of ‘yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir’.”
Raghib connected the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade with the ongoing racism in Britain today.
He described how similar the experience of black and Asian people has been at the hands of British governments.
Salma Yaqoob said, “Nobody in Birmingham should ever vote Labour again. We need people like Raghib rather than the sheep we currently have in the Council House.”
To a standing ovation, George Galloway talked about how no other political party can hold public meetings like Respect can. He called on the people present to campaign for Respect and to help elect fighting councillors.
After the meeting George Galloway came to Lozells Road to help campaign.
Local people were surprised, and very pleased, to find George at their local shopping centre. Several left their details to get involved.
People in Lozells & East Handsworth know they have a useless Labour councillor standing for re-election.
We have two weeks to convince them that by electing Raghib they can get a fighter in the council chamber.
Pete Jackson and Raghib Ahsan
Respect in Manchester is gearing up for a close battle for control of the Rusholme ward in the south of the city.
In last year’s local elections Respect won 22 percent of the vote in the same ward.
Rusholme has traditionally been a Labour ward, but its vote collapsed last year, letting the Lib Dems in. Now Respect is targetting the seat.
Candidate Nahella Ashraf said that there are two major issues on the doorstep – locally people are angry over housing, and nationally they are angry over the war.
Overcrowded housing is a huge problem. Affordable rented council accommodation is virtually nonexistent. The waiting list for a family home in south Manchester is nine years.
“The government’s attempt to build a super casino in the city has angered people,” Nahella told Socialist Worker.
“Why are they so obsessed with a casino when they should be dealing with everyday problems?”
Ameen Hadi is Nahella’s election agent. “Labour has tried to sell the casino as the begining of regeneration of the area, but no one believes it,” he said.
“They say it will bring jobs, but we all know that it will end up sucking money out of people’s pockets. The reaction is overwhelmingly negative.”
He added, “We have leafleted the major mosques. In the main Somali mosque, a member of the committee stood up and urged people to vote for Respect.
“We have better roots now than we did at the last elections, and we’re feeling confident about the contest.”
Caron McKenna, a student welfare adviser, is the Respect candidate in Foleshill ward in Coventry.
Caron told Socialist Worker, “The campaign has come from a number of students at Coventry University who were desperate to have a Respect group in the area.
“We organised a meeting with the journalist Yvonne Ridley and 120 people came – with a number joining Respect.
“After that success, we decided to stand in the local elections.
“We have leafleted the whole ward once – some 5,000 homes – and we began canvassing last Saturday.
“We have been meeting and speaking to people while we have been leafleting.
“The campaign has galvanised both new people and older activists, many of them women. People really want to get involved.
“We had to hold our last meeting in a car park because everyone was so keen to campaign they didn’t want to go into a building as they felt that might slow them down!
“We’ve made contact with a number of Somalis who have joined Respect and are out campaigning.
“And our leafleting and canvassing organiser is a former member of the Labour Party.
“She used to be a sub?agent and her organisational skills meant that we leafleted the ward in record time.
“People in the ward are really excited that there’s a Respect candidate.
“The Tories run the council. They have imposed a single status pay deal on the council workforce and are making cuts.
“Respect is taking up the issues of the war, education and the high rate of unemployment in the area.
“We are going to be campaigning right up to 3 May.
“By the time of the election day, we aim to have established Respect in this city.”
Respect is putting up three candidates in the Welsh Assembly elections on 3 May.
Council worker Karen Tyre is standing in the South Wales Central constituency, centred on Cardiff, while Ahmed al-Jeffrey and housing campaigner Paul Lynch are standing in South Wales West, centred on Swansea.
Karen spoke to Socialist Worker about her campaign. “I’ve been telling everyone I meet that I’m standing for Respect – people at work, my family, friends, even bus drivers,” she said.
“We have had two meetings of activists to organise the campaign, which involves around 25 people.
“One of the crucial issues for me as a union rep is linking up the Respect campaign with the issues of the public sector wage freeze and the assault on public services.
“Resistance to these will be seen on May Day, when civil service workers strike and other trade unionists will hols protests.
“I’ve been organising at work for us to show solidarity with civil service workers on that day.
“People are really hungry for an alternative to the major parties and Respect is that alternative. We want to lay down roots in this campaign.”
For a full list of Respect candidates standing in the 3 May local elections go to www.respectcoalition.org