Over 130 Respect supporters from across England converged on Preston last weekend to campaign for the re-election of councillor Michael Lavalette in the Town Centre ward.
Michael was elected in May 2003. He has spent the last four years fighting for his constituents, taking up local and national issues, and raising the profile of Respect.
Michael is winning support across the ward and the vibrant Respect campaign is having a big impact. The election takes place on 3 May.
Valerie Wise is the former leader of Preston council and is organising the canvassing for the Respect campaign.
Valerie told Socialist Worker, “It’s been an excellent weekend. We’ve had a lot of people come here to Preston, which means we’ve been able to canvass the Town Centre ward twice and also canvass the other three wards in Preston where Respect is standing.
“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction with Labour and a lot of support for Michael. Michael is my councillor and I will be voting for him with conviction.”
One Labour Party member told Socialist Worker, “I will be voting for Michael as he has concerned himself with local and international issues. Respect seems to understand issues such as the war more than the government does.
“It is trying to make Britain more cohesive and respect every nationality, religion and community.
“Michael has put a lot of effort into dealing with local issues and making sure that he is visible in the area. Other councillors could learn from him.”
Local resident Zuber said, “Michael does a great job for this ward. Often other councillors don’t lift a finger, but when you bring something to Michael’s attention he will do everything he can to help. I am definitely voting for him.”
Doreen Burns, a local pensioner, said, “Michael has worked really hard to get the community to work together. He helped organise a community clean-up of litter recently.”
Carol Kubicki, a local cyclist and activist, said, “I usually vote for the Greens but this time I will be voting for Michael Lavalette. I trust Michael to do a good job.
“He represents all the things I think are important – environmental issues and social equality. He’s trustworthy and honest.”
Elaine Abbot is a former Labour councillor. She is standing for Respect in Riversway ward. She told Socialist Worker, “I was a Labour councillor in Preston for ten years and a member of the council cabinet.
“I left to join Respect three years ago, angry over the war and privatisation.
“I was at a cabinet meeting just after Michael was elected. I remember other Labour councillors saying he was a protest vote, that Respect would soon disappear.
“Except here we are four years later, stronger than ever.
“In 20 years of Labour Party campaigning, I have never seen the turnout and the enthusiasm that Respect has had for this election campaign.”
Linda Smith, the national chair of Respect, travelled with many others from London to help for the weekend.
Linda said, “It is very important to get Michael re-elected. He has been a brilliant councillor, both for the people he represents, and for Respect – he has shown what is possible.
“It’s good for Respect members from around the country to be involved in the work of Respect here. It’s a chance to knock on doors and talk to people who are really in need of the politics and change that Respect can offer.”
‘We have to rebuild the left’
Internationally renowned film director Ken Loach visited Preston last week and lent his support to Michael Lavalette’s re-election campaign.
At Cardinal Newman College, sporting a Respect rosette, Ken addressed 250 film and media students.
He then went to St John’s Minster to meet up with housing charities and campaigners. Ken then participated in a film project for the unemployed.
At the university Ken answered questions about his film The Wind That Shakes The Barley, his directorial techniques and his style of film making.
He urged electors to vote for Michael Lavalette and other Respect candidates.
He said, “We have to rebuild the left, with sympathisers and trade unionists, here and abroad – and we mustn’t be afraid to use the word socialism in our campaign.”
Respect is urging supporters to go to Preston to campaign for Michael Lavalette. To get involved phone 07739 729 214