Respect made real progress in last week’s elections.
In every ward where Respect stood, it proved a serious challenge – not only to the smaller parties but to Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories.
Respect had notable wins in Preston (Michael Lavalette), Birmingham (Mohammed Ishtiaq), and Bolsover (Ray Holmes).
It also secured eight second places and 13 third places.
John Rees, national secretary for Respect, said “Where we stand, we pose a clear challenge.
“Many millions of people are desperate for an alternative to the diet of war and privatisation served up by the all the mainstream parties.”
Michael Lavalette won over 50 percent of the vote in the Preston Town Centre ward. He took a “staggering” (as the local press put it) 1,179 votes, ahead of Labour’s 717, the Liberal Democrat’s 206, the Conservative’s 87 and the Green’s 63.
Former councillor Elaine Abbot came second in Preston Riversway ward, as did Sumera Rizwan in St Matthews ward.
Michael Lavalette told Socialist Worker, “This is a tremendous result for Respect. Our majority in the Town Centre ward is 462 votes – as large as the entire vote that gets some Labour councillors elected.
“It is a vindication of our strategy for the past four years of representing people, taking up casework, holding regular surgeries, and combining this with the big issues – such as opposing the war on Iraq and defending the NHS and the welfare state.
“When I was elected in 2003, Labour said that our vote was just a flash in the pan and a temporary anti-war protest vote. But we have raised our vote in the ward by 633 votes.
“We increased our vote in all areas of Town Centre ward, including in the two large predominantly white areas – which Labour largely ignored. This is a victory for all working class people.
“There used to be an argument that Respect just got Muslim votes, but only one third of this ward is made up of Muslims. The Labour candidate was a Muslim from the local mosque and won support from some Muslims – particularly the better off ones.
“But in every part of the ward we were beating Labour. In one part of the ward there are flats that have been sold off by the council where the majority of the people who live there are white and working class.
“When I walked through that part of the ward last week there was not a single Labour poster, but there were a lot for Respect.
“These are people Labour have given up on. They haven’t voted in the past few years, but a significant minority of them voted Respect.
“Respect campaigners went round the ward on Friday night. I was on the megaphone thanking people for voting Respect. In each part of the ward we got a great response with people coming out to shake my hand.
“There was a queue of people at the mosque to shake my hand.
“We canvassed 72 percent of the Town Centre ward in the election and it really made a difference. People were saying they couldn’t remember the last time members of a political party had knocked on their door.
“Labour also scored a real own goal by putting out a disgusting leaflet attacking Respect two days before the election. They issued a similar leaflet against the Liberal Democrats in another ward in Preston.
“In both areas they lost. People were coming up and saying that they had been torn between Respect and Labour, but after they had seen that leaflet they were voting Respect. People don’t like dirty politics.
“Also Labour had tried to drag the election onto the issues of who sorts out the drains and the rats best.
“Of course, Respect has to talk about these issues, but we also moved on to talk about the attacks on the NHS and the threat of war against Iran.
“We fought on social issues such as the attacks on welfare and in defence of the NHS.
“The vote in Preston shows that Respect can win and increase its majority by representing people and showing that another world is possible.”