Respect is urging as many of its supporters as possible to get to west London this weekend to campaign for a left alternative in next Thursday’s Ealing Southall parliamentary by-election.
Well known local activist Salvinder Singh Dhillon was selected to fight the election for Respect at a lively 70-strong meeting last week.
Respect campaigners were out at the weekend, leafleting, putting posters up in local shops and having a megaphone car touring the constituency.
Salvinder told Socialist Worker, “We’re getting a great response. Lots of our local members and supporters have been out on the knocker this weekend.
“But, if we are going to cover this constituency properly, we are going to need Respect supporters from all over to help us – especially this weekend.
“People in Southall are fed up with the main parties. But a few have misplaced hopes in Gordon Brown.
“Respect is arguing that the face may have changed, but the policies remain the same.
“We will have only two and a half weeks to campaign in this by-election – that is very undemocratic.
“Nevertheless we can make a real impact here. Lots of people have had it with Labour and are prepared to give Respect a chance.
“We are known for the way we fought for the Gate Gourmet workers, who were disgracefully sacked in 2005. Many of the workers from that fight hold us in high regard.
“A leading Gate Gourmet shop steward rang me the other day to say he was supporting me and that he would be telling the other workers to back me.”
There is already a high degree of awareness of Respect’s campaign in the constituency, and lots of people are particularly enthusiastic about Salvinder.
“He’s a man of the people,” says Dalwinder Atwel. “While the other parties are only around at election time, you can always rely on Salvinder to be there in times of need.
“New Labour are always on the side of big business. I am a postal worker, and in our industrial dispute you can see how Labour doesn’t care about the working class, even though it is us who creates the wealth in society.
“Meanwhile, our bosses, who don’t do any work, are getting big bonuses.
“I have been telling my fellow postal workers to vote Respect, and I’m distributing election material to them.”
Paul Patrick, the headteacher at Cardinal Wiseman high school in Greenford, said, “I believe in peace, equality and justice – so does Respect. Other parties have lost my trust on these important principles. I think we should give Respect a chance.”
Waresh Singh, a tube worker and RMT union member agrees.
“I am against the privatisation of London Underground,” He said. “The performance has gone from bad to worse under the private contractors.
“The Labour Party has not kept its promises. It has not corrected what Margaret Thatcher did to the trade unions. And I like the way Respect MP George Galloway has stood up against the war.”
“I will be voting for Salvinder too,” said Susan Goriel, who came to Southall from Iraq. “I like the way Respect has fought against the war.”
Sukhwinder Singh is a director of Akash radio. He said, “In the debates on our radio station, listeners have been saying that we should support a candidate who has a history of upholding the unity of the community.
“Because of his track record on this, many are saying that Salvinder is the candidate to support.”
The three mainstream parties are fighting hard in the election, which is a major test for all of them. But Labour received a blow this week after five of their local councillors announced they had defected to the Tories.
The PCS civil service workers’ union, along with other unions, are planning to launch a Make Your Vote Count campaign by asking the candidates their views on public services and publicising their answers to their members in the area.
“Respect has an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the chaos in New Labour,” says Salvinder. “But we need you to come and help us.”
Respect is asking its supporters to go to Ealing Southall this weekend to help Respect in the by-election. Phone 07774 936 556 for more information