THE VOTES received by Respect in the Leicester South and Birmingham Hodge Hill by-elections (Socialist Worker, 24 July) really put Respect on the map.
And the results are even more impressive when you place them in their historical context. I have been looking at all of the results of by-elections in England since the Second World War.
These have been dominated by the three big parties—the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
It is interesting to compare Respect’s result with those of other parties, outside the “mainstream” of British politics, that have stood in by-elections.
In Birmingham Hodge Hill, Respect’s John Rees got 6.3 percent of the vote. And in Leicester South Yvonne Ridley got a whopping 12.7 percent.
Compare that to the votes achieved by the Green Party. They have contested 23 by-elections since 1979. The highest vote they have ever achieved is 6.1 percent—and that was way back in June 1989. The average of their other results is just 2 percent.
If you ignore the SDP, which broke away from the Labour Party in the 1980s, there have only been ten occasions when a “fourth party” has got more than 5 percent of the vote in an English by-election.
Two of those were the recent Respect votes—amazing for a party that has only been in existence for less than one year, fighting its first two by-elections!
The UK Independence Party have never got more than 5.2 percent, and the BNP’s best result was 7 percent.
And the 12.7 percent vote in Leicester puts Respect in a completely different league. This is the only time that a “fourth party” has won more than one in ten votes, allowing it to seriously challenge the big three political parties.
I think that these results show that the Respect coalition has taken the left into completely new territory. We now have a real chance to break out from the fringes of British politics.
Next year Blair is expected to call a general election. We should be building Respect now so that we can challenge New Labour and start to build a bigger and better alternative.
David Swanson, Manchester
Problem is not ‘yobs’
RICHARD HINDES is right to raise the question of anti-social behaviour and what socialists should say on the matter to workers and the people around us (Socialist Worker, 24 July).
One of my work colleagues has been at the end of her tether recently because of stress caused by unsavoury incidents with her neighbour.
Nobody can condone individual incidents where ordinary people’s lives are affected in a negative way.
But this is a long way from suggesting, as New Labour do, that there should be some sort of general crackdown on “yobs”, “anti-social behaviour”, etc.
This kind of rhetoric just appeases the middle class Daily Mail brigade (some of whom might vote Labour) and doesn’t actually solve anything.
Yes, socialists want “communities to take back control of the areas where they live”.
How do we do this? Not by supporting communities “in efforts against anti-social elements”, but by supporting them in efforts to get rid of war, privatisation and poverty.
Let’s challenge the yobbery and anti-social behaviour of Bush and Blair as a top priority.
Alan Scott, Edinburgh
Yuppies on cocaine
THE GOVERNMENT is once again attacking the working class and those on council estates with its anti-social behaviour policies.
Has the Labour government led by that Thatcherite Mr Blair forgotten its values?
Why don’t they mention the yuppies or the businessmen who have a skinful on a Friday night in the wine bar after work?
What are they doing about their drinking behaviour or about cocaine—the rich man’s drug? Why is that not mentioned?
Why are they attacking the working class?
Peter Benjamin, Hampshire
There’s inspiring new unity in Rotherham
THE BBC’s exposé of the fascist BNP led to an angry protest meeting in Rotherham attended by more than 200 people. The room was filled to overflowing, with around 80 people left outside.
Rotherham Racial Equality Council, supported by Rotherham Unite Against Fascism, called the meeting after they were inundated with calls demanding action.
Black and white community figures, councillors, trade unionists and church leaders packed into the meeting, which was also boosted by scores of young Asians.
There was an overwhelming feeling of unity as speaker after speaker condemned the BNP as a fascist party beneath their mask of respectability.
As one Asian councillor said, it was the BNP’s racist violence that sparked the riots in Bradford, after which many young Asians received long jail sentences.
He called on people to learn the lessons from Nazi Germany and the persecution of the Jews. He echoed the famous words of Pastor Niemoller, saying everyone had to stand together now to defend each other, or the time would come when it would be too late.
The meeting attacked the Islamophobia whipped up by the media and politicians, and the daily scapegoating of asylum seekers, which allow the BNP the cover of legitimacy.
The BNP’s failure to make a breakthrough in the Euro elections, followed by the BBC documentary, has put them onto the defensive and given anti-fascists a huge opportunity to go on the offensive.
Phil Turner, Rotherham
Should socialists join New Labour?
I AM a socialist and I have recently joined the Labour Party.
I joined Labour to help to return it to its natural, working class roots.
This may turn out to be a frustrating and futile exercise but, due to the lack of cohesion among different socialist parties, I considered this to be the “best” option to promote socialist policies in Britain.
I came to this conclusion after contacting and reading the literature of several socialist organisations.
There doesn’t seem to be sufficient common ground between the different socialist groups.
In fact the impression I got was that each of these socialist groups disliked all the other groups.
I’ve also joined the Labour Representation Committee (LRC).
The ideals they outline seem to match mine.
So here I am—in Blair’s den—not wanting to destroy the Labour Party, but to change it for a socialist future.
It might take time, but there are still many good people in the Labour Party.
I think the effort will not be wasted.
Perhaps all the other socialist groups should affiliate to the LRC and present a united front—that would make a change.
Dave Edwards, Doncaster
Euro Greens’ betrayal
WHEN THE newly elected Euro MPs took their seats they had to vote for the parliament’s new president.
The two biggest groups, the centre-right European People’s Party and the centre-left Party of European Socialists, met to cut a deal.
Both the Liberal group and the United European Left (which includes Italy’s Rifondazione Comunista, the German PDS and other left parties) decided to stand their own candidates.
Unfortunately the 47-strong European Green group decided to support the Liberals rather than the left.
Ten Green MEPs, including Caroline Lucas, defied this decision and voted for the left candidate.
James Barr, London
Did Clarke fiddle figures?
I WORK in an inner city school in Birmingham.
We have been short-staffed and have had to rely on supply teachers throughout the year.
Not surprisingly our school had poor results in the SATs tests.
Teachers were not expecting the English SATs results to be much above 30 percent.
When the results came everybody was astonished that they achieved more than double this.
These are the first group of pupils to follow the government’s National Literacy Strategy.
Have the goalposts been moved so Tony Blair and Charles Clarke can tell us how much schools are improving?
Alastair Newey, Birmingham
They want us to look the same
FOLLOWING Blair’s recent diatribe against that favoured target of the right, the 1960s, and particularly those who led different lifestyles, readers may be interested in the government’s latest scheme for conformity.
A new initiative from the Training and Employment Agency is to provide “haircuts, new suits, and even tattoo removal” to help job seekers “present the right image to prospective employers”. Who was it who said under socialism we’d all look the same?
Keith Prince, Essex
Coke fight is not over yet
IT’S GREAT to hear about successes for Britain’s Coca-Cola employees (Socialist Worker, 24 July), but I am hoping for more from the company.
I want to see the company stop using military forces to intimidate Colombian workers.
I also want to see Coca-Cola take real responsibility for the crap it’s pumping into rivers in India, and stop trying to use public relations spin to get out of its environmental obligations.
Graham Martin, by e-mail
Even Moore important in US
IT IS unfortunate that Chris Nineham likens the impact of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 to “a month of Newsnight programmes” (Socialist Worker, 31 July).
Surely one explanation for its phenomenal success in the US is the fact that programmes as good as Newsnight just don’t exist there.
Rabid right wing radio and TV jocks belch out lie after lie of free market, pro-Bush, illiberal bile.
Moore is an even holier grail of sanity there than in Europe.
Nick Grant, West London
Why we need all-out action
I’M WRITING in response to the letter arguing that selective action would be more effective in the civil service dispute (Socialist Worker, 24 July).
While Huw Fryer’s argument is quite persuasive, I believe that the attack on the civil service is so huge that a united and determined response is needed.
They need all-out, indefinite strike action, which must be backed by the TUC. This attack is an attack on all of us. United we stand, and we must unite and fight off this despicable attack.
Sophie Jongman, Kent