Respect campaigners gained creditable results in two council by-elections in Waltham Forest, east London, and Preston on Thursday of last week.
Respect member Carole Vincent came third in Leyton ward in Waltham Forest winning 7.31 percent of the vote and beating the Tories into fourth place. Labour lost the seat to the Liberal Democrats.
Respect’s Barry Hill polled 6.8 percent in the Tulketh ward in Preston. Labour held the seat by 23 votes from the Lib Dems.
In both areas, Respect members were contesting the ward for the first time.
Comparison with the May elections last year, before the split in Respect, shows these results to be in the mid-range of Respect’s election results.
Last May Respect stood in 48 wards and gained three first places, seven second places, 15 third places, nine fourth places and nine places at fifth or below. The third and fourth places in Leyton and Preston are in the middle of this range.
Campaigners in both wards say they have made serious inroads in building new local networks.
Carole Vincent told Socialist Worker, “The result showed that people don’t trust Labour to run the council. We gave all the parties a run for their money.
“We now have a base to build on for the London Assembly elections in May. We are going back to see people who pledged to support us and those who asked for our help – such as young people who have no leisure centre and parents whose children have special needs.
“I want to thank everyone who came to help in the ward. We made sure people know what Respect stands for.”
Barry Hill told Socialist Worker, “We had a very good campaign with a lot of enthusiastic volunteers coming to help from across the north west of England.
“A number of people who had never even heard of us before went out and voted for us.
“Myself and Respect councillor Michael Lavalette campaigned with some residents of a tower block over their rights. They won’t forget us.
“We are beginning to make a real difference in the area.
I feel we have done some good for Respect and for the socialist movement in general.”
Anger at defection
Respect supporters were angry and disappointed last week after Councillor Ahmed Hussein of Mile End East ward in Tower Hamlets, east London, defected to the Tories.
Respect said in a statement, “Ahmed Hussein has joined a party which supports war and privatisation, which has little representation among ethnic minorities, and which has few supporters among working class people in Tower Hamlets or anywhere else.
“This is a betrayal of the principles on which he was elected and will be a great disappointment to those who voted for him.
“He should resign and stand in a by-election, where voters will have the chance to cast their opinion on his change of politics.”
For full results see » Good votes for Respect in two local by-elections