Two years ago 12 Respect councillors were elected in Tower Hamlets, east London, on the basis of opposition to war and privatisation, and support for council housing.
Last week’s news that councillors Oliur Rahman, Rania Khan and Lutfa Begum have left Respect was greeted with sadness by all those who fought to get them elected.
Press reports suggest the three councillors either have joined or are going to join New Labour. Respect Renewal councillor Shahed Ali is also reported to be joining New Labour.
This marks a further stage in the decomposition of the original Respect council group in Tower Hamlets, a majority of whom have now quit Respect.
If the former Respect councillors do join New Labour – a party committed to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the further involvement of the private sector in public services – it will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of those who voted for them in 2006.
That they should put the retention of their council seats before the hopes and interests of those voters is particularly reprehensible.
Their move comes at a time when support for New Labour has fallen to historically low levels and when anger is growing against the government’s attempts to hold wages back in the face of rising inflation.
Respect/Left List activists in Tower Hamlets realise that these defections will boost New Labour’s power in the borough and encourage it to push on with its free market agenda.
Those same activists have pledged to build resistance to that from the grassroots up.