Socialist Worker

Dizzying start in Hartlepool

by Judy Cox
Issue No. 1919

THE HARTLEPOOL by-election has been called for 30 September. The election was sparked when Peter Mandelson MP was given a lucrative job as a European commissioner. It should be a safe Labour seat, but these days there is no such thing.

John Bloom, Respect candidate in the election, told Socialist Worker, “The campaign is going terrifically well.

“Our office is buzzing, with dozens of people around and new faces joining them everyday. The reception we get from the voters is constantly surprising us by how good it is.

“We are having an impact far beyond the size of our party here. There are 12 candidates standing in the election so far, but all the local media and the organisations holding hustings say there are five serious parties—Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems, UKIP and Respect.

“We are finding lots of Labour members are coming over to support our campaign, and even some Liberal Democrats. There aren’t many Lib Dems I’d want, but these are really good people who were involved in an anti-nuclear campaign.

“We are also getting lots of good activists from the union movement coming on board, lots of shop stewards, and making very good links.

“In fact, it is going so well on so many fronts, it is dizzying sometimes.”

Jill Russell adds, “We had 60 people out on Sunday—it was brilliant, with people coming from Burnley, Barnsley, Leeds, Newcastle, Middlesborough and lots of other places.

“Our Saturday stalls are fantastic. We don’t have a boring old paste table like the other parties—we have this great market stall, with helium balloons and a megaphone.

“Many trade unionists are coming behind Respect. The firefighters drove past our stall with their sirens on to show their support.

“Bus drivers at the local garage are helping us find drivers for our campaign battle bus.

“But really we are getting support from right across Hartlepool. There are lots of ex Labour Party supporters who say they weren’t going to bother voting at all, but now Respect has given them something to vote for.

“And there are people who are still in the Labour Party who come and help us leaflet. They say they are having a ‘socialist day out’ from the Labour Party. I think many of them won’t be renewing their Labour Party membership next time round, especially if we do well.

“The press coverage for Respect over the weekend has helped. When you get the Mirror and the Independent on Sunday reporting how scared Labour are by Respect, it helps convince people we are a serious alternative.

“And if we do well in Hartlepool that will help give Respect a massive boost everywhere.

“The tabloid newspaper we have put together shows the range of support we are getting. It has been delivered to eight of the wards in Hartlepool already.

“But we really need people to turn out for the canvassing. We are still a new party. And the other parties are spreading propaganda about us. We need people out on the doorsteps to convince people we are worth voting for.

“We are getting these brilliant “Vote Respect” signs for people to put up in their gardens, but we need more money to produce more of them, so any help will be gratefully received.”

Voices of support

‘RESPECT IS the only party which supports pensions linked to earnings. Folks, it’s up to you. Vote for change, vote for Respect. I am.’
Brian Marshall pensioner

‘JOHN HAS fought against the closure of our hospital, right from the start. Where were the other parties then?’

‘FIRE SERVICE workers have endured first hand the dishonesty of New Labour. Vote for the party which supported us wholeheartedly in our recent dispute. Vote for Respect, not for deceit.’
Steve Gregg, Fire Brigades Union

‘AS AN ex Labour Party member and lifelong trade unionist, I feel that it is now the right time for the electors to ditch Tony Blair and New Labour.’

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Article information

Sat 18 Sep 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1919
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