Socialist Worker

A model day of campaigning for Respect in Camden

by Judy Cox
Issue No. 1898

11am Housing protest

The day began with George and local Greater London Authority (GLA) candidate Liz Wheatley joining a protest outside a Camden housing development built on the site of a school.

Despite the council promising housing for low income families,the new flats range from £370,000 to £800,000. Lesley Carty was part of the campaign that saw off a threat to part-privatise local council housing.

She told Socialist Worker, "We are really pleased to see an alternative to New Labour. It is outrageous that we are having to campaign against privatisation under a Labour government."

A local cab driver donated his services and his cab to Respect for a day, making it possible to pack in lots of visits and meetings.

12 noon Tube workers

The next stop was King's Cross station where George and Liz met London Underground workers in the RMT union. "I have been kicked out of Labour, just like your union has," said George."Blair says he doesn't have a reverse gear. I say, if you don't have a reverse gear you shouldn't be driving a car-or a train."

A heated debate followed as tube workers challenged George Galloway about the Iraq war and how Respect could improve schools and hospitals. He responded, "Rail privatisation has been a disaster for workers and passengers. The war in Iraq has already cost the British government £4 billion. If there is money for that, there's money for transport, health and education."

12.45pm Mosque meeting

The chair of the Al Rahman mosque in Somerstown laid on a lunchtime meeting that attracted 30 people, including local council workers. There was proof that New Labour are worried about Respect. A Labour candidate for the GLA came to the meeting to argue that voting Respect would let the right in. He added that Muslim representation could only be won through the Labour Party.

George Galloway responded by saying that a vote for Blair was a vote for Bush and the right. He pointed out that Anas Altikriti, ex-leader of the Muslim Association of Britain, was one of several Muslim candidates heading Respect lists.

"This is not the time to ask Muslims to vote for Tony Blair," said George. The applause and the handshakes George received showed how clearly he won the argument.

1.30pm Cafe meeting

Next call was the Morretti Cafe in Camden Town. The cafe put posters in its windows advertising George's visit. The cafe is run by Iraqis who opposed Saddam Hussein and also oppose the war and the occupation.

Some 40 people including pensioners, local families and anti-war campaigners gathered in the cafe garden. George told them, "Students start out with a mortgage round their necks and don't even have a house to show for it. Pensioners have to choose between switching on the electric fire or having something to eat. This is why I am standing for the European Parliament. Lindsey German, the leader of the anti-war movement, is standing for the GLA. I am asking you to vote Respect across the board."

Gloria Lazenby, the former Labour mayor of Camden, spent the afternoon with the Respect campaign. She told Socialist Worker, "I was a councillor here for 16 years but I was deselected by the Labour Party because I opposed the closure of local libraries. In 2002 I stood as an independent in a local election and got 500 votes, nearly as many as the Labour candidate. They expelled me. Now I have joined Respect. Ken Livingstone said last week that we have to stand by Liz Jackson, our Labour candidate, because she is such a good leftie. She isn't. None of us even know what she looks like."

Alice, a local pensioner, told Socialist Worker, "One issue I feel very strongly about is Palestine. It breaks my heart. They talk about a deal, but there is no deal. And housing is another issue Respect is standing up for. We want to be treated with respect. It's high time something changed."

3pm Neighbourhood centre

George Galloway, Liz Wheatley and their supporters visited a neighbourhood centre closed down by the Labour council. Abby Keith, from tenants' group Camden Town Speaks, told Socialist Worker, "It's disgraceful that a place like this has been closed so viciously. Labour is just a massive corporate career structure. I support Respect because I am desperate to see a caring politician who represents the views of the people who live round here, not the property developers."

The Respect campaigners then met market stallholders whose site is threatened by plans to redevelop Camden Tube. Eighteen year old Saidi Abdul came up to George to say, "I saw you on the anti-war demo on 15 February. I loved what you said. Now I am old enough to vote, I am definitely going to vote for you."

5pm School students

The Respect campaign moved on to Red Lion Square, where George and Liz met up with a group of anti-war school students. They asked about Respect's policies on student fees, the congestion charge and the environment. Two of the Scottish nursery nurses on strike popped in to pick up a cheque for £101 that Liz had collected at her workplace for them.

5.30pm Respect meeting

Some 60 trade unionists, activists and anti-war campaigners discussed issues ranging from the civil servants' strike, getting two million anti-war marchers to vote for Respect, the future of Iraq and the European constitution. George told the meeting, "The elections on 10 June is where we start the fight back. We are not only interested in elections. We are on the anti-war marches, on the picket lines, campaigning in the communities. But the Spanish have shown that elections matter. They marched, then they voted. Now their troops are being pulled out. Respect says bring our troops home now, and we are the only party who will say this."

7.30pm Public meeting

A 60-strong meeting in Barnet was the final event. Liz told Socialist Worker, "About half the room were local working class people and the other half came from the mosque. The discussion was really lively and local papers came to do a report."


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News
Sat 24 Apr 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1898
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