THE libel verdict against the Daily Telegraph was a victory not only for me—it was a vindication for the entire anti-war movement.
Experts on such matters say they have rarely seen such a comprehensive and damning judgement. For that reason I’m relaxed about reports that the Telegraph is talking of an appeal.
Many other newspapers seem angry that the Telegraph, far from advancing the cause of free speech, has actually undermined it by trying to claim a defence of responsible journalism.
In his judgement Mr Justice Eady explicitly refers to how the Daily Telegraph, in April last year, pursued its attack on me in order to encourage a section of those who had marched against the war to break ranks and return to the establishment fold.
To understand where such smears came from, you could do a lot worse than consider who gains from them—a question I am keen to pursue in parliament at the earliest opportunity.
Those who stood to benefit were the rabble who took us to war.
The Telegraph at the time was owned by Conrad Black, who has spent millions—it now appears of other people’s money—promoting the neo-conservative ideology.
He and his wife Barbara Amiel are good friends of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.
The editor of the Telegraph at the time was Charles Moore, the official biographer of Margaret Thatcher. She sat on the board of Black’s Hollinger company, along with Henry Kissinger, the biggest living war criminal.
Some weeks ago my legal team, through an intermediary, were told that the new owners of the Telegraph, the Barclay brothers, were prepared to discuss an out of court settlement.
Money was not an issue for me. No figure was discussed, but we did want an apology read out in open court.
It seems the paper’s executive editors were not going to let that happen.
Well, now the public schoolboys and foxhunters at the Telegraph have been held to account and are the best part of £1.5 million—5 percent of the paper’s annual profit—the poorer.
But Tony Blair and the poodle MPs who voted for war have yet to be held to account.
We in the anti-war movement will not rest, will not stop protesting, until every last one of those who committed this crime are thrashed at the ballot box.
So I am honoured to accept the nomination from Respect in east London to stand as the candidate in the next general election in the seat of Bethnal Green & Bow.
One hundred years ago a new force broke through in London’s East End.
It shattered the stranglehold of the Liberals and said that working people, who create the wealth and provide every service, deserve their own, independent political voice.
Today we in Respect are saying the same as Keir Hardie and the Labour pioneers back then.
They too were attacked for building a political movement in the poverty-stricken streets of east London and also among immigrants—Jewish people from Eastern Europe.
Keir Hardie’s movement aimed to represent all working people, and that’s true of us.
But just as the left was proud to stand up for the Jews of east London a century ago, so are we proud of the support and affection held for us in the hearts of the Muslim population of east London.
Respect has already had considerable success. We were only 20 weeks old at the 10 June elections when we topped the poll in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets.
We came second in the neighbouring borough of Newham, but were first in 40 percent of the wards in that borough too.
No one should take success at next May’s expected general election for granted.
But from here on in we are fighting daily and hourly to win.
I cannot predict for certain that we will win in Bethnal Green & Bow, but one thing is certain—the sitting pro-war Blairite MP Oona King will lose.
She has shown she will sing any song and dance any dance the New Labour leadership ask of her.
She has misrepresented the interests of the people here at home and abroad.
King not only voted for the war, she also spoke for it in parliament.
Her excuse was that Tony Blair had promised her that George Bush had promised him that Ariel Sharon had told him that he would allow a Palestinian state. And this is from someone with a PhD.
When I last saw her in the House of Commons she was going through the lobbies to vote for top-up fees, ending the free education she enjoyed. I was in the opposite lobby opposing them.
At the Labour Party conference she spoke in favour of selling off council housing, a position that could get only one in eight votes even at that stage-managed affair.
It is little wonder that the calls for us to stand against her have come from far and wide in Tower Hamlets.
The 10 June elections revealed concentrations of support for Respect, even though we were all but ignored by the media. Our strategy for the general election needs to take account of that.
Our recent conference discussed how we can make an impact on what will otherwise be a tediously dull event by concentrating our forces.
I think of it as three concentric circles. First, there are those seats where we have a definite chance, in east London and in Birmingham.
Second, there are some seats where our intervention can have a decisive impact in turfing out the most hated New Labour warmongers and privatisers.
Third, we may decide to stand in a few areas not covered by the above, but where we can focus our supporters.
Urgent discussions will be taking place in Respect nationally and in local groups over the coming weeks to identify where to stand.
Of course, this does not mean Respect will be limited to only those areas.
We are enjoying a series of successful local events. These are vital to building up the base of the organisation.
Whichever area you are in, there are people who want to finance and help a serious challenge to New Labour nearby.
So now is the time to broaden our movement, and at the same time to agree how to bring all its forces to bear in such a way as we maximise our success next May.