RESPECT GOT a fantastic launch in Ilford, east London, last week. Around 130 people from many different backgrounds came to a meeting to hear what the new coalition stands for.
George Galloway, the Respect MP, raised the roof with his attacks on Tony Blair. A stream of speakers from the floor took part in a question and answer session. They expressed their feelings of betrayal by New Labour and local MP Mike Gapes-which should give the Labour councillors in the audience something to report back!
As the meeting drew to a close, people queued up to get involved in the campaign and donate money.
Human rights lawyer Abdurahman Jafar was selected as the candidate in the Redbridge & Havering constituency.
AROUND 70 people came to a Respect meeting in Luton, Bedfordshire, last week. They heard George Galloway MP. Henna Malik and Yasmin Akhtar denounce the government's record and call for support for Respect.
The meeting was held just days after the wave of arrests of 'terror suspects'. About half the audience were Asians and during questions several spoke of the witch-hunting atmosphere which the government had created. Mushtaq Arain said how the situation reminded him of the way Irish people had been targeted in the 1970s.
Another questioner was Amber Newman, who asked about Respect's policies on the environment. She said she had been drawn towards the Green Party but was now more inclined to vote for Respect.
After hearing George Galloway answer her question she said she was convinced and she signed up later for Respect!
AROUND 200 people met in Leicester to select candidates for the European elections in the East Midlands constituency. The meeting had a good mixture of people. Speakers included Respect MP George Galloway, a local head teacher, an imam from a local mosque and Fayyaz Suleman-a local activist who had already been selected to head the list.
The other candidates selected at the meeting were Sulma Mansuri, a lawyer from Nottingham, Jeannie Robinson, the branch secretary for the Natfhe lecturers' union at Nottingham Trent University, Craig Plowman, a TGWU steward and Stop the War activist from Kettering, and Helen Merryman, an education worker from Nottingham, East Midlands is one of the areas where a postal ballot will be held for the 10 June elections. That means that activists have only around 50 days to build the biggest possible vote for Respect.
RESPECT MEMBERS in Wales held a convention last Saturday to select candidates for the European elections. They chose four candidates to contest the elections.
However, Respect have reached a provisional agreement with Forward Wales/ Cymru Ymlaen, the party set up by Welsh Assembly member John Marek. They plan to run a joint slate of Forward Wales and Respect candidates. Respect also hopes to involve the Green Party. Once a final agreement is reached candidates from the Respect list will transfer to the joint slate.
The meeting at the weekend selected four Respect candidates, all of whom have been active opponents of the war: Helen Griffin is a writer and actor from Swansea, Huw Williams is a steward for the Unison union, Raja Raiz is an imam in a Cardiff mosque and Taran O'Sullivan is secretary of Cardiff Coalition Against the War.
THREE MORE branches of the RMT union voted last week to support the Respect coalition's election campaign. The Jubilee South and Central Line West branches on London Underground took the decision last week after inviting Respect candidates to their meetings. There are now five RMT branches that have voted to support the Respect campaign.
South east London
RESPECT SUPPORTERS in south east London organised a motor cavalcade last Saturday to raise the profile of Respect in the area. Five cars, a van and a 'mobile placard' towed behind a car made up the cavalcade. Balloons, posters and ribbons decorated the vehicles as they wove their way through the area.
At strategic points, activists leapt out of the cars to leaflet the streets. Candidate Oli Rahman used a megaphone to attract people's attention.
PRESTON'S RESPECT councillor Michael Lavalette has prompted the Labour councillors in the town to put forward a motion to twin Preston with Nablus in Palestine. Cllr Lavalette led the twining proposal in October 2003 and at the time only 13 Labour group members voted for the proposal, which was defeated. But this week the Labour group was to discuss a very similar proposal at their group meeting. If the group agrees they will present the proposal to council on 29 April.
Cllr Lavalette said, 'This is great news. We are very pleased that the Labour group is debating whether to take a twinning motion to council. The motion is very similar to the one we debated before-but with Labour group support it should go through. It will be a great victory for the twinning campaign if that happens.
'I'm a bit disappointed that the Labour group have not talked to anyone in the twinning campaign. But all converts to the Palestinian cause are welcome. I'm sure some will say that Labour are worried about the local elections and their failure to fully support twinning before. But I think it's great that they are coming on board.'
Mukhtar Master from Preston Stop the War and a leading campaigner for twinning said, 'We understand that John Collins, Labour group leader, will propose the motion. At the end of last year he said this was mere 'gesture politics' but we are glad we have convinced him otherwise.'