'I THINK imaginative stunts like this would be great in every region for creating much-needed publicity.' So said James Button, a Nottingham Trent University student and member of the East Midlands steering committee for Respect. He was one of many Respect campaigners who have been taking part in activities to publicise Respect in the run-up to the 10 June elections.
James explained, 'We took a life-size Tony Blair dummy to Nottingham's Market Square last Saturday to ask, 'Would you trust this man as far as you could throw him?' 'Then we encouraged people to find out by flinging him across the marketplace, with hilarious results! A diversity of people, young and old, enjoyed sending Blair flying. Many were also keen to give him a good kicking and a couple of young wrestling enthusiasts practically destroyed him! We organised the event to raise awareness of Respect locally. We handed out hundreds of leaflets and got good reactions from passers-by. If we can repair Blair we will do something similar again.'
Other Respect campaigners took part in a variety of activities last week to boost the profile of the new organisation. Across London supporters leafleted outside underground stations during the evening rush-hour. The leaflets included the announcement that Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, is to stand for London mayor.
Some 12 Respect members gathered outside Waterloo station's main entrance in south London. They included six students and two lecturers from the local Southwark further education college.
Paul Holborow said, 'It was great to see the students here. It showed Respect is made up of black and white people, and can attract young people too. They were really enthusiastic, going up to people and insisting they took leaflets about Respect. We were able to cover three different points into the station, catching hundreds of commuters. A number of people came up to us and asked for a leaflet. One woman joined in while one of us was debating with a passer-by and then she left her phone number to get involved in future activities.'
Mobeen Azhar told Socialist Worker about what Respect campaigners have been doing in Leeds:
'I am a Respect candidate and managed to get on a televised discussion show last Thursday called Late Attitude. I was pitted against a young Conservative and wore my Respect T-shirt and badge. I argued about the 'war on terror' and the US administration's involvement in the former regime, and the similarities between Osama Bin Laden and Bush. Respect candidates are set to appear on Late Attitude again. Then last Saturday we distributed Respect leaflets at a rally organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Organisation. A Respect speaker was on the platform. The predominantly Arab crowd received the message of Respect warmly, and individuals offered to organise leafleting across mosques in Bradford and Leeds. Meanwhile candidates Kath Owen, Gaye Bennett and Anas Al-Tikriti spoke at enthusiastic Respect launch meetings in Scunthorpe and Huddersfield. In the future we are planning a major multilingual leafleting and sticker campaign, and getting a sound system to tell the people of Leeds about Respect.'
A 200-strong meeting in Hackney, east London, last week endorsed Dean Ryan as the constituency candidate and saw huge enthusiasm for the coming campaign. There was a particularly good turnout from the Turkish and Kurdish communities.
Maxine Bowler from Sheffield reported, 'Respect members who leafleted the Sheffield mosques received a warm reception. We came across groups of people interested in joining Respect at recent PCS and AUT union meetings, and among the drivers in black cabs. To help raise money we have organised a posse to run in the Sheffield half-marathon and a sponsored walk round Yorkshire and Humberside on 3 May. Already one Respect supporter in the probation service has collected £110.'
150 gather to vote for Respect candidates across the south west
THE SOUTH west convention of Respect, with 150 people, was held last Sunday in Bristol. Representatives from Cornwall, Plymouth, Dorset, Gloucester, Exeter and Somerset joined those in Bristol to elect candidates for the South West Region in the European elections. There were many many ex Labour voters and members there. The convention was introduced by George Galloway, among others.
Our candidates are John Bampfylde, former chair of Bath Trades Council and union convenor in a print factory. He is currently a Unison member and a legal advocate for benefit claimants.
Paulette North, daughter of a Vietnamese father and a Jamaican mother, has been teaching in inner city schools since 1977 and is assistant secretary of Bristol NUT. Hannah Packham, a 23 year old university student, was a member of the Labour Party until recently and its local youth officer.
Berny Parkes is a former Labour Party member and elected councillor on Merseyside, and Sami Velioglu left Iraq after refusing to fight in the war against Iran. Tony Staunton is secretary of the local Unison branch and Plymouth TUC, and Anne Thomas is a teacher and former Labour Party councillor in Bristol. The meeting agreed a steering committee and campaign plan.
OVER 30 trade unionists gathered in Oxford last week at a lunchtime meeting with George Galloway about Respect. He had been invited to present the case for a much-needed alternative to New Labour. The union members present included those from Amicus-MSF, the CWU and PCS. In the meeting people compared the approach of Labour to the trade unions to that of Thatcher's Tory government.
They also noted that local MP Andrew Smith is the work and pensions minister when the government has announced 40,000 job cuts in the civil service. People felt the unions should support candidates and parties that support their members, and not those who attack conditions and quality of life. People took literature and left contact details to get involved.
SOME 50 people attended the launch rally of Respect in Harlow, Essex, on Tuesday of last week. The platform included Jim Rogers, a former London firefighter, FBU lay official and ex-leader of Harlow Labour Group. He has left the Labour Party after 22 years.
Jim will be one of seven Eastern Region candidates for the European Parliament. The meeting contained an exciting cross-section of local working people in terms of age, gender, campaigning experience, and ethnic and religious backgrounds. Then 20 people hit the streets of Harlow town centre on Saturday with a bumper multicoloured Respect banner.
We gave out hundreds of Respect balloons, leaflets and stickers to shoppers and their kids-all to the accompaniment of Aretha Franklin's 'Respect'.
WE HELD our second launch rally in the area, which took place in Walsall on Friday of last week. Our steering committee has met and we have set out an action plan. There will be an outdoor event on 13 April involving a large billboard truck that will then spend the day travelling around Birmingham to raise awareness. A reception is being organised for charities, trade unions, the press and other organisations to find out about Respect.
We are finalising details for a 'Dinner with George Galloway' event during April to raise money. This will include a film and guest visit from Ken Loach. There are also teams of people involved in the more traditional methods-targeting major road routes with posters, leaflets and ringing round supporters to get them involved.
Wandsworth & Merton, London
WE MET last Wednesday and elected an agent and organising team. Several people came after hearing about it at a talk by the journalist and Respect supporter Yvonne Ridley at Tooting Islamic Centre a few days earlier. Leafleting at Clapham Junction station on Friday also met with a good response from commuters.
St George's Hospital, fire stations and tube stations are some of the workplaces Respect will be leafleting next week.