A PACKED selection meeting last Sunday launched Respect’s election challenge across the four constituencies in east London where it got its best results in last June’s European and London elections.
“We topped the poll in Tower Hamlets and came second in Newham,” Respect MP George Galloway told the meeting. “In 40 percent of Newham we came first.”
The meeting unanimously endorsed Galloway as prospective candidate for the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency, where his challenge has already created panic among supporters of the sitting pro-war Labour MP.
A local representative of the firefighters’ union told the meeting that while Galloway had immediately backed their campaign against the removal of a fire engine from Bethnal Green station, Labour’s Oona King had gone away to think about it.
The 90-strong meeting also unanimously selected Lindsey German, national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, to stand in West Ham, and highly respected community activist Abdul Khaliq for East Ham.
PCS civil service union activist and Tower Hamlets Respect councillor Oliur Rahman has been told by his employers —the government—that he must resign his job as soon as he becomes a prospective candidate.
His union is questioning that decision by civil service bosses. In the meantime the meeting unanimously approved his statement that he would like to seek nomination for the Poplar and Limehouse constituency.
“People ask why we want to stand against the Labour MPs in this area,” said Oliur. “The question is—why not? They have supported the war and privatisation. They have badly let down the people who voted for them.”
Abdul Khaliq said, “I am immensely proud to have been put forward. We are not like the official politicians. We are not standing to promote our own interests, but to represent the interests of ordinary people.”
Lindsey German added, “We have something the other parties don’t have—enthusiastic support among a mass of activists. And we are getting support from communities across east London.”
Two days before the east London meeting long standing Labour Party member Mobeen Qureshi was selected in Luton to be Respect’s candidate in May’s expected general election.
Respect national secretary John Rees told activists in east London, “We can expect all sorts of dirty tricks from the Labour machine. But Respect here and nationally is aiming to reach out to the majority of Labour supporters, who are against the war and against Blair’s policies. And we are mobilising for a mass turnout on the 19 March anti-war demonstration, because it is morally and politically the right thing to do.”
Respect candidate Diana Swingler is standing in the Queensbridge by-election in Hackney, east London, on Thursday 20 January. To help out, phone 07788 770 741.