THE EASTERN region of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to donate £1,000 to Respect’s general election campaign. FBU regional official Adrian Clarke told Socialist Worker, “We invited Respect to our meeting before Christmas and following that we had a request for a donation. That has now been voted through.
Several of us are already members of Respect, but what has made this kind of formal link possible is the decision by the FBU conference last year to disaffiliate from the Labour Party.
“Delegates to the conference were very clear that we do not want to retreat into apolitical trade unionism. The wider political issue is that a great many people have taken a long, hard look at the Labour government and have concluded that we have to build a new left in this country.
“While many people are talking about it, Respect is getting on and doing it. It has come in for criticism from Labour politicians. They fear that they are going to be confronted by a credible, left wing alternative.”
RESPECT WON 15 percent of the vote in a council by-election in Hackney, east London, last week.
“This is steady progress,” said Respect candidate Diana Swingler who took 291 votes in the Queensbridge ward. “Our vote was well up on the European election result in this area.
“Queensbridge is an area dominated by council estates. Our message against the war, against privatisation and against Labour’s betrayals went down well. Many working people voted for us as a positive alternative to Blairism.”
Labour had previously held the seat with a big majority. But the Tories won it this time. They poured in resources, with activists sent from all over London and many parts of the south east of England. They ran a populist campaign against Labour, with hardly any mention of asylum seekers or the other touchstones of Howard’s approach.
This is the ward sometimes called the birthplace of New Labour—it is where Tony Blair was Labour Party branch secretary in 1981. A few Labour activists tried to blame Respect for their defeat. But the reality is that Labour’s vote collapsed by half between 2002 and last week. Many of those who voted Respect would not have voted at all if it had not stood.
Labour’s lacklustre campaign—promoting the party’s meagre “achievements” and denouncing the Lib Dems for being soft on crime—was a total failure. Respect activists are now looking forward to the next challenges in east London at the general election.