Respect-The Unity Coalition supporters speak about the urgent steps needed for an effective challenge to New Labour in the June elections
WE HAVE a lot to do in a very short time if we are going to make an impact in the June elections. In every area we need to start by bringing together all the people who want to build Respect to discuss what needs to be done.
We then need to plan the different aspects of our campaign: membership, finance, press and publicity, meetings and activities. We need to involve as many people as possible. Our meetings should be welcoming and inclusive.
There have to be well planned Respect conventions in every constituency to select candidates by the middle of March. Only members will be able to vote so we need to sign people up. It's only £10 to join but we hope that working members will pay more by monthly standing order.
We need to raise at least £1 million for the election campaign. I especially want to emphasise two areas that I think we need to focus on. Firstly, the trade unions. If Respect is to be successful there needs to be serious involvement from the trade union movement.
The founding declaration of Respect is now printed. We need to go to every workplace-rail depot, fire station, sorting office, etc-with it. We need to discuss with the workers there and try and win them to supporting Respect, both as union branches and individual members. Secondly, we need to win support from young people.
There is a whole new generation coming into political activity around issues like the war and top-up fees, and Respect should be their natural home. Many of those who have been part of the stop the war movement can be won to Respect.
In the build-up to the national stop the war demonstration on 20 March I am sure Respect supporters will be playing an active role. We need to be building that demonstration, but discussing with people we are protesting alongside why the movement needs to find a political expression, and that can be Respect. Above all we need to generate an enthusiasm and momentum behind Respect in the coming weeks.
Nick Wrack, national executive member and chair of Respect
Get the name Respect known everywhere
THE MOST important thing to do first is to get the name and ideas behind the Respect coalition as widely known as possible. We are taking a half-page advert in a national broadsheet. It would be good if local groups did the same in local papers.
This week every RMT member, indeed every trade union member, in the country will be discussing the political fund. Respect supporters should both write to and contact every RMT branch, every FBU union branch, every CWU union branch and every other activist and arrange to meet them. Every anti-war activist will be discussing the government's crisis. Many in the Muslim community will be discussing David Blunkett's new trial without jury proposals.
Respect supporters need to be in touch with all of them to popularise the ideas behind the new coalition. In two to three weeks time Respect will be holding a series of conventions based on the European election constituencies to organise our supporters and select candidates for the 10 June elections. The process of building these conventions is as important as the conventions themselves.
Contacting potential Respect supporters, not just in the major towns but in the towns of the large European constituencies, in the anti-war movement, trade unions, the Muslim community, is the key part of the process. These conventions should not just be meetings of the already established left. In the towns and cities of the constituencies we don't need to wait for the conventions to launch Respect.
It only costs about £300 to hire a lorry with a full-size billboard on the back and a full-scale Respect poster on it. A press call with that in the middle of each town will guarantee coverage in the local papers, TV and radio. We also need to begin seriously raising funds.
The agreed founding statement for Respect is now available as well as other resources on the website www.respectcoalition.com
JOHN REES, Respect national executive member
Select candidates that really reflect the movement
WE HELD a very enthusiastic meeting last week to begin building Respect in the West Midlands. We invited anyone who wanted to discuss how we could get things moving. There were over 80 people there and it was excellent. We heard from John Rees from the Respect executive and Salma Yaqoob, also from the Respect executive and chair of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition.
It was a good mix-trade unionists, people from the mosques, students. We made sure there weren't just people from Birmingham. The European constituency covers a much larger area, so we had people there from Walsall and a very good delegation from Coventry.
There was a mood to get organised, and quickly. We decided to call a convention on Saturday 6 March and we broke down into different groups to plan how to build that and make it really representative. A trade union group decided to send a letter to every trade union in the area urging them to come to the Respect convention.
A group from the mosques decided to set up information points in the mosques to publicise Respect and the 6 March convention.
We have a steering committee to push things through and we will have another big meeting on 16 February where people will feed back on how things are going. By the 6 March convention we want to have a potential list of candidates that reflects the movement.
We are also making sure that Respect gets publicised, for example, on the BBC workers' protest last week and on the Land Rover pickets. There is a lot to learn about how election campaigns run, how the proportional representation system works in the European elections, fundraising, etc. But there was real enthusiasm and optimism.
IAN MITCHELL, Birmingham
WE ARE getting going in Kent to build Respect. We are starting with a number of 'Respect: it's happening' events. These will include speakers, but also local musicians and artists.
The first will be in Canterbury on Saturday 21 February. Canterbury has a vibrant anti-war movement, and the 'happening' will include a trial of Tony Blair.
Then we will see if we can do similar things in other towns as soon as possible. We will target Maidstone and Folkestone, where we already know some people. In Margate there are networks around Stop the War and defending asylum seekers from which we can find people to mobilise around Respect. From all these 'happenings' we will mobilise for a candidate selection meeting in Brighton.
We have George Galloway and John Rees booked for a big Respect rally in Canterbury on Thursday 18 March. We can use that to introduce the candidates. We are planning large-scale workplace visiting to build that rally.
We already have a Respect May Day festival planned. We are going to tour schools and sixth forms to build what should be a great May Day event.
JON FLAIG, Kent