New Labour is facing a strong challenge from Respect in Newham, east London. Lindsey German is contesting West Ham for Respect and Abdul Khaliq Mian is standing in East Ham.
An elderly, working class woman approached the Labour Party stall in Stratford, Newham, last Saturday. An East End pensioner, she is the kind of voter that Labour have taken for granted for decades.
But now she is angry. “New Labour — you don’t listen to pensioners. You do nothing for us,” she shouts. She waves a Respect tabloid under the nose of the man running the stall. The Labour supporters look distinctly worried.
The biggest campaigning presence in Newham last weekend was Respect. Respect looks and feels like the official opposition across the borough.
Four stalls were set up across the two constituencies on Saturday and several teams of canvassers were out on the doorstep. The Newham campaign manager, Ghada Razuki, estimates that 100 Respect supporters were involved in the weekend’s activities.
Ghada says, “We canvassed two wards over the weekend. Large numbers of people have still not decided who they are voting for, but the main feeling is of anger against New Labour.
“Of those that have decided who they will vote for, many back Respect. When we did a walkabout on Green Street with the candidates on Sunday the recognition factor was amazing.”
On the streets near the Newham Respect office almost every shop has window posters backing Lindsey German and Abdul Khaliq Mian.
Farooq is a local shopkeeper. He says, “Everyone is angry with New Labour. They’re not doing anything for local people.
“I’ve always voted Labour but not this time. I’ve read about Respect’s campaign in the local papers — it seems good to me.”
Margaret says, “I’m definitely not voting for Labour this time. I agree with George Galloway about the war. Blair and the war are the main issues for me.”
At another stall on East Ham High Street crowds of children with their families take Respect balloons and stickers.
Mr Choudhury has also come up to the Respect stall. “I’ve heard about Respect from the European elections. I was in the Labour Party but now I think they are all liars. I left Labour over the war — now the whole of my family plan to vote Respect.”
Bill Dempsey, the chair of the East and West Ham Pensioners Association, says, “Abdul Khaliq Mian spoke at our meeting last week.
“Though I’ve always been a Labour supporter, I don’t vote Labour, Conservative or Liberal now. I’ll be voting Respect.”