Hundreds of Respect supporters from across London and around the country converged on east London last Saturday. They formed an army of campaigners for the general election.
They came to join George Galloway’s campaign to oust Oona King who, as MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, angered constituents with her vocal support for the Iraq war.
A vibrant procession of 400 people made its way from Liverpool Street station to the Respect office in Hanbury Street, just off Brick Lane.
George Galloway welcomed supporters to the “first liberated area of Bethnal Green & Bow. In the next few days we hope to liberate the rest of the constituency.”
The activists then divided into different groups, spreading out into every corner of the constituency to leaflet, canvass and campaign for Respect.
Meanwhile Respect’s open-topped battle bus toured the constituency all day winning more support for George Galloway’s campaign.
Anthony Czubkauski, the Amicus union senior shop steward at East Midlands Electricity, had travelled down from Mansfield with other Respect supporters. He told Socialist Worker, “I felt that it was vital to get down here today. I am so disgusted that we have terrible New Labour MPs like Geoff Hoon in our area.
“We need to challenge them on every front. Respect is a serious movement to bring change for working class people. This is a great opportunity in Bethnal Green & Bow. If I didn’t come I would have been disappointed.”
Wherever Respect supporters went they received a good response.
Jacob Middleton said, “Today went really well. Some of the blocks are almost 100 percent Respect. We ran into Oona King and ten Labour Party members trying to convince people to vote Labour.
“But looking at our own canvassing returns for those blocks I wondered why they bothered.
“What is very noticeable is that a lot of the people who were previously undecided have now come over to Respect, especially in the south of the constituency around Shadwell.
“A group of us canvassed a couple of wards around Wapping. We visited the better-off white working class areas. A lot of people there have turned towards Respect.
“It was noticeable from running a stall in Watney Market that people are getting more enthusiastic towards Respect. There is an awful lot of anger towards Labour.”
Dave Davies said, “While I was out campaigning I bumped into a Respect supporter who had been the chair of the local mosque in the Globe Town area and been in the Labour Party for a number of years.
“He came canvassing with us in Stepney and because he could speak Bengali he was able to converse with Bangladeshi people and win a huge number of votes.
“I also met this younger man in a very poor part of Stepney who said, ‘We’ve got to get Galloway in. We’ve got to get someone in who will spend money on places like this.’
“It’s given people a lot of hope that Respect might win in Bethnal Green & Bow.”
Jackie Turner, who had spent the day coordinating activity from the Respect office, said, “It’s been a fab day. People had a really wonderful time going out canvassing.
“There were so many people going out and then coming back to do more campaigning. People were going into the evening.”
John Rees is the national secretary of Respect. He told Socialist Worker, “We have had a very good day indeed. The procession gave the canvassers a terrific send-off.
“We have now completed a full canvass of the entire constituency, and are starting to go back to see people who were undecided.
“Over 500 Respect supporters have been out campaigning today while I’ve only heard of a handful of Labour canvassers. I’ve been on the Respect bus all day travelling round the constituency and we saw canvassing teams from Respect everywhere.
“The canvassing returns have been very good, from every different area of the constituency.
“I would make a strong appeal for people to come to Bethnal Green & Bow on polling day. We want people here every second they possibly can, but we really need people to make an effort on Thursday to get here.”
Respect eve of poll London rally
6.30pm, Wednesday 4 May,
Genesis cinema, 93-95 Mile End Road E1 (Stepney Green tube)
George Galloway (Respect candidate Bethnal Green & Bow), Mark Serwotka (PCS general secretary - pc), Janet Alder (Respect candidate Tottenham), Victoria Brittain (former Guardian foreign editor), Oliur Rahman (Respect candidate Poplar & Canning Town), John Rees (Respect national secretary)