Two breakthrough results for Respect in Newham, an east London borough, shocked New Labour early on Friday morning.
Lindsey German and Abdul Khaliq Mian stood in West Ham and East Ham respectively. They each came second—taking about one in five votes across the constituencies and firmly establishing Respect as the main opposition to New Labour in the borough.
Newham has until recently been solidly Labour—before Thursday’s election the party could boast a 50 percent lead over its nearest opponents. But Labour’s majorities were cut by about half compared to 2001.
Speaking at the count for the two constituencies, Abdul Khaliq Mian said, “This is a magnificent result. We have got 20 percent of the vote — an amazing achievement for such a new political party.
“Of course we have not won, but if the MP, Stephen Timms, chooses to ignore the people that he represents, the people of East Ham have overwhelmingly shown him what will happen. There is now an alternative in East Ham.”
Abdul Khaliq Mian’s share of the poll, 20.7 percent, was almost the same as the fall in the Labour vote since the last general election — a 19.2 percent drop. Lindsey German won 19.5 percent of the vote, easily seeing off other opposition parties, praised the large numbers of Respect supporters who had helped to achieve “two historic results” in Newham.
Labour’s candidates attempted to dismiss the 14,000 plus people who had voted for Lindsey and Abdul Khaliq, attacking Respect’s campaign as haranguing and “disrespectful”.
Lindsey responded, “I think Respect is a landmark in politics in this country. Some candidates have said that they found our campaign disrespectful.
“All I can say is that I think they were disrespectful of the Iraqis — of the 100,000 of them who are now dead. It is disrespectful that our prime minister has not apologised, or been held to account.”
Lindsey also looked to the future for Respect. She said, “Respect is going to continue in Newham. We think we are going to have massive success, and of course the local council elections are only a year away.
“I would like to put the Labour councillors of Newham on notice. We will be challenging them in this area and we expect to do very, very well.
“I believe the people of Newham desperately need an alternative to Labour. I believe Labour has let them down. I believe that we now face a terrible housing crisis in this borough, as we do across London.
“These issues need to be addressed. They were never going to be addressed by just one vote, but they will be addressed in the months and years to come.”
Lindsey’s Labour opponent, Lyn Brown, saw her party’s vote drop by 18.7 percent. Lindsey said, “I hope that Lyn Brown will honour the commitments she made during the election campaign, and which she didn’t mention tonight, to oppose war.
“I hope that she will oppose any future attacks on Iran or Syria. I believe that we should hold her to that commitment, and expect the MP for West Ham to be against the war.”