Socialist Worker

‘We need to tap into the anger among ordinary people’

Issue No. 1954a

Janet Alder — Tottenham candidate

Janet Alder — Tottenham candidate

Suzie Wylie, Sheffield Hallam University & NUS executive (personal capacity)

On campuses like mine all over the country thousands of students who have become politicised through their involvement in the anti-war movement were stuck when it came to choosing who to vote for in the election.

Everybody I know through my course hates Blair and wanted to punish him, but were frustrated at the lack of an alternative.

And for students in particular, it’s not just the issue of the illegal war in Iraq. It’s also about tuition fees and facing massive debt at the end of your degree.

A few students I knew through the anti-war group on campus were immediately excited about Respect and campaigned with me in Sheffield.

But many more were unconvinced that it would ever be possible to make an impact in a general election.

I have friends whose parents had voted Labour all their lives but now their whole family cannot bring themselves to vote for warmongers and liars, but neither do they really trust the Lib Dems. These people had nowhere to go.

But, since George Galloway won, and then scored another victory for the anti-war movement when he attacked the US senate, the mood has completely changed.

After exams on my campus, instead of getting drunk and moaning about the terrible questions we were set, students have been getting drunk and talking about Respect!

We have a fantastic opportunity to turn Respect into a mass, campaigning organisation on campuses across the country.

I’m going to carry Respect membership forms in my bag and whenever anybody comments on my badge I’m going to ask them to join.

We can’t afford to miss this chance to give direction to all the thousands of young people who marched against war and against fees.

Charley Hasted, Greenwich Young People’s Council (personal capacity)

As a young person I feel it is important for Respect to realise what all the main political parties have, so far, failed to understand — the 14-17 year olds in this country will be of voting age by the next election. Therefore vilifying us now is not going to make them popular with us later.

Young people generally will vote on issues that affect them. By treating under 18s as human beings instead of small demons out to rob, attack and persecute people, Respect will have a leg-up over other political parties who see under 18s as unimportant because we can’t vote at that stage.

Once people have voted for a political party it is likely they will continue to vote for the same party. If Respect can continue to get young people’s support and to be the party they vote for the first time they will have a core of supporting voters among the young and gradually through the entire population, even more so than they already do.

One idea to get more young people interested is to set up youth councils so they have a real say in the way things are run and can feel engaged in politics.

More generally, George Galloway now has an enormous responsibility to make Bethnal Green & Bow work, and work well. As the only Respect constituency in the country potential voters will look to it to see what Respect leadership is all about.

Makola Mayambika, black activist

The challenge in areas like Tottenham in north London is to make the same positive links with African-Caribbean people as have been made elsewhere with sections of the Muslim community.

By standing Janet Alder in this area we showed our positive identification with black people fighting for justice. Now we have to drive that much further, by taking up questions such as treatment by the police, discrimination in employment, school exclusions and lack of a future. The fate of Africa and global poverty are also issues that resonate strongly.

Of course there are also issues such as privatisation, low pay, and the march of the academies through education that profoundly affect white working class people as well.

Young people, black and white, are demonised by politicians and the press. But it is particularly sharp for black young people. Nobody is standing up and saying that young people have rights and should be respected themselves.

Respect must fill that gap and challenge the consensus of ideas.

There is a crisis of political organisation and leadership among African-Caribbeans. The Labour Party runs black candidates in black areas. But, once elected, the great majority of them do not fight for black people because this would bring them into conflict with the government.

Respect must be more than rhetoric. We have to show in practice that we can offer a way forward that involves people and is based on wide participation of those most directly affected.

We have to be part of every fightback, while at the same time developing our own strategies and initiatives through discussing with activists and supporters. We must be a campaigning organisation and one that can be a focus at the ballot box.

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Fri 3 Jun 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1954a
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