Over 750 people came to Birmingham Sports Centre last Sunday to hear George Galloway, Salma Yaqoob, Chris Bambery and local activists talk about the need to build Respect.
Forty people joined Respect and a collection raised £600.
Keren Mousley, a 30 year old speech therapist, was typical of those who helped build the meeting. She came across Respect through the Stop the War Coalition and leafleted for the rally.
Amat, Hanna and Hind — 15 year old school students from Bordesley Green, Swan Hearst and Selly Park schools — were among the younger people in the audience.
They said, “The war affects us as much as anyone else. By coming to meetings like this we’ll know who to vote for when we’re older.”
Nazia Hussain, a nursery nurse, said, “As a Muslim woman I found Salma Yaqoob truly inspiring and definitely a leading figure to look up to.”
Respect in Preston, Lancashire, held a protest outside the town hall on Monday of this week’s over the Labour-run council’s continuing failure to empty bins from people’s homes.
The protesters dumped bags of refuse outside the building and handed in a petition demanding the council moves back to a weekly bin collection service. The council moved onto a fortnightly collection three weeks ago. The result has been chaos.
Respect councillor Steven Brooks said, “The system is in a mess. Families are not getting their bins taken away, and then have to wait a fortnight for the next collection.
“There has been an increased problem with rats. There is rubbish everywhere. The council needs to sort this now.”
The council claims the difficulties were caused by too many workers going to watch Preston North End in the play-off finals on the bank holiday Monday.
Respect councillor Michael Lavalette said, “Their excuses are pathetic. The council has had three weeks to put this right, yet they blame their workers for not working on a public holiday.
“People’s health is being put at risk. If New Labour can’t sweep the streets—we will sweep them from power.”
One of the highlights of the PCS civil service workers’ union conference last week was the Respect fringe meeting on Tuesday evening. Up to 250 people, about a quarter of the conference, attended the packed meeting.
Respect MP George Galloway, Respect councillor and PCS member Oliur Rahman and PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka spoke about Respect’s successes in the general election and the potential to build an alternative for working people.
Seventeen people who were attending PCS conference joined Respect.
Andy Bridges, one of them, told Socialist Worker, “One of the things that made me join was what both George Galloway and Mark Serwotka said about there not being an alternative among the main parties.
“I live in East Ham in east London and I voted for Abdul Khaliq Mian, the Respect candidate there. I didn’t think he had a chance. I was really amazed when he came second.
“I thought, I voted for Respect, so I should get involved. George Galloway made a cracking speech. He spoke from the heart. The things he expressed are what I feel.”
Elliott Payne is 24 and the union rep at the department for work and pensions office in Watford. He said, “I joined Respect because I agree with all the things it says.
“It fits with all the motions we passed at conference.
“I went to see George Galloway and was impressed by his powerful speech and all of the good work he’s done against the war.
“When someone asked me to join I said, ‘Easy.’ Respect seems to be the way of the future. I really hope that in the next five years Respect becomes a nationwide party.”
Rose Cooney, a member of staff at PCS headquarters in London, said, “I pledged to give some time to help Respect and I want more information about it.
“I did that because I met George Galloway 20 years ago when he worked for War on Want. When all the bad press come up about him, I thought this isn’t the person I knew.
“I went along to see if I was right in my opinion and was glad to see my opinion was confirmed. He is a man of integrity being vilified by the press.”
Mel Taylor, who also works for the PCS, said, “I live in Tower Hamlets and the whole election made me aware of the work that was going on.
“One of the things that inspired me is that Respect intends to campaign and go for the council elections in Tower Hamlets next year. I would like to be part of that campaign.
“Respect is working on a grassroots, community level and organising a wide group of people. Last week’s meeting was one of the best I’ve been to in ages.”