THE ELECTIONS next week are set to be a defining political moment. People will be voting across Britain for the last time before the general election, expected next year. The results on 10 June will shape the political landscape, the forces on that landscape and the direction those forces take.
New Labour and the Tories are both in crisis. They both support the war on Iraq, and they both support further privatisation. Both are viewed with hostility and held in contempt by the majority of working people.
The far right has started to rear its ugly head, hoping to exploit the climate of cynicism and anger. The British National Party (BNP) and UK Independence Party are hoping that the left vote stays at home. They are banking on a low turnout to raise their profile and whip up more bigotry and racism.
But the left has also grown in strength over the past few years. There is a huge, vibrant movement against war and occupation. There is also widespread opposition to privatisation, coupled with anger over pensions and top-up fees.
Respect: The Unity Coalition can channel that anger and make it politically effective. It can reach out and galvanise the millions of ordinary voters who despair of New Labour and are disgusted by war. Two of the 10 June elections-for the European Parliament and the London Assembly-use a proportional representation voting system.
Respect has a serious chance of getting an MEP and representation in the London Assembly. The PR system also means that people can vote Respect without having to worry about letting the Nazis in. And a high left turnout could weaken the BNP's chances of getting a couple of seats.
The London mayor election also uses a modified system, with everyone having a first and a second preference vote. By voting Respect as a first preference and Livingstone on the back-up vote, Londoners can deliver a strong anti-war message without risking a Tory mayor in City Hall.
The Liberal Democrats are also hoping to cash in on disillusion with New Labour and the Tories. But, as we show on the page opposite, they are a fake opposition to the war. They supported the war once it started, and back the continued occupation of Iraq.
On the domestic front their record in local councils demonstrates that they are just as keen on privatisation as either of the two main parties. They are also deeply hostile to trade unions.
It's clear that Respect is the only force contesting this election that offers serious and consistent opposition to war and privatisation. If Respect gets a decent vote, it will strengthen and focus the left while delivering a huge blow to New Labour.
The alternative is to pass up a unique chance and drift along with 'business as usual' politics while the privatisers, racists, press barons and fat cats all try to shove politics further to the right.
Every Socialist Worker reader should be telling their friends, family and workmates about Respect. We have a simple message to get across to as many people as possible this week-Make sure you vote. Make sure you vote Respect.