With one week to go to the Thursday 10 June elections Respect's campaign is winning an audience
'AT LAST, a political party after my own heart.' That was Olivia from Derby's response after seeing the Respect broadcast on TV last week. Thousands of other people had the same reaction.
'The response to Respect's national election broadcast was brilliant,' says national chairperson Nick Wrack.
'The broadcast went out on Thursday and the phones just haven't stopped ringing since. We have been inundated with e-mail messages. Another thing that has made a huge difference is the first deliveries of Respect's 22 million postal leaflets. Wherever they get delivered, we start getting calls from people wanting to get involved and join Respect.
'The people getting in touch are just brilliant. Rod, a longstanding shop steward from the Ford Dagenham plant, called us to say that after seeing our election material he decided to join us.
'An e-mail came from Stanley in Horseley who said, 'I'm 80 years old and your literature takes me back to the dreams of my youth-what can I, in my dotage, do to help?' 'A woman from Wrexham told us she has two sons serving in Iraq and really supported our call to end the occupation. A woman from Brighton who had been in Labour for 18 years but left over the war in Iraq phoned asking how to join.
'An 80 year old army veteran who was on his way to join the D-Day landing commemorations in Normandy said he had to join Respect before he went. He had been in the Labour Party all his life.
'Paul from Wales called to say, 'Your party political broadcast has motivated me to become active in politics for the first time in ten years.' 'A pensioner called Bill from Colchester phoned, saying he had been waiting all his life for a party like Respect and he wanted to be the first to put in his postal vote for us.
'A woman from St Albans left a message saying she was leaving Labour after 35 years to join Respect. Arthur from Blackpool told us he saw our broadcast and wanted to join. He is 77 years old and once helped found the Labour League of Youth in Halifax. Uzna from west London just heard about Respect and called us asking for lots of leaflets to give out at her local mosque. These people are just the tip of the iceberg. The more people who get to know about us, the more people like this will be joining, getting involved, and getting their friends and families to vote for us.'
A woman from Southampton, who has been in the Labour Party for 40 years and was a councillor, e-mailed Respect to say, 'My party has left me and it is time to move on. You are just what I have been looking for. Thanks a lot!' She is not the only one. A former Lib Dem councillor and parliamentary candidate in Oxford has joined Respect.
Respect candidate in the north west Michael Lavalette has been out campaigning in places where some traditional politicians would not venture. He spoke to a 2,800-strong audience at Liverpool's Unite Against Fascism gig last Sunday.
He began by urging the audience to go out and vote on 10 June 'because the BNP don't want you to. If you don't vote in the north west then the BNP's Führer, Nick Griffin, could get elected. Every vote is a nail in the coffin of the BNP. When you look at that ballot paper you will be faced with the parties of big business and war, the Tories and New Labour, and the party of business that backed war after it started, the Lib Dems. I want you to consider voting Respect-the anti-war, anti-privatisation, anti-racist party.' He got one of the loudest cheers of all the speakers.
Respect supporters gave out around 10,000 leaflets at the Middlesbrough music festival on Monday of this week.
Raising the profile
Make sure you have a vibrant and visible campaign
All over the country supporters have been finding new ways to boost the profile of Respect. Particularly effective are banner drops, window posters, car and cycle cavalcades, and campaign buses.
Respect candidate Tansy Hoskins was out on the Respect battle bus as it toured the capital. She told Socialist Worker, 'The response has been brilliant. Everywhere we go people bring different ideas and we get a fantastic reception. On Friday George Galloway addressed people coming out of prayers at the Tooting Islamic Centre from the top of the bus. He went down really well. We were delighted when 300 people came to a follow-up meeting at the centre on Sunday evening. On Saturday we did bilingual campaigning in Tower Hamlets. The Respect candidate, Oli Rahman, spoke over the megaphone in Bengali and a 12 year old girl spoke in Urdu. We spent Sunday morning touring round Camden and the Brent shopping centre. We had people on the bus dressed up as Bush, Blair and a torture victim-it really attracted attention.'
You don't have to wait for the battle bus to come to your area. Lots of places have hired flat-bed trucks to build the campaign. Helen from south London says, 'We decorated the truck with balloons and posters, and set up a PA system. We set up stalls all around the route of the bus. The local candidate toured round all day. No other parties were out campaigning, so we had a lot of interest and support. Some of us were out campaigning along the South Bank until about 10pm. We met people who joined the bus and then joined Respect. We had a huge impact.'
Respect supporters in the West Midlands have found an excellent way to get the message across. They are targeting key road junctions and roundabouts with Respect placards. Ian reports, 'Our weatherproof placards have made Respect visible right across Birmingham. You need a stepladder and some plastic tie wraps, which you can easily get from DIY shops. The placards, stuck up on lampposts, have a brilliant impact. People are really keen to do it, because it has such an immediate effect. It's not just central Birmingham that's covered in placards, it's also happening in Worcester, Stafford, Telford and Wolverhampton. As well as the placarding, we have done mass leafleting round the Bullring shopping centre and the Birmingham Pride 2004 event. We had a successful Picnic for Peace, which raised £1,400 for Respect.'
Out on the estates
Yvonne Ridley is heading the European list in the north east for Respect. She told Socialist Worker, 'It's going very well up here. We've had some very big meetings and more people out on the streets leafleting than any of the other parties. In fact, there's been a distinct absence of other parties canvassing. I have been going round knocking on doors and pushing through leaflets. People are pleased to see us and very positive. Respect is getting into places other parties cannot reach!'
Respect campaigners in Hackney, east London, have also been delivering leaflets door to door. Seth reports, 'We have leafleted 90 percent of the houses in the borough. People are really enthusiastic about doing it. As long as we are well organised, it is very easy for people to get a bundle of leaflets and do the areas on their own doorsteps when they can fit it in. It's about getting lots of people to do a little bit. Respect is the organisation that does reach out to people who have been abandoned by everyone else. We have something to offer them, and we want to hear what they have to say-that's why we need to be out on the estates.'