RESPECT HAS been in existence for just over a month, and we have a mountain to climb in a short time if we want to make an impact. There are just 100 days to go to the 10 June elections. We are focusing on the European and Greater London Assembly election on 10 June because they are run on a proportional system rather than the traditional 'first past the post' system.
That makes it much easier for parties other than the established mainstream lot to make an impact.
Meetings to organise Respect and conventions to select candidates are taking place around the country. We have to move quickly to get a large-scale campaign up and running. The biggest problem we face is that people haven't heard of Respect. When you explain to people what we stand for my experience is that there is a real interest, but we have to get the message out about who we are and what we stand for first.
For me, especially with the short time available, that means going through established networks. It means getting Respect speakers into union branches, tenants' associations and pensioners' groups. These networks can spread the message out to the people they are in touch with.
The media is crucial in getting a high profile. At a local level we need to think of imaginative ways of getting our name and message in the local papers, TV and radio. Think visual-they like an image. We also need to convince people that it is worth voting.
Many people may not take the European and London Assembly elections that seriously, but we can persuade them that a vote for Respect can help put us on the map and really shake things up. Where people are fighting back, like with civil servants in the PCS union or lecturers in the AUT union, we need to be there with the message of Respect. People involved in these fights will be responsive.
We need to have the same spirit and imaginative approach running up to 10 June that we had when building the stop the war demonstrations last year.
Election demands new methods
THE SIZE of the constituencies on 10 June and the proportional system will fundamentally shape the kind of campaign needed. In a local council election the emphasis is on locating people in a particular local ward who may vote for you. That means contacting people through door to door leafleting and canvassing.
In the European and London Assembly elections a very different emphasis is needed. The key is simply to reach as many people as possible with the message 'Vote Respect on 10 June'.
There are 6.8 million people living in the North West Euro constituency, for example, 7.2 million in London, and five million in Yorkshire & Humberside. In the North West, for example, a vote in Whitehaven, Blackpool or Macclesfield is as important as one in Liverpool or Manchester to get Respect to achieve the numbers needed to make an impact.
In London a voter in Merton, Bromley or Hillingdon is as vital as one in Lambeth, Hackney or Tower Hamlets for Respect getting the London-wide vote it needs. So everyone coming out of a major transport hub will have a vote somewhere in the region which they can cast for Respect.
Everyone in a busy regional shopping centre will have a vote they can cast for Respect. People in a major workplace will live all over the place, but will all have a vote they can use to back Respect.
And everyone you meet on the street, on a train or bus, or at work can vote for Respect somewhere. An effective campaign means thinking in these terms. It means emphasising large-scale imaginative campaigning aimed at reaching the biggest number of people across a wide area.
To narrow the focus down to chasing individual votes in a ward is fighting the wrong war with the wrong tactics and wrong weapons.
How the voting system will work on 10 June
ON THURSDAY 10 June every voter will be able to vote for a member of the European Parliament. In Britain 87 MEPs are elected in all from 12 giant constituencies. There are just nine Euro constituencies covering the whole of England-and Scotland and Wales are each just a single constituency.
So the South East covers a ring from Oxford to the west of London along the south coast from Portsmouth to Dover and all of Kent. Each party puts forward a regional list of candidates for the election. Seats are allocated within each region in proportion to the share of the vote each party list gets across the whole region.
In the last European elections it was possible to win a seat with around 7.5 percent of votes across a region.
VOTERS IN London will have several votes on 10 June. Among them will be votes for the Greater London Assembly and London mayor. In the assembly elections everyone gets two votes. One is for a traditional 'first past the post' candidate in each of the 14 large constituencies in the capital.
The second is for a London-wide list, which sees candidates elected on the basis of the vote each party list gets across the whole of London. The size of the vote for Respect's London-wide list is the key to making an impact in the assembly elections. People will also have a vote for the mayor.
The Respect executive will be recommending to a London members' meeting on 7 March that the coalition stands a candidate for the mayor.
Respect has produced postcards with three different images by artist Leon Kuhn as campaigning tools.
'Give them to your friends, distribute on protests, leave them in local shops, pubs and libraries, display them on stalls,' says Respect. On the back is a statement about what Respect stands for and contact details. It is pre-addressed so anyone interested in Respect just needs to fill in their details and add a stamp. The postcards come in packs of 100 and cost £5.
They are available from Respect: The Unity Coalition, Winchester House, 259-269 Old Marylebone Road, London NW1 5RA.