Around 350 people met in London last Saturday for a meeting organised by the RMT union on the crisis in working class political representation.
There were around 70 Respect supporters present with a similar or slightly larger number of Socialist Party members.
Another 40 or so came from other organisations which had been part of the Socialist Alliance.
There was almost universal agreement that it was impossible to reclaim the Labour Party for socialist purposes. RMT general secretary Bob Crow set the tone when he said that Labour “no longer represents our class”.
He said that as a union the RMT was not about to declare a political party, but that it had a wider social remit and he hoped a national shop stewards’ movement could result in the longer term.
Other platform speakers represented many forces to the left of Labour, and one represented a force that it was news to find still believed it existed.
But Respect had not been invited, an omission that disappointed several speakers from the floor.
The meeting came to no firm conclusions about the way forward – resolutions were not permitted and if they had done would have led to a great deal of wrangling among the forces present.
There is clearly a thirst for a viable force to the left of Labour and it is very important that the RMT has reacted to its expulsion from Labour by helping to take the debate forward.
If significant trade union forces were to assist in the formation of a new party it would be a crucial step.
This is an important debate that will continue.
But as John Rees, national secretary of Respect said, “It’s hard to agree a platform and candidates for a new radical organisation, but the hardest bit is to get votes.
“Respect has been more successful than other initiatives that have tried to achieve this goal.”