Merseyside Respect is targeting the Liverpool 8 ward of Prince’s Park in the forthcoming May elections.
The ward – which incorporates the former Granby ward – is one of the poorest in the whole of Britain.
“It’s been 25 years since the Toxteth riots. I’ve seen Granby Street pulled down and rebuilt three times in my lifetime, and still this area is poverty stricken,” complains Paul Desson – the man who will be leading Respect’s first assault on the ballot box in Liverpool.
Prince’s Park is the multicultural heart of Liverpool. It is also a ghetto. It is 37 percent “non-British” with the average household income running at just £360 a week and more than 80 percent of households paying rent.
Paul is 43, Granby born, bred – and still resident. His grandfather came to Liverpool from Haiti. His grandmother was Irish.
Paul says, “For New Labour multiculturalism is a buzzword. In Granby we’ve been practising multiculturalism as a way of life for at least three generations.”
A former British soldier who served in Northern Ireland, Paul is a staunch critic of the war in Iraq. “Any soldier will tell you war is not about bringing democracy, it’s about gaining ground.”
He is also angry that in the wake of the recent racist murder of Anthony Walker, not one Liverpool 8 councillor led an anti-racist offensive in the city.
“Anthony Walker was not murdered in this part of the city, but his death was of great concern to residents here, Yet the councillors had nothing to say about it,” says Paul.
It was at a meeting called by the Campaign Against Racial Terror in the wake of Anthony Walker’s murder that Respect members and Paul Desson first met.
Paul, a longtime grassroots activist, announced to that meeting that the Liberal and Labour councillors had been given more than enough time to prove themselves – and they had failed to deliver.
The time for asking for more grants and launching meaningless initiatives was over. It was time, he said, to start sacking councillors.
He told that meeting, “There is a new kid on the block called Respect.
“It’s anti-war, anti-racist and anti-privatisation. I’m not a member of it yet, but if it wants to stand a candidate here I’ll do all I can to support it.”
He did indeed join Respect, and he was a natural choice as a candidate for a ward that sits within the Riverside constituency of Louise Ellman, a woman described by George Galloway as “Israel’s MP on the Mersey”.
Being against the Iraq war, against privatisation and against racism are at the heart of Respect’s campaign here.
Prince’s Park has long stood in the shadow of Liverpool cathedral, but new shadows now fall across the area – those of the cranes and the new high-rises reshaping the Liverpool city skyline ready for it to be the 2008 European Capital of Culture.
Paul says, “Liverpool is currently the biggest building site in Europe. They say the wealth will trickle down to other areas of the city eventually – but not before it’s flowed elsewhere first.
“Not one brick has ever been laid by local labour. Not one apprentice scheme has gone to anyone living here. So because they never gave anyone any jobs here, Granby has actually got poorer.
“It’s time to say we’ve got to do things differently round here.”
To join Respect, or to get involved in your local election campaign phone 0870 850 1978 or e-mail email@example.com or write to Respect The Unity Coalition, 9 Club Row, London E1 6JX or go to www.respectcoalition.org