RESPECT: THE Unity Coalition is gearing up to challenge the mainstream political parties in the 10 June elections. At meetings up and down the country the democratic process of selecting candidates for the European Parliament and Greater London Authority elections set for that day is now under way.
The first Respect candidate officially selected is Salvinder Singh Dhillon, for the Greater London Authority constituency of Ealing & Hillingdon, west London. A meeting last weekend of over 70 local activists and trade unionists, including Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims, voted unanimously to select him. Salvinder Dhillon told Socialist Worker, 'In the last general election I polled around 1,200 votes standing for the People's Empowerment Alliance. When I heard about the Respect coalition I thought, 'Let's work together,' because we stand for the same things, such as investment for health and education, rather than privatisation.'
Balvinder Rana told Socialist Worker, 'I have lived in Southall for 27 years and watched the area get more and more run down. We have Asian councillors, but they are just interested in becoming MPs or mayors. They never made any difference for us. We want representatives who stand up for people, like Salvinder.'
People contributed to a lively discussion on what Respect should campaign over. Many were eager to support an anti-war candidate. Local youth worker Jim Wright raised the lack of facilities for young people, saying, 'We need to campaign with young people to give them hope.' Ollie New, from the RMT rail workers' union, talked about the siting of a new housing development on poisoned land at an old gasworks and the privatisation of the London Underground.
Many people at the meeting volunteered to help organise the election campaign, and £532 was raised toward Salvinder Dhillon's deposit.
'We have more in common than divides us'
ACTIVISTS FROM across the north west of England attended the launch of Respect in Manchester last Sunday. Over 220 people voted to found Respect in the region and stand in the European elections. The meeting saw pensioners, students, Muslims, trade unionists and anti-war activists sitting alongside each other.
Nahalla Ashraf from Manchester said, 'We came together in the anti-war movement realising that we had more in common than divides us.' Nominations for candidates were opened at the meeting and they will be selected at a further meeting 28 March. Many other meetings took place last week.
'Respect Haringey & Enfield in north London is on the move,' says Simon Hester. 'Over 200 people packed into a room last week for the local launch.' 'Around 120 people attended a Respect public meeting in Cambridge,' says Liz Brennan. 'There were a lot of young people and students there.' 'We had our launch meeting in Waltham Forest in east London last week,' says Jo Cardwell. Sixty five people came. It was all organised through word of mouth.'
'Portsmouth had its launch meeting on Wednesday of last week,' says John Molyneux. 'Exactly 48 people came. It was successful. We drove round the streets of Portsmouth in the day with our model of the three-headed monster of mainstream politics that was pictured in Socialist Worker last week. That got quite a response.'
A number of important meetings and conventions are taking place in the coming weeks. London and Birmingham are set to select candidates this weekend. Right across the country Respect is on the road-and gearing up to leave its mark on the 10 June elections
To get involved phone 020 7170 4030, go to www.respectcoalition.org.