NEW LABOUR is terrified of losing the Leicester South by-election.
The party is haunted by the Brent East by-election, when it lost its parliamentary seat to the Liberal Democrats on a 29 percent swing last September.
The Liberal Democrats have been desperate to present themselves as the opposition to New Labour. But their alliance with the Tories on the local council and support for cuts has caused lots of anger.
Respect’s campaign struck a chord with local people who want an alternative.
Jeannie Robinson described how “Respect’s candidate, Yvonne Ridley, has had a very friendly reaction, especially from Muslim women.
“Some 60 women came to a sponsored dinner and raised £1,000. Two others held a sponsored walk which raised £200.”
Jeannie also explained how Respect was pushing into new areas.
“We have targeted a swing ward which is a traditional Labour area,” she said. “A lot of teachers, nurses and other white collar workers live there.
“I did canvassing the other night. I had a long discussion with someone who worked for the council and they said they would vote for us.
“They said they hated the way the councillors treat employees.
“Another council worker said she would take Respect’s leaflets into the town hall and leaflet her street.
“There is a big political debate going on. We spoke to one family where the father is Labour, but the mother and son say they are voting Respect.”
Respect supporter Simon Furze said, “Our campaign has enthused people. We have come across new people who say they like what Respect stands for and they want to vote for us. But they told us about leaflets the Liberal Democrats have put through people’s doors in the wards that gave the highest vote for Respect in the European elections. These have been translated into the four major languages. They say that a vote for Respect is a wasted vote, a vote for Tony Blair.
People phone us to ask how they should argue against this. We talk about the cuts the Lib Dems have pushed through on the council and explain that they are not really an anti-war party. Candidate Yvonne Ridley and Fayyaz Suleman, Respect’s candidate in the 10 June election, began canvassing round Eyers Monsell. This is a predominantly white working class area. Labour candidate Peter Soulsby shut down a school on the edge of the area when he was council leader. Respect got a good response because people said no other politician had bothered to come to talk to them.”
Respect supporter Adam Scott said, “Soulsby got a real grilling from a mixed audience of several hundred of people at a hustings in the constituency last week.”
George Galloway is Yvonne Ridley’s election agent. He said, “There is a Muslim minority in both the Leicester and Birmingham constituencies. They are a scapegoated, witch-hunted community. We should feel proud that they see us as their political allies. But the majority in both constituencies are precisely the white working class that has been systematically betrayed. We have to reach out to such people. Pensioners are left to shiver, and students wonder how they can possibly aspire to going to college. In Leicester four special schools are being closed by Liberal Democrat and Tory councillors on orders of New Labour and Whitehall.”
He added, “The Times said last week that we are the highest profile campaign in the constituency. That is an amazing achievement when you consider that Labour has ordered between 20 and 30 MPs to campaign in the by-elections every day, and the Tories have ordered 140 MPs to campaign in Leicester and Birmingham. We are fighting for a cause none of the other parties can match, with an elan even our enemies concede.”