Leading trade union and labour movement figures in Newham, east London, released a letter last week calling on people to vote for Respect at the general election.
“We are asking you to make a political choice on 5 May by voting for the values you believe in,” the letter reads.
“If New Labour loses to Respect in east London, Blair will go, just as Thatcher went because of the poll tax. And then we could all rejoice,” it adds.
One of the letter’s signatories is Fred Jones. “I was Labour leader of Newham council from 1985 to 1990. Then the Blairites came along and got rid of troublesome voices like me,” he says.
“I want to see people genuinely representing all the local people. I think Respect is trying to do that at this election — that’s why I personally am backing them on 5 May.”
Bill Dempsey, chair of East Ham and West Ham Pensioners’ Association, is another lifelong Labour supporter who is now backing Respect.
“I’m totally against Blair, his cabinet and those MPs who have decided to go along with him rather than represent the people who put them where they are,” he says.
“We want an end to means testing and the restoration of the link between pensions and earnings. Respect is pledged to do that and I’m supporting them all the way, especially as they can win round here.”
Trade unionists in the area are also rallying behind Respect. Rod Finlayson is a T&G union steward at the Ford engine plant in nearby Dagenham.
“It’s high time the unions broke their link with Labour, which has taken us into a disastrous, imperialist war, amongst other things,” he says. “We need real representation for working people. That’s why I’m backing Respect.”
Jake Wylie, chair of the East Ham London Underground branch of the RMT rail workers’ union, agrees. “Respect is the only party that brings the issues together,” he says.
“I couldn’t possibly vote for the Liberal Democrats — they are anti-union and particularly against the RMT, as we found out during our disputes over safety and working hours.
“Tony Blair boasts that he has maintained the worst anti-union laws from the Thatcher era. His government is even making it harder for workers to get justice through industrial tribunals. It’s a complete betrayal of the trade unions.
Maureen Stephenson works as a nurse and is a leading trade unionist at Newham General Hospital. “NHS staff feel undervalued by this government. I have always voted Labour, but not this time,” she says.
“The NHS will not get better unless we get rid of the private companies that are making money out of illness. The Respect candidates are saying that — that’s why I’m backing them to win.”
Martin Hoyles, chair of the Natfhe lecturers’ union at the University of East London, adds, “No one can trust Blair. We have to give him a bloody nose at the election and a vote for Respect in east London is the way to do it.”
180 years since Britain's first general strike