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‘Support has grown since I won my council seat’

This article is over 17 years, 5 months old
Oliur Rahman, Respect councillor in Tower Hamlets, spoke to Socialist Worker about the response to the news that George Galloway plans to stand in Bethnal Green & Bow
Issue 1931

WE SHOULD take nothing for granted, but I’ve not come across anyone who thinks Oona King can hold on to her seat at the general election.

There were already large numbers of Tower Hamlets Labour Party members who said they would support George even before we selected him.

That backing is even wider than I got when I beat Labour in the council by-election in Stepney Green this summer.

After that we beat Labour and came a close second in a by-election on the Isle of Dogs in the south of the borough.

That was only the 17th best out of 19 wards for Respect in terms of the support we got on 10 June.

There is a real sense that people want a change.

Many Muslim voters feel patronised by Oona King and her continuing support for the war on Iraq is a major issue.

There are other pressing issues at home. There are over 21,000 people on the housing waiting lists in Tower Hamlets.

But New Labour’s policy is council house sell offs and ripping out the heart of the community through the demolition work to build the Crossrail train link.

It’s not about benefiting the people who live here, but about making it attractive for the rich.

There is a crisis over youth centres and community facilities.

Our call for them to be reopened has a big echo among young and old people as an alternative to New Labour’s right wing campaign over Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.

Since I was elected more and more people are seeing that Respect is different. I do home visits—none of the Labour councillors do that.

I promised I would make a noise over everything that affects people and would tell them everything I found out about—there would be no secret deals or secret meetings.

People have seen that, and our support has grown. Labour had a 10,000-vote majority in Bethnal Green & Bow at the last election.

Overturning that will require a huge amount of work, but I believe we can do it, and people across Britain will thank us for it.

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