IN THE four months since Respect: The Unity Coalition’s launch on 25 January we have achieved a minor miracle. We’ve set up a new party with members all over England and Wales. We are standing candidates in every constituency for the European and Greater London elections, as well as a few local ones. So far we’ve raised and spent more than £250,000.
We have been able to achieve all this is because so many people are angry with Tony Blair and New Labour. The disgusting photographs and reports of torture in Iraq are building support for Respect’s demand for the immediate withdrawal of troops. According to a poll in the Independent, 55 percent support the call for troops to be out by 30 June. Tony Blair is in a hole and we can help make it so deep he can’t get out.
If we do well on 10 June we will have made a breakthrough that millions have been waiting for-the creation of a left wing alternative to the pro-war and privatising policies of New Labour. Now it’s down to what we do over the next 21 days. The main problems we have are lack of time, resources and recognition of our name.
This will begin to change with the election broadcasts and the postal leaflets going out over the next two weeks. But we need to involve every supporter in as many daily activities as possible.
We need high visibility on the streets, at bus, train and tube stations, at schools in the mornings and at workplaces throughout the day. Mosques, temples and churches need to be visited. Everyone must get to know the name Respect. Most supporters can’t be out all the time, so we need to ensure they have leaflets and other campaign material so they can do things when they have the time.
Many people can leaflet their own street, estate or workplace. Some constituencies in London plan to leaflet key areas in the last seven days of the campaign to bring out the vote.
London also has an open-top, double-decker bus that will be touring every day. We will be producing stickers, and there are balloons and rosettes. We should make a colourful presence in every town. No other party has the number of activists we have. Let’s play to our strengths. But in the course of all our activity, we need to remember to raise money. We are hampered by a lack of cash.
We have done amazingly well for a new, small party, but we urgently need £150,000. Don’t allow the other parties to get all the press publicity. We need teams of supporters writing letters to local papers, with at least one press officer in every area whose job is to gain us coverage and complain if we don’t.
Get our candidates onto local TV and radio stations, as well as the small stations that cater for minorities. Remember, we are the alternative so many people are seeking. We have the most diverse list of candidates. We have more women, Afro-Caribbean, Asian, Muslim and young candidates than all the other parties. We have more trade unionists.
We reflect multicultural Britain. We reflect the anti-war demos. Make sure we get our message out. Finally, every supporter should book 10 June off work in order to be out on the streets campaigning to win the biggest anti-war vote possible.
HUNDREDS ATTENDED a Kent Respect music festival in Canterbury last Sunday. Supporter Jon Flaig said, “The city-centre Dane John Gardens were packed. “South East Euro candidate Bunny Laroche told the crowd, ‘Blair’s on the ropes. We have to push him out of the ring’.” “The event attracted local TV and radio,” said John.
A meeting in Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north east last weekend drew local trade unionists from Amicus, the RMT and Unison. They heard Nancy Gladstone-a Labour Party activist for more than 50 years-say she had resigned from Labour over Iraq and was joining Respect.
She said, “Respect is for the same socialist and trade union principles I have fought for all my life.”
Supporter Gerry Jones said, “Now we plan to take the campaign to the south of the county, to Alnwick, Morpeth and Ashington.” In the East Midlands, campaigners went out in a mini battle bus in Mansfield. “It was a great success,” said supporter James Eaden.
“We also had launch meetings in Lincoln and Glossop, where local European candidate Mary Littlefield featured on the front page of the local paper.” Ex Labour Party member Jangir Khan is a Respect candidate in the local elections in Derby.
“Another ex-Labour councillor in Mansfield has contacted us and wants to get involved,” said James. “And a fundraising dinner in Chesterfield raised £500.” In the West Midlands, a meeting in Worcester-the first of a series across the region-drew 24 people.
Anas Altikriti, who heads the Respect list in Yorkshire and Humberside, addressed a Muslim Association of Britain meeting in Birmingham which raised £1,000.
Activist Ian Mitchell said, “A social worker who is a Respect supporter organised a workplace meeting and nine people took leaflets and agreed to do their own areas.”
Bob Delbridge from Harlow told Socialist Worker, “We threw a Tony Blair dummy in a bin and put a sign on him: ‘Bin Tony Blair. Vote Respect on 10 June.’ It was very popular.”
Jim Rogers and Maz Cook, Respect’s lead candidates on the Eastern region list, spoke at the launch of Chelmsford Respect as well as at local mosques and a pensioners’ action group.
Supporters in Bristol put Tony Blair on trial in the Broadmead shopping centre. “Crowds gathered to watch,” said Kevin Skinner. “We gave out thousands of leaflets and postcards.” Elswhere, the Respect stall at the Levellers Day festival in Burford, Oxfordshire, on Sunday did brisk business.
In Leeds a meeting with George Galloway in Beeston-organised in just four days-drew 60 people.
RESPECT CANDIDATE for London mayor Lindsey German launched her campaign in front of BBC and ITV camera crews last week. She was also invited onto the platform at Age Concern’s mayoral hustings following pressure from pensioners. “Almost everything Lindsey German had to say to was met with applause,” said supporter Terri Behrman.
Respect MP George Galloway launched his campaign for the European elections in Brick Lane, east London. The media gathered heard him announce he will seek the attorney general’s permission for a private prosecution against Tony Blair, defence secretary Geoff Hoon and armed forces minister Adam Ingram.
Galloway said, “I want to start a prosecution for war crimes and torture.” After the launch, the candidates toured Brick Lane, giving out leaflets and chatting with shoppers.
Then Galloway, Lindsey German and London Assembly candidate Oliur Rahman addressed a 150-strong meeting at a local community centre. The following day George Galloway and Lindsey German went walkabout in south London. “People mobbed George Galloway in Brixton market,” said Helen Salmon. “And he spoke to 130 people at Streatham mosque.”
In North London, Respect campaigners were out in force in Enfield. “We held a cavalcade around Ponders End and Enfield Highway,” said Sue Caldwell. “It’s an important part of the borough because the Nazi BNP have been leafleting heavily here.”
In east London Glyn Robbins said, “We hang a ‘Vote Respect’ banner from a bridge over a busy road at least once a week. It is quick and easy to do. We hang it up at about 6.30am so it gets at least three hours there before anyone comes to take it down. Think how many commuters see it.”
What will the next mayor of London say about war, occupation, new nukes, Trident, nuclear trains?
Question the candidates: Ken Livingstone (Labour), Simon Hughes (Liberal Democrat), Steve Norris (Conservative-invited), Darren Johnson (Green), Lindsey German (Respect). 7pm, Wednesday 26 May, Large Hall, Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, NW1. Phone 020 7700 2392.
Respect’s election broadcast for the London elections was screened on BBC1 and ITV1 on Monday. The Respect European election broadcast will be screened across England and Wales on Thursday 27 May. It will be shown on BBC1 and BBC Cymru Wales at 11.20pm, BBC2 at 5.55pm, ITV1 at 11pm and S4C at midnight.
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