Left wing campaigners reported growing anger against New Labour everywhere in the run-up to Thursday’s local government, Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly elections.
Respect supporters were campaigning right up to the last moment to ensure the best possible radical vote in the England and Wales elections.
Respect stood in 41 council wards across England and for two Welsh assembly seats. Socialist Worker went to press before the elections, but a full run-down on Respect and Solidarity’s results will appear on our website from Friday 4 May.
In Walsall, Martin Lynch and Arshad Kanwar stood as Respect candidates in the wards of St Matthews and Palfrey.
Martin told Socialist Worker, “People are talking about local issues on the doorsteps, but national issues such as the war and NHS cuts are also important.
“We’re facing hospital cuts here – the local hospital is losing its stroke unit. This is a clear choice by the New Labour government to put money into war rather than healthcare.
“People know that on Friday the headlines will be about whether Tony Blair has had a bloody nose or not. These elections will also dictate how Blair departs from office. People feel it’s time to send him on the way with the kind of message he deserves.
“We’ve had people coming up to us in the street saying, ‘We’ve had enough of Labour – it’s got to be Respect this time.’
“Last week we had a meeting for taxi drivers in someone’s living room – 30 people turned up. They took away posters to put up in their windows.
“We recently had two meetings on a Sunday. One was a coffee morning with the journalist Yvonne Ridley to which 70 people came. A number of them volunteered to leaflet their streets.
“We then held a 60-strong public meeting with Yvonne, Respect national secretary John Rees, myself and Arshad.
“Fifteen Respect supporters were out campaigning last Sunday. We’ve had Stop the War activists, Muslims and socialists getting involved in the campaign. We’re canvassing the wards in the last few days – we’ve already leafleted both of them twice.”
Sheffield saw three Respect candidates standing – Mohammed Ahbabur Rahman (known as Miron) in Darnall ward, Maxine Bowler in Burngreave ward, and Anwar Ali in Central ward.
“We’ve been canvassing all the wards and have had lots of support,” said Maxine. “So many issues have come up, but housing is a key one. There are 53,000 people on the council housing waiting list but only 50,000 council houses in Sheffield.
“Another issue has been cuts to the teaching of English to speakers of other languages (Esol), which affects a lot of people in Burngreave. Many attended a recent demo in Sheffield against Esol cuts, which I spoke at.
“There’s a real disillusionment with Labour. A Labour Party member of 25 years has put up a Respect poster in his window.
“I was to speak on Tuesday to a meeting of taxi drivers. George Galloway MP was to have a walkabout through Darnall on Tuesday before speaking at the Pakistani Muslim Centre and a mosque.”
Respect stood four candidates in Luton – Stephen Coghlan and Leslie Smith in Biscot ward, as well as Mobeen Qureshi and Raja Hassan in Dallow ward.
“We’ve had good feedback in Luton,” Stephen told Socialist Worker. “People have been going out in the day and the evening. We’ve leafleted the wards twice.
“People are fed up with the main parties. This is the third time that we have stood in Luton as Respect, so a lot of people know who we are.
“George Galloway was to walkabout in Luton on Wednesday, the night before the election. I’m due to speak at a rally of striking PCS workers on May Day as a representative of the local NUT teachers’ union.”
The three Respect candidates in Bradford were Nadia MacGranthin in City ward, Farhan Ali in Little Horton ward and Arshad Ali in Manningham.
Farhan told Socialist Worker, “We’ve campaigned vigorously in all three wards, leafleting and canvassing.
“We’ve had a really good response from people. Pensioners and students have been very receptive. Many people have said that they’ll never go back to Labour as they have blood on their hands for what they did to Iraq.
“All the main parties have the same policies of privatisation and cutting back on local amenities.
“People’s rents are going up while services are going down. We’ve also made links with eastern European migrants who have suffered from attacks in the press. People have started to realise that Respect is not like the other parties.”
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