Four ex-councillors in the West Midlands have issued this statement calling for a Respect vote:
HAVING BEEN members of the Labour Party for most of our adult life, all of us were jubilant at the demise of Thatcher and the eventual dismissal of the Tories. However, the reality of Blair’s New Labour soon turned that hope for a real change to disappointment.
The continuation of PFI deals, in particular the pushing through of the scheme with the anciliary workers at the Dudley Group of Hospitals, the cosy relationship with the likes of Rupert Murdoch, the sell-off of council housing and the failure to repeal anti-union legislation convinced us that this was no longer the Labour Party that we joined to champion the rights of ordinary people.
Disillusioned, we retired from activity in the party and have discontinued our membership. The decision to go to war with Iraq confirmed our growing conviction that a new political force was needed that stood in the best traditions of old Labour. Having supported the Stop the War activity locally the formation of Respect was a welcome and timely development.
This gives an opportunity for everyone who feels betrayed by Blair’s New Labour on key issues from privatisation through the student fees fiasco, to the war on Iraq to have a voice. Vote Respect in the European and local elections.
Leading Labour Party figures in the London borough of Tower Hamlets have also broken with the party to back Respect. They wrote this letter:
OUR LOCAL London Assembly member, John Biggs, says he is ‘proud’ of what New Labour has done in government.
If he can answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then John confirms that this is a Labour Party that we no longer recognise. We have served the Labour Party and the local community for many years, but now we say that New Labour has abandoned both its principles and the people of Tower Hamlets. It’s time for an alternative, which is why we are supporting Respect: The Unity Coalition and will be voting for Respect on 10 June. Yours sincerely,
Jim Rogers was an activist in the FBU firefighters’ union and a Labour council leader in Harlow, Essex. He now heads Respect’s list in the Eastern constituency for the European elections:
‘I JOINED Labour in 1982 and was a member for around 22 years. In 1984 I was elected onto the district council. When Labour got elected in 1997 one of the first things they did was to attack single parents. The last few years have been the pits-foundation hospitals, top-up fees, and then the fire service. I think Respect needs to get a few European seats on 10 June.’
John MacDonald, South Manchester RMT rail union, branch secretary: ‘I AM pleased to be able to support Respect. It is important we have a voice that stands up for ordinary working people. We say, ‘No to war, renationalise the rail and repeal the anti trade union laws. Vote Respect’.’
Mohamed Abdul Malek, Manchester chair Muslim Association of Britain: ‘OUR VOTE is a responsibility. Use it wisely. Vote no to war, no to racism, no to poverty. Vote Respect.’
Sean Corless, activist in the bakers’ union in Bolton: ‘I’VE LOST all faith in the Labour Party. Until Respect came along we never had a party with trade unionism in its title!’
Phil Goalby is a firefighter and FBU union activist in the West Midlands: ‘WHY AM I backing Respect? Well, being a firefighter is reason enough. Look at what Labour did to us during our dispute. Respect’s principles are the principles I believe in. I hope many firefighters will put their cross next to its name on Thursday.’
Madeleine Sharp became a left wing activist in 1936. She had always voted Labour until the last election: ‘I’M BACKING Respect because it stands for the things I do. We want better pensions, a decent NHS and all the other things that could be done if we weren’t wasting all this money on an illegal war. All the things the anti-war movement warned about are happening now in Iraq. We should hold people to account for them.’
Nahad Yafai is a founder of the Yemeni Community Association in the West Midlands: ‘BLAIR THINKS he’s a man apart. Power has gone to his head. Respect stands for helping everyone in every community. It’s about the pensioners, the young people, a better health service, as well as opposing war. Quite simply, the extremely good candidates in Respect will do a better job than Labour.’
Hani Lazim is from Iraqi Democrats against Occupation: ‘PEOPLE SHOULD, at the very least, show that a government that takes people to war must be taught a lesson. A big Respect vote will send a message to people in the Middle East that people here reject the warmongers.’
THE SCOTTISH Socialist Party (SSP) is standing in the European elections. Tommy Sheridan is an SSP Member of the Scottish Parliament. He spoke to Socialist Worker about the campaign:
‘The key issue on the streets has been reduced to a four-letter word-Iraq. The election has provided an opportunity for citizens in Scotland to scream in rage at the illegal invasion and occupation, which has cost so many innocent lives and cost so many billions. Scots will undoubtedly punish the main pro-war party, which of course is New Labour. As well as Iraq, the SSP have highlighted the privatising and free market agenda of the European Union, and the need to send a socialist from Scotland to stand up for public services, public ownership and a fundamental redistribution of wealth throughout Scotland and Europe. I hope citizens in England, Scotland and Wales will vote for parties that put socialist policies on the agenda-which means putting pensioners and children before profits and big business.’
THE SSP won a magnificent victory for free speech last week. BBC Scotland, Scottish TV and Grampian TV tried to ban the SSP party political broadcast. In the broadcast SSP member and actor Cora Bisset says that Tony Blair ‘lied through his teeth’ to take us to war. Scottish media bosses demanded that the broadcast be censored-but were prepared to air the racist lies of the British National Party.
The companies had to back down when the SSP organised protests and threatened a legal challenge. Tommy Sheridan says, ‘The SSP have been totally vindicated in our stand against political censorship. Now viewers can watch the best broadcast of the campaign.’
COLIN ARCHER is a longstanding Labour activist in Worcester. He told Socialist Worker: ‘We worked hard to get Mike Fisher elected as our Labour MP in 1997 and 2001. But Labour has let us down. First, over human rights-particularly the disgraceful attacks on asylum seekers.
‘Second, in launching an illegal war that has given the message to everyone that if you are powerful, you can do what you want. That has made the world a more dangerous place.
‘I agree with the overall principles on which Respect is based. And principles are more important than anything else.’
Reballots have opened the way to bigger struggle