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The up coming by elections

Andy Newman


Sometimes luck plays a part in politics, and we are indeed fortunate that two by-elections are coming up in parliamentary constituencies where RESPECT can expect to make a strong showing.

The Leicester South & Birmingham Hodge Hill by-elections have both been called for 15 July. If RESPECT does well this will be the big story on the night and will help put the UKIP back in their box. It is vital we do everything we can to get that result and ensure that it is the war and not the EU constitution that keeps Blair awake at night.  Of course it is still the Lib Dems that Labour are really worried about, and their decision to call the by-election early will be motivated by a desire to wrong foot Charles Kennedy - Respect is not yet on the radar for the Labour Party apparatchiks!

It is very good news that Lord Butler has resisted Downing Street pressure and is set to publish his potentially damning report on the Iraq war the day before the election. That means New Labour are very vulnerable to the war dominating these contests and not the issues of health and education, which they would prefer (although they are vulnerable on these as well).

One of the characteristic features of the June 10th Euro results is that RESPECT tended to do better in areas with a large Moslem population. Some people on the left are using this as an argument to criticise RESPECT, but this is really nonsense.

We are absolutely correct to relate to the political radicalisation in the Moslem community that has arisen over the issue of the war. What is more, John Rees of the SWP is also correct to argue in Socialist Worker that "Most Muslims are working people with exactly the same fears and concerns as every other working person-over education for their children, pensions, job security, the NHS or student tuition fees."

The Moslem communities are not monolithic, they are divided on a generational basis, on the basis of ethnicity and language, and critically on the basis of class. As socialists we must both relate to workers or whatever religious faith on the basis of RESPECT's progressive pro-working class program, and also engage with the actually existing community structures, including religious leaders and prominent members of ethnic communities. This is not very different in essence from relating to Tenants' Associations, voluntary sector community projects and other groups - this is the ABC of grassroots electoral politics. If we do this right we will be able to reconstruct in an entirely positive way the relationship between the English left and the black and Asian communities.

We do need to have informed and sensible debate about how RESPECT builds upon its strong electoral base in Moslem communities and spreads that support into wider sections of the working class. This must be done by building on where we are strong, as well as opening up negotiations with other socialists, and the Greens. The strong results where there are many Moslems are not our problem, the problem is the poor results we got elsewhere.

John Rees is also absolutely correct to argue that a key battle ground for us will be strengthening our relationship with the left and militants in the unions. To do that requires RESPECT to be a success on the ground. The push being given by the SWP for RESPECT to organise "local newspapers, bulletins and free sheets distributed door to door ... ...  film shows in community centres and cafes. Fundraising meals, picnics and barbecues" is therefore also extremely useful and must be actively supported. Of course in parallel we need to ensure that there are democratic structures where the members can fully participate in the decision making process. That is the positive lesson we have learnt from  the experience of the Socialist Alliance - local campaigning works, provided it is sustained. Alongside RESPECT's excellent results in Birmingham, Preston and East London, we must keep reminding ourselves that the Socialist Alliance also scored 3310 votes in 10 wards across Walsall this year, and the SP got 8617 votes across Coventry, these are votes built up by a hard slog over many years.

Over the next few weeks campaigning for the Birmingham and Leicester by-elections is crucial. RESPECT should be relatively confident about retaining the deposit  (5% of the vote) in both constituencies, and possibly we could get 10% or even more.  As I am writing this it looks like the Greens will not be standing in either constituency - which  is a good omen for negotiations all around the country. 

The key battle will be ensuring that our vote turns out. If we can ensure a higher than average turnout from our core supporters then we could do really well. That means that helpers on election day are vital, and anyone who can should take a day of work on 15th July and help knocking on doors, giving lifts. etc. (Of course if you are available before then as well - even better)

The post election analysis will also be very interesting in telling us where RESPECT's vote does come from. These are very interesting comparator constituencies, as they both have almost exactly the same proportion of Moslems - and both Leicester and Birmingham councils publish full census statistics by ward on the web.

Leicester South:
According to the local paper the constituency includes the affluent parts of Leicester as well as the inner city. There is a solid Lib Dem base in three wards. .

The constituency is around 60 per cent white and 30 per cent Asian, with a total of 19 per cent Muslims and 8.7 per cent Hindus.

In the last general election the result was: (click here for the BBC)

Labour 54%, Lib Dems 17%, SLP 1.6%

Perhaps more importantly last year's local election results were: Lib Dems 42.2%, Labour 27.2%.


However, the contest will be very keenly fought, the Lib Dems have selected a local Asian candidate, Parmjit Singh Gill. Labour have also selected  an opponent of the war, and will be hoping to capitalise on disaffection with the Lib Dem run council. 

You can email the Leicester South Respect team here

To contact Respect in Leicester South phone or text Fayyaz  on 07956 119 044 or Mike on 07960 229 186

 Birmingham Hodge Hill:
According to the 2001 census the Birmingham Hodge Hill Constituency is 18.87% Moslem. 
 

In the Euro elections, the good votes in this constituency were largely where there were high concentration of Moslems:

 

    %respect % moslem
Bordesley Green   38.6 59.77
Springfield   29.5 46.16
Washwood Heath   26 62.29
Sparkbrook   25.2 60.95
Nechells   22.6 31.26
Aston     18.3 44.55
Soho     12.2 20.76
South Yardley   12 18.65
Lozells     8.2 38.79
Moseley & KH    7.8 16.96

 

However, as I have analysed elsewhere, Moslems are no more likely to turn out and vote that anyone else. So for RESPECT to do well means we must try to ensure that we increase the turn out in these strong areas.

 In the last general election the result was: (click here for the Guardian)

Labour 64%, 1.1% to SLP. PJP 2.1% - so RESPECT start off with a base vote of 3.2% from last time. Note the Lib Dems are coming from relatively no-where (8.1%).

In Birmingham the Lib Dems have just entered a coalition with the Tories to run the council, which will weaken their chances of taking the anti-war vote.  

To help contact the Respect office at 469 Coventry Road, Birmingham

.Or if you have time in the day drop into the office to give  a hand organising the campaign.

CONTACT  TEAM : Ian Mitchell 07930 360 216  OR Perviz Khan 07904 293 164

 

 

June 2004

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