Blame the members, blame
The SWP's Party Notes writes:
is no objective
reason why the
Respect vote differed so much. In Sheffield we could get
18% in Central ward & 12.7% in Burngreave but much less in
areas where we have more ... members.
Respect got 8% in Slough,
4.68% & 3.65% in Middlesbrough where we are weak."
Well the first thing to say
is that Respect did not get 8% in Slough, they got 5.8%.
What is more, according to the report in June's
there was no campaign in
Slough before a public meeting 4 days before the poll.
This is strong evidence
that there is indeed an objective reason - where there
were more Moslems Respect got more votes. Look at Tower
Hamlets, where Respect topped the poll, and the population
has much greater racial and religious diversity than the
national average. With 48.66% of the population describing
themselves as non-white and 36.4% being Moslems, compared
to a national average of 8.7% being non-white and 3%
So it is nonsense for our
friend to write "The
answer lies with [us]. Whether [we] were operating with a
sense of what was possible ... or stuck in old ways."
Now the comrades deserve
better than that.
All around the country Respect members were running round
like blue arsed flies. In some areas this got results in
some it didn't.
Big urban centres like
London and the West Midlands are really quite different
from other parts of the country. Look at the South West
region, with 2.3 million households, but the biggest city
is Bristol with a population of only 380000, only 2% of
which are Moslem, and is 91.8% white. Although Bristol is
less ethnically diverse than the national average it is
more ethnically diverse than any other district in the
Given that Respect appealed
more to Moslem voters, surely areas with small Moslem
populations were always going to get smaller votes. It is
also true that largely urban constituencies made it much
easier to achieve a specific weight by campaigning. As
Michael Lavallette insightfully pointed out in his account
of how he won a Preston seat last year, there came a
"tipping point" where people simply started to believe he
could win due to the momentum of the Campaign. It was
always impossible for Respect to achieve that in big,
largely rural constituencies spotted with small towns like
the South East or Eastern region.
The full national mailing
of a postal leaflet was never going to achieve a big vote,
partly because in most cases it will have gone straight in
the bin, but also because of the eccentric decision to
come up with a name, that had no voter recognition. The
key concept here is brand loyalty, that is why Manchester
United don't change their name every season.
Perhaps it is unfair to
quote our friend again, but when he says: "There
are those who accept the left will always get a Monster
Raving Looney Party vote & those who look at Respect's
performance in places like much of London, Birmingham,
Preston, Neath, Dudley, Luton, Peterborough, Slough,
Middlesbrough, parts of Sheffield (see below), Walsall
etc. & draw the conclusion we could win (!)."
The implication is that
somehow Respect did much better than the left has ever
done before, and those ambivalent or opposed to Respect
have no ambition. Surely it is only fair to point out that
many socialists who stood in the June 10th
elections under various labels got votes as good and in
some cases better than Respect.
That Socialists did in fact
win in Wrexham and Coventry, and left community activists
won in Oxford and Flintshire, whereas Respect won nothing.
Is it unfair to point out that in 4 regions Respect got
votes hardly better than the Natural Law Party received in
1999, who based their appeal on Yogic flying and cheesy
George Harrison music.
Respect had better
recognise that it has had only regional success, and it
has succeeded where objective circumstances were more
favourable. In the days when Marxism was still fashionable
we used to talk about "combined and uneven development".
One size does not fit all.