North East London RESPECT
I was not involved in the preparation of the North
East London RESPECT campaign and selection meeting that took place on
Tuesday 23rd of March so, like most in the room, I had no
idea what to expect. The North East London constituency covers
Islington, Hackney and Waltham Forrest. There were roughly 180 people in
the meeting with a bias towards Hackney as it was held in that borough.
This meeting represented a significant step forward
for the left. Why? I donít think it is an exaggeration to say that the
Hackney SA (an organisation which itself delivered significant electoral
advances for the left) did not reflect the diversity of Hackney. Having
spoken to a couple of Islington SA meetings I got the same feeling there
too. Whilst keeping in mind that there is no necessary translation of
attendance at meetings into political activity there is no doubt that a
section of the Turkish and Kurdish community has decided to get involved
In Hackney, if we are to construct a left wing bloc
that will break the hold of New Labour then having Turkish and Kurdish
activists in the leadership will be crucial. So the step forward that
RESPECT has made in this borough, led by comrades from the SWP, has to
be acknowledged as a significant achievement in itself.
There were a number of good contributions from the
platform but I want to briefly mention two. First, that from George
Galloway. George spent quite a lot of time in his speech talking about
the S word in what I thought was a trenchant defence of socialist values
The second contribution was that from Lindsey
German who is standing as the Mayoral candidate who did not give a war
talk but spoke to the issues that impact on Londoners and talked about
the war in the context of that. Lindsey also talked about the issue of
crime. In London Ken Livingstone has made a lot of putting more police
on the streets. It is important that this strategy is challenged and
Lindsey did just that. In particular, young people and the minority
ethnic communities in London need a voice that challenges the idea that
the way to deal with crime is to put more members of a racist people
service on the streets.
So how will we do? It is possible that RESPECT will
get a member of the GLA elected. If this happens it will be because we
mobilise enough votes in inner city London to breach the 5% thresh hold.
This is possible. This time round we have a better understanding of how
the elections work and the importance of the list system. The North East
London candidate for the Euro and GLA elections is Dean Ryan who was one
of the candidates that we had in mind for the Hackney Mayoral campaign.
Dean, who is a black childcare worker, is an excellent candidate. It is
likely that he will build on the vote that the much-missed Cecilia
Prosper won in the 2000 GLA election.
A significant problem we face is that of name
recognition. We have to burrow deep into the media world to make sure
that we reach those who are anti-war and they recognise and vote for
RESPECT when they get into the voting booth. In my view we must also,
as the platform speakers did at the meeting, go for the Liberal
Democrats who are attempting to sweep up the anti-war vote. If we can
achieve these two things and get lucky on the PR front along side a mass
campaign then it is not impossible that we could get a seat.