The Socialist Unity Network

North East London RESPECT

Will McMahon

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 RESPECT. 


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 and ideas.


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.


March 2004