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
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.
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.
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
(click here for the BBC)
Labour 54%, Lib Dems 17%, SLP 1.6%