The following letter has been submitted to the media:
When I was eased out of my position as chair of Bradford South Constituency Labour Party because of my fund-raising for Ken Livingstone, I vowed that I would not join any other political party. But when I saw the enthusiasm with which Respect’s campaign in the local elections was greeted by the general population, I joined, because I saw a genuine chance to change the face of Bradford politics.
At a post-election meeting I proposed that the party start preparing for the 2014 elections immediately by selecting candidates, and a meeting of members unanimously approved my proposals. Nothing happened.
In January, I started a Revive Respect blog (https://reviverespect.wordpress.com) and a Facebook group, proposing the party hold a membership drive.
It is unfortunate that the current crisis in Respect’s council representation relates to a criticism of George Galloway, MP, because there is a faction in the party who seem to see it as his personal fiefdom. He is perfectly entitled to seek to be Mayor of London, and unless a selection meeting has been called to endorse this, it is perfectly permissible for any member to criticise him for that.
No one in any democratic party should be above the law.
- George Galloway urged to resign as MP if he wants to be London mayor (theguardian.com)
- Councillors quit party in row over suspensions (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Two Respect councillors suspended over slur (morningstaronline.co.uk)
We need to renew the Bradford Spring.
And the best way to do that is to renew your membership of Respect.
It won’t be easy. Everyone who signed up during the euphoria of May 2012 is technically no longer a member. If you go to the Respect website (see screenshot, right) there’s a downloadable application form – but the fees quoted are the special £10/£5 offer, which expired at the end of December.
That’s not the only out-of-date aspect of the website: It’s still crediting Salma Yaqoob as party leader. She resigned from the party in September.
Interestingly, the doings and sayings of George Galloway are bang up to date, so it’s not as if people are too busy to update it. All a question of priorities, I suppose.
Respect’s Bradford membership is about 70 (accuracy is difficult since the local party has no membership list). Since most of these memberships expired at end-2012, the actual number is probably much lower. A recent meeting of Bradford members attracted an attendance of just eight – and at least half of them had not yet renewed, including the present writer.
What’s going on? Is this inefficiency – inexcusable in a party that claims to break the mould of British politics? Or is it something more sinister? Is there a faction in the party which is afraid of a proactive membership that will hold its leadership and elected members accountable for their actions (or inaction)?
It was agreed in June 2012 that ward meetings would be held regularly, especially in the five wards with elected Respect councillors. High on the agenda of such meetings would be selection of candidates for the 2014 elections.
It was also agreed that the unsuccessful candidates with the highest votes (Salim Jelani, Great Horton, 1542 votes, 32.4% of the poll; Mohammed Asif Khan, Bowling and Barkerend, 1525 votes, 34.1%; Dawud Islam, Clayton and Fairweather Green, 762 votes, 21%; and Tazeem Sawaiz, Bolton and Undercliffe, 529 votes, 13.7%) should be re-selected and should start functioning as “shadow” councillors right away.
In all, Respect received a grand total of 15,616 votes in the 2012 local elections, not counting the 18,341 who voted for George Galloway in the Bradford West Parliamentary by-election. This provides a huge constituency of possible support which should have been targeted with a membership campaign.
This has not happened. Instead, those who signed up nearly a year ago are disheartened and discouraged as the Bradford Spring turns into a Winter of Discontent.
We fielded no candidate in the Police and Crime Commissioners elections in November, though the lack of interest in the careerist candidates of the major parties provided us with an invaluable opportunity to put forward our law and order platform. We should be shadowing the successful candidates and holding them accountable to the electorate.
Do we have any candidates ready to compete in the EU elections in June 2014? Again, anti-EU feeling is fuelling the growth of right-wing UKIP, but we should be grabbing the initiative to send a people’s candidate to Brussels.
Our MP and our councillors have been working hard on local, national and international issues. Yet a frequent complaint heard by any activists with roots in the local electorate is that our people seem to be doing nothing. This is not all about headlines in the local media (though only George G. seems to know how to get such headlines).
We need regular reports-back from our MP and councillors, and such meetings should be open to the public.
How can Respect be revived? The answer is in your hands. Renew your membership now. Recruit your family members and friends. Email the Respect office (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask what’s going on. What are the membership fees for 2013? Is the National Council meeting, and if so, when was its last meeting? Where can we read details of the decisions taken? When is the next scheduled meeting?
Urge your Respect councillors to report back to their wards:
- Faisal Khan, Bradford Moor (email@example.com
- Ruqayyah Collector, City (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Mohammad Shabbir, Heaton (email@example.com)
- Alyas Karmani, Little Horton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Ishtiaq Ahmed, Manningham (email@example.com)