Respect Party

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Respect Party
Leader George Galloway
Chairman Abjol Miah
Deputy Leader Dawud Islam[1]
Founded 25 January 2004 (2004-01-25)
Youth wing Student RESPECT
Ideology Anti-imperialism
Democratic socialism,
Eco-socialism,
Environmentalism,
Trade unionism
Political position Far-left[2][3]
European affiliation European Anticapitalist Left
Colours Red and Green
House of Commons
1 / 650
Local government[4]
7 / 21,871
Website
http://www.respectparty.org/
Politics of the United Kingdom
Political parties
Elections

The Respect Party is a far-left political party in the United Kingdom founded in 2004. Its name is a contrived acronym standing for Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community and Trade Unionism.[5]

The Respect Party's highest profile figure and leader is former Labour MP George Galloway[1] while its National Secretary is Chris Chilvers.[6]

Founding

Respect fringe meeting at the 2004 ESF

The party was originally launched by The Guardian journalist George Monbiot and Birmingham Stop the War Coalition chair Salma Yaqoob.[7] The party was opposed to the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan. It seeks to "provide a broad-based and inclusive alternative to the parties of privatisation, war, and occupation"[8] and has a socialist agenda.

Monbiot left in February 2004 because the party now intended to stand candidates against the Green Party. Respect had offered to form a pact with the Green Party standing on joint lists in the European elections, but this was rejected by the Greens.[9] The Greens also said that they had selected their candidates months previously by postal ballot for the 2004 European Parliamentary elections and were sceptical of the SWP influence on Resperct.[10]

In its founding constitution the Respect Party states its overall aim is to "help create a socially just and ecologically sustainable society", giving a definition of social justice that includes "the organisation of society in the most open, participative, and accountable way practicable based on common ownership and democratic control".[11] Respect allows its members to hold membership of other political organisations. The coalition has the support of members of the Muslim Association of Britain and Muslim Council of Britain.

In its 2006 accounts filed with the Electoral Commission, the party noted it had three paid employees, including John Rees and 5,739 registered members on 31 December 2006 (2005: 5,674). It has 42 branches (2005: 25) and had a total income of £273,023 and expenditure of £228,100.[12]

Originally Respect did not have a leader as such and was run by an elected "national council", but this later changed. The former party leaders include Salma Yaqoob, Linda Smith and Nick Wrack.

The alliance with the SWP

Respect campaigners decorating a bus in Manchester for the 2005 elections

The Respect Party sought to challenge Prime Minister Tony Blair's New Labour Party from the left at the London Assembly and European Parliament elections in 2004, and gained a quarter of a million votes. The party claims that this support was achieved primarily as a result of the anti-war protests and by attracting votes from "disillusioned" Labour voters.[13] The correlation between the performance of Respect and the Muslim population of an area suggested that it succeeded in attracting the votes of some Muslims who felt alienated by Labour's support for the war in Iraq. Respect almost immediately won a council seat in Preston as SWP member Michael Lavalette was elected as a Socialist Alliance candidate in 2003, but subsequently voted with the majority of the SWP to wind down the Socialist Alliance in favour of the newly formed party, who was joined by a former Labour councillor, Steve Brooks.

2004 elections

Respect candidate Lindsey German came fifth in the 2004 London mayoral election. Its largest constituency vote in the 2004 assembly elections was in City and East London, where it polled 13.46%, reaching third place.

In their first European Parliament elections (also in 2004), Respect's proportion of the national vote was 1.7%, and they failed to win any seats. Ron McKay, their spokesman, had been anticipating that the Coalition might win one or two MEPs during the campaign.[13] Their best result was in London itself, with a relatively strong 4.8%, and their worst was in Wales and the South West, with 0.6% and 0.7% respectively. Their strongest borough was Newham, London, with 21.41% of the vote.

The results at the Birmingham Hodge Hill and Leicester South by-elections in 2004, were 6.3% and 12.7% of the vote respectively – enough to retain the deposits in both seats (which requires a minimum of 5% of the vote). It was claimed that in Birmingham Hodge Hill the "anti-war" vote was split between Respect and the Liberal Democrats and, as a result, the Labour candidate won the seat.

Respect won its first election on 29 July 2004, when Oliur Rahma won a ward from Labour in Tower Hamlets. The election was called after a Labour councillor was expelled for alleged corruption. In September 2004, Respect candidate Paul McGarr stood in the Tower Hamlets Millwall ward by-election and came second, pushing Labour into third place.[14]

2005 general election

Salma Yaqoob (c.2005), co-founder of Respect

In the 2005 general election Respect made gains in a number of inner-city working class constituencies. The coalition put up candidates in 26 constituencies and secured its first Member of Parliament in George Galloway, who overturned a large Labour majority to succeed Oona King, who had supported the Iraq War, in Bethnal Green and Bow. According to King during the campaign, Respect canvassers had urged Muslims not to vote for her because she is Jewish. Respect threatened legal action if King repeated the claim.[15]

Respect came second in three constituencies: Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath, East Ham and West Ham. By far their best result outside London was in Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath, where Respect candidate Salma Yaqoob came second with 27.5% of the vote.

2006 local elections

Respect candidate Ghazi Khan, with someone dressed as the then British prime minister Tony Blair, at the 18 March 2006 Anti-War Protest in London

Respect put forward a limited number of candidates nationally and concentrated on Tower Hamlets, where it managed to win twelve council seats. Although Respect defeated several high-profile Labour councillors including council leader Michael Keith and Cabinet member for Housing David Edgar, most of Respect's gains were at the expense of the Liberal Democrats and the council remained in Labour control.

The party won only one ward in Newham despite winning 26% of the total vote – a greater proportion than that gained in Tower Hamlets. In total Respect gained fifteen new councillors including Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham who won 49% of the vote.[16] Respect narrowly missed winning another council seat in Preston by seven votes where they already had Michael Lavalette as a councillor, some members noting that a Green candidate in the ward had taken 82 votes, possibly splitting Respect's vote.[17] Other second places were achieved in Preston and wards in Sheffield, Bristol, and several London councils. The party also achieved some strong results in areas with a small Muslim population; for example, Jerry Hicks, standing in Bristol Lockleaze, came second in a ward that is 4% Muslim.[18]

2006 by-elections

Respect stood Dave Ellis, a trade unionist who organised one of the largest continuous strikes in recent years at Huddersfield Technical College, in the Greenhead ward by-election on 27 July in the district of Kirklees. Ellis got 3.9 percent of the vote, coming fourth and narrowly beating the British National Party's candidate who finished last.[19]

In the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley Worsborough by-election on 16 November, Respect polled 91 votes, 5.5%.

In December 2006, Respect gained another councillor in Birmingham, Abdul Aziz, who defected from the Liberal Democrats, bringing their total in the city to 2.

In February 2007, Respect picked up another councillor when Councillor Wayne Muldoon in Loughborough defected from Labour.[20]

2007 local elections

In the days before the elections Respect lost one of its Tower Hamlets councillors, Waiseul Islam who returned to the Labour Party. Islam has since expressed his reasons for doing so saying, "I reject the notion of dividing the local community for political gain, which is what I believe Respect are effectively doing."[21]

Respect stood a total of 48 candidates in 2007 and although only three candidates were elected (Mohammed Ishtiaq in Birmingham Sparkbrook, Ray Holmes in Bolsover Shirebrook and Michael Lavalette retained his seat in Preston Town Centre[22]), the number of people voting for Respect increased, with candidates coming in 2nd and 3rd places in many boroughs throughout the country. Their wins brought the total number of Respect councillors in Britain to 18.

The split in Respect

The crisis in Respect

In September 2007 George Galloway wrote a letter to Respect's national council members saying that the party was "too disorganised" and "faced oblivion" unless it reformed its internal party management.[23] The letter also criticised the amount of money spent on the Organising for Fighting Unions conference and on an intervention at the Pride London LGBT rights event.

The letter was the opening shot in a dispute in Respect between Galloway and his supporters including Salma Yaqoob on one side, and supporters of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) on the other. In particular Galloway called for the appointment of a National Organiser: Nick Wrack, former head of the Socialist Alliance and an SWP member. A letter from the SWP's Central Committee stated: "The SWP believed that the post was created to undermine Respect National Secretary John Rees." [24]

In the course of the dispute, the SWP expelled three members who sided with Galloway: Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoveman, who both worked for George Galloway, and Nick Wrack, who was nominated for the position of national organiser.

On 3 November 2007 Galloway's side announced plans to hold a "Respect Renewal" conference on 17 November, the same day as the planned national conference of Respect. In its opinion, the conference being organised by the officers of Respect was being packed by delegates who supported the SWP. They claimed that the conference was unconstitutional, as it had not been ratified by the National Council and had disagreements especially on the matter of delegations from student branches. As a result, two conferences took place, neither of which recognised the other. The Respect Renewal conference was an open event and organisers claim 350 people attended. This figure has been disputed. The national conference organised by the Respect officers, which went ahead on the same day was attended by 270 delegates from 49 local branches and 17 student groups, as well as 90 observers.[25]

Reasons for the split

Linda Smith, Respect's national chair at the time of the split, has claimed: "The sectarianism and ‘control freak’ methods of the SWP have led us to a situation where Respect is irretrievably split."[26] The SWP has attributed the split to a shift to the right by George Galloway and his allies, motivated by electoralism (seeking to gain Muslim votes) and attacks on the left.[27] SWP dominated branches of Respect were reportedly less active than those with far fewer members of that group. A narrow failure of John Rees in 2006 to gain election in the Tower Hamlets local elections, while the 12 candidates from the Bangladeshi community were all elected, was also alleged to have alienated the SWP from the project.[27]

Regrouping

The Electoral Commission continued to recognise Linda Smith as the Nominating Officer for Respect.[28] This meant that her signature was required for candidates wishing to use the electoral label "Respect" (and similar registered names) on ballot papers in British elections. A letter from the Electoral Commission to Linda Smith on 23 January 2008, set out its position on the split, following confusion on the matter from both sides. [29]

Following the split, the side that included the SWP (but not Galloway or Linda Smith) nominated candidates in two district council by-elections. They could not use the name "Respect" on ballot papers without the signature of the nominating officer. Instead, both were labelled "Independent" on the ballot papers.[30][31] The SWP faction stood as the Left List in those elections, and later renamed itself the Left Alternative.

In 2008, one Left List councillor defected to the Conservative Party. In June, the three remaining Left List councillors in Tower Hamlets, including the Chair and Nominating Officer of the Left List, defected to the Labour Party as did one Respect Renewal councillor.[32][33] Left Alternative subsequently deregistered from the Electoral Commission Register of Political Parties in April 2010.

In October 2008, representatives of both sides made an agreement, with the result that "former Respect Treasurer Elaine Graham-Leigh has signed the official forms required for a member of Respect (Renewal) to be registered as the party treasurer."[34] Will McMahon's appointment removed the obstacles preventing Galloway's organisation from full control over the organisation's name and legal status.[35]

In December 2009, the party de-registered (removed) itself from the Register of Political Parties for Northern Ireland,[36] but remains registered for England, Scotland and Wales.

Post-split developments

2008 and 2009 elections

As a result of the 2007 split there were two organisations, both claiming legitimacy over the Respect identity. The group led by the SWP stood as the Left List, while Respect Renewal members stood as Respect and as 'Respect (George Galloway)' in London (see below for information on the split).

Lindsey German stood as the Left List candidate for London mayor.[37][38][39] Some members of Respect Renewal supported Lindsey German, while others supported the incumbent, Labour Party candidate Ken Livingstone.[40] The International Socialist Group, part of Respect Renewal, called for a first preference vote for the Green Party candidate, Siân Berry, rather than Lindsey German. [41] Lindsey German received 0.68% of the vote (16,796), compared to 3.21% when standing for Respect in 2004, coming 8th out of 10 candidates [42]

Both Respect Renewal and the Left List stood candidates for the Greater London Assembly. The Left List contested every constituency as well as standing on the London-wide list, headed by Lindsey German[43] Respect Renewal stood in the City and East London constituency as well as contesting the London-wide list, headed by George Galloway.[44][45]

In the Assembly election, the Left List constituency candidates polled an average of 1.37%. On the London-Wide Assembly Lists, the Left List and Respect (George Galloway) received 0.92% (22,583) and 2.43% (59,721) respectively, compared to the 2004 vote for Respect of 4.57%.[46]

Respect Renewal stood 10 candidates in the local council elections also taking place on 1 May across England and Wales. They returned one new councillor, Nahim Khan, in Birmingham Sparkbrook, who received 42.64% of the vote.[47] The Left list stood or supported 24 candidates. Most received few votes, but they came second in Preston Town Centre and Sheffield Burngreave.[48]

During the European elections in 2009 many Respect members supported a vote for the Green lists, especially in the north of England. This included prominent Respect supporter Salma Yaqoob.[49]

2010 general election

George Galloway, Respect's only Member of Parliament, had announced in 2007 that he would not stand again for Bethnal Green & Bow at the next General Election. Instead, while another Respect member would contest Bethnal Green & Bow, Galloway was going to be a candidate for the nearby, newly created and notionally fairly safe Labour seat of Poplar and Limehouse.[50] The strategy backfired, with Labour's Jim Fitzpatrick easily achieving re-election in Poplar and Limehouse with 18,679 votes (40.0% of the vote, up +4.7%). Conservative Tim Archer came in second (12,649; 27.1%, up 2.6%) and Galloway a distant third with 8,460 votes, 17.5%, down 0.7%, ahead of Liberal Democrat Jonathan Fryer (5,209; 11.2%, down −2.8) and others. Meanwhile, in Galloway's old constituency, Respect's new candidate Abjol Miah received 8,532 votes, 16.8%, fewer than either the Labour or the Liberal Democratic candidate.[51]

However the party had better results elsewhere. In Birmingham Hall Green constituency Respect candidate Salma Yaqoob performed better, receiving 12,240 votes, 25.1%, placing second after Labour candidate Roger Godsiff, who received 16,039 votes, 32.9%[52] making this a marginal seat. In the 2005 general election, she had stood as the Respect candidate for the Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath constituency, since abolished, and also finished in second place, with 27.5% of the vote.

Respect fielded eight more candidates in other constituencies, who together polled 4,319 votes. Arshad Ali received 1,245 votes, 3.1%, in Bradford West, and Kay Phillips received 996 votes, 2.9%, in Blackley and Broughton.[53] In total, Respect candidates received 33,269 votes, which amounted to 6.8% of the total vote in the constituencies where they stood and 0.1% of the total UK vote.[54][55]

During the 2010 General Election the Green Party stood down in favour of Respect candidates in Birmingham Sparkbrook and Manchester, Blackley and Broughton indicating the beginning of a tentative co-operation.[56]

2012 Bradford West by-election

George Galloway successfully contested the Bradford West in a by-election held on 29 March, following the resignation of Labour MP Marsha Singh due to ill health.[57][58] He was elected with a majority of 10,140, marking his re-entry into the House of Commons.

Respect won five seats on Bradford Council in May 2012 following Galloway's success. Amid a fiercely fought campaign, there were claims and complaints of violence and harassment from both Respect's opponents and the Respect party itself.[59] The party came second in Oldham's Werneth ward and Tower Hamlets' Weavers ward.

Salma Yaqoob resigned as leader of the party in September following Galloway's remarks about rape with respect to the Julian Assange case.[60]

2012 by-elections

Kate Hudson had originally been selected for the Manchester Central by-election, but stood down in early September following Galloway's comments on rape,[61] and left the party in October. In the same month, Respect announced that Catherine Higgins, a local "community advocate", would contest the by-election on 15 November 2012. Higgins finished 9th out of 12 candidates.

Later that month, on 29 October, Chair of London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium and former Senior Policy Advisor to the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Lee Jasper, was selected as the candidate for the Croydon North by-election which took place on 29 November 2012; Jasper finished 6th out of 12 candidates.

In November 2012, at a rally in Rotherham, Respect announced Yvonne Ridley had been chosen to contend the Rotherham by-election.[62] In 2006, Ridley described Israel as a "vile little state" and said that any zionists "in the Respect Party ... would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists."[63] The election took place on 29 November 2012; Ridley finished 4th with 8% of the vote, ahead of both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates.[64]

2013: Bradford councillors resign

The five Respect councillors in Bradford elected the previous year resigned from the party whip on 15 August[65] after coming into conflict with Galloway over his comments on 10 August that he might run in the 2016 London Mayoral election.[66] They argued that the MP was needed in Bradford.[65] Two of the councillors had said the MP should resign if he intended to stand in London; Galloway and his associates had immediately suspended them, although their three fellow council members were in agreement.[67] One of the other three councillors, Alyas Karmani, then leader of the Respect group on Bradford City Council, said the party had not, in fact, been consulted on Galloway's plans.[67]

Galloway had also claimed that they were working against him and the party with Aisha Ali Khan, his former aide, and her husband.[65] After no retraction of the assertions made against them had been forthcoming,[68] the five councillors entirely severed their connections with Respect towards the end of October and will sit as independents for the remainder of their term of office.[69] Claims that they had been "conniving" with Galloway's former aide were false, they said.[70] A spokesman from Respect accused them of attempting to gain control of the party in Bradford.[68]

International affiliation

While Respect is not part of any international organisation and has no formal links to any party from other countries, it does have fraternal links with various organisations. Respect participates however in the European Anticapitalist Left.

Respect is registered as a political party in Scotland but have claimed that this is just so no one else uses their name in Scotland. They have only once stood in Scotland in one region during the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, where George Galloway stood as the lead candidate on the Glasgow list (Solidarity agreed not to stand in Glasgow and contested the remaining seven regions), and have in all other elections urged voters to support the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

In 2005, Respect took part in the second congress of the European Left. Respect's participation in this event was welcomed by the Left Party's chair Fausto Bertinotti in his closing speech.[71] In 2008, Respect participated in a gathering of European parties organised by the New Anticapitalist Party in France.[72]

Criticisms of Respect

Equality

Respect has been accused of abandoning some traditional liberal-social issues, including women's rights, abortion, gay rights and fighting homophobia to attract Muslim support.[73] While Respect included opposition to discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation in its founding declaration,[74] critics claim Galloway has tended to avoid Commons votes involving equal rights for gay people – although he did vote to lower the age of consent for gay people in England and Wales to sixteen in 2000, earning him an invitation to open a new Lesbian and Gay centre in Glasgow. He has also praised New Labour's record on improving gay rights, and says of his absence from one vote that "there was never any doubt about the passage of the civil partnerships [bill], I wholly support it".[75] Respect's 2005 conference resolved that explicit defence of equal rights and calls for the end to all discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people would be made in all of its manifestos and principal election materials.[76]

Respect and elements of the LGBT community have clashed on two other notable occasions. In November 2005, Respect's second largest single financial donor, Dr Mohammad Naseem,[77] was accused in an article by Peter Tatchell of being homophobic due to his senior position in the Islamic Party of Britain,[78] which he claimed advocated the "banning of gay organisations" and the "execution of homosexuals".[79] Naseem, however, stated that the Islamic Party was now little more than a thinktank, and furthermore, disagreed with the statements on the Islamic Party website which Tatchell pointed to, stating his views on homosexuality as follows: "These things are a matter of personal choice...I am not concerned with what people do in their bedrooms."[80] Naseem was also present at Respect's 2005 conference, where the vote to reaffirm Respect's support of LGBT rights was passed unanimously.[81]

In January 2006, an article attacking Tatchell's opposition to the party was written by Respect member and journalist Adam Yosef. Writing for Desi Xpress, Yosef accused Tatchell of Islamophobia but was attacked by gay organisations for "encouraging violence against Tatchell" and for using "xenophobic" and "homophobic" language. Yosef also used other articles to attack same-sex unions, describing them as a front for "tax fraud". Tatchell called on Respect to expel Yosef but the party responded with the following statement: "Adam Yosef has the right to voice his own opinions in his own column – they range from an ecstatic review of Birmingham’s gay pride to venting his thoughts about Peter Tatchell."[82] However, in October 2009, Yosef pledged his formal support to Tatchell's General Election parliamentary candidacy, calling for the left to "embrace a mutual personal and political commitment towards equality and human rights".[83][84][85]

Controversy about anti-war protest

Birmingham Respect councillors Salma Yaqoob and Mohammed Ishtiaq stayed seated with their arms folded at a council meeting to honour L/Cpl Matt Croucher (former 40 Commando, now Royal Marines Reserve Merseyside) the George Cross for bravery. L/Cpl Croucher was awarded the medal for throwing himself on top of a Taliban grenade in Helmand in 2008 to protect his colleagues, and was applauded by the entire council except for the two Respect councillors. This led to criticism from other councillors, including allegations that it was a disrespectful act. The two councillors argued that they were protesting against "false patriotism" by politicians, while defending their own record of support of individual soldiers.[86]

Antisemitism

Abul Hussain, a former member of Respect's national council, posted antisemitic comments on Facebook and was expelled from the party in 2010. The councillor joked about chopping off a Jewish person's sidelocks and confiscating their kippah. He also wrote about Jews, "Here's a penny go put it in the bank and [you] just might get a pound after ten years interest!". The Respect Party stated that "such views are demonstrably incompatible with party membership".[87]

Carole Swords, the chairwoman of the Respect Party in Tower Hamlets, was convicted for a public order offence after an assault on a Jewish man in 2011. Inside a Covent Garden Tesco Metro supermarket she had struck him in the face while he was protecting Israeli goods from unlawful damage.[88] A subsequent appeal in Cecember cleared her of the offence.[89] Swords had earlier described zionists as "cockroachs ... bugs [which] need to be stomped out"[88] and at a different rally, Swords had told a Jewish protester to "go back to Russia".[90]

Following her appointment as Respect's women's officer in Bradford in October 2012, it emerged that Naz Khan had recently commented on Facebook that "history teachers in our school" were and are "the first to start brainwashing us and our children into thinking the bad guy was Hitler. What have the Jews done good in this world??”[91] Ron McKay, Galloway's spokesman, said Khan's comments had been written shortly before she joined Respect, on an "unofficial site" (the Respect Bradford Facebook page), and that she "now deeply regrets and repudiates that posting".[91]

On 20 February 2013 George Galloway walked out of a debate organised by Christ Church, Oxford University because his opposer was a speaker with Israeli citizenship Eylon Aslan-Levy, a student at Brasenose College, Oxford.[92] Galloway wrote on his Facebook page that he had refused to debate with "a supporter of the apartheid state of Israel".[93] He expanded: "The reason is simple: no recognition, no normalisation. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated. I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media. If they want to speak about Palestine – the address is the PLO."[93] The Zionist Federation called it a "racist" walkout displaying "xenophobic" tendencies.[94]

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External links

Respect publications