Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Respect councillor defects to Labour

Today’s announcement that Councillor Waiseul Islam has resigned from respect in Tower hamlets to join the Labour Party is a serious blow to Respect, especially as Cllr Islam gives as his reason for resigning: “Respect is not a party that can deliver, especially when its elected MP is hardly visible in his constituency, leaving those who voted for him neglected. He has time to attend television shows and present radio shows but not to turn up to his surgery and meet his constituents. I believe this is wrong”

George Galloway’s behaviour has been simply disgraceful in neglecting his constituency duties, but having ample time for media engagements. He has clearly use Respect as a stepping stone for his own career as a minor celebrity, rather than seeing Respect as a serious long term contribution towards realigning and regenerating the left.

What is most alarming is that Councillor Islam’s full resignation statement seems to be mainly a calculated career move itself, suggesting that he sees labour as more likely to achieve his re-election. He writes: “With government and council support I believe that local residents can benefit from the socio-economic regeneration of the area. This can only be achieved by working with a progressive party that can carry the citizens of the borough into the future and not take it backward. Labour is also the only party that can truly challenge uninvited Tories creeping into Tower Hamlets and attempting to destroy it with their discredited policies”

As there is zero prospect of the Tories gaining control of Tower hamlets, this is just hot air, but suggests that Respect's electoral base has diminished.


Korakious said...

Not surprising at all. I think that RESPECT is doomed and Galloway is only hastening the collapse.

Louisefeminista said...

So c'mon Comrades, lets all join Labour and support the McDonnell campaign.

Last best hope for the Labour Left or is that last gasp.

Oh and before you all pounce I am joking (well, half joking..)

Snowball said...

The fact that a Government with plenty of rich backers is able to sweet talk a Respect councillor into rejoining the Labour Party with offers of power is not really that surprising when you think about it. What can Respect offer in terms of personal reward for those who stand for or get elected to the council for it? Certainly not rapid promotion into a position of wealth and influence that is for sure. What is remarkable is that so many Respect councillors have stood firm in the face of such offers - and have put the interests of the people they were elected to represent before their own personal careers. That is why Respect will hopefully still continue to grow despite such setbacks just as New Labour will continue to die as a Party.

How many Labour Councillors up and down the country will lose their seats in a few days time?

How many new councillors will Respect gain?

rob j said...

I don’t think you can predict the downfall of Respect from the actions of one rogue careerist spouting New Labour propaganda.
Galloway was and is the most vociferous opponent of the war among MPs.
Where was John Mc Donnell at the start of the war?I’d never heard of McDonell until
This leadership campaign.
As for Kourakis’comments that “Respect is doomed”lets wait till Thursday and see what happens to the SSP on Thursday….

AN said...

Anything could happen in the list vote, the dynamics are almost chaotic if the SNP win several first past the post seats off labour then it will depend how many votes labour get in the list, whether the minor perties get a boost or are squeezed out.

I have a hunch that Colin will retain his seat, and we will see with the other regions.

But the reall issue is not just electoral performecne, it is the degree to which an organisation attracts activists. Both resepct adn Solidarity seem very unattractive organisations for activists to join, and for that reaoson are not the answer for resolving the crisis of working class representation.

rob j said...

Are Respect and Solidarity unattractive to "activists" or old lefties who've been knocking around for years? (No offence,I'm one of those too ).
It's far too early to write off these organisations,they're still very new.

AN said...

Well that is an interesting question Rob and one that goes to the heart of the debate about how the left can be regenerated.

I believe that such regeneration cannot exclude the established activists in the trade unions, while by an large means being attrecative to us old lefties :o)

Anonymous said...

rob j just embarrasses himself when he says he'd never heard of John McDonnell before his leadership attempt. maybe if you'd only got involved in left politics in about 2002 through the anti-war movement when the Stop the War did nothing to work with parliamentary opposition...otherwise maybe your just admitting the cocoon that you live in...

Liam Mac Uaid said...

I'll have to assume that anyone claiming to be a socialist who had only heard of John Mc Donnell since the leadership campaign has been living somewhere very remote or has only just learned to read.

When the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4 were inside he was one of the tiny handful of Labour figures who would do meetings in their defence. I can't think of an industrial struggle he has not supported.

But back to the substantive point. This councillor's defection bears our what I've observed in the constituency. Respect's base is eroding pretty quickly. I have documented its rise and fall pretty assidously on my site.

The organisation refused to allow discussions that would give its membership a real political education in the way that Labour USED to. Its leadership pretends to believe that a 40% drop in membership is an irrelevant detail of interest only to pedants and bureaucrats.
It has an effectively Stalinist internal regime that only served to antagonise most of the independently minded activists it once attracted. I know. I saw in in action on several occasions.

Respect was the great lost opportunity for the left in Britain in this generation. This councillor's defection just shows the game is up. Wishful thinking will not change that.

AN said...

I think that is unfair Liam,

JOhn Mcdonnell has not had a high media profile, certainaly less than Alan Simpson for example, and even Alan has had less exposure then his brother Homer.

It is quite plausisble to be a committed left activist and not to have come across McDonnell.

rob j said...

Oh I'm so embarrassed I've never heard of John McDonnell ;-)and me being around a lot longer than 2002 and being able to read.
Oh well I'll just have to go out and buy and the Observer's Book Of Labour MPs and memorise the names of everyone and every detail of their carreers so I won't be embarrassed in future.

Snowball said...

The idea that Stop the War did not work with the 'parliamentary opposition' is wrong - there were many many rallies held and organised by Stop the War with Labour MPs on the platform wherever possible - indeed Stop the War was criticised by some ultra-lefts precisely for having Labour MPs on the platform.

However, it has to be said that when it came to being prepared to tour around the country at Stop the War rallies, it was only really Labour MPs like George Galloway, Jeremy Corbyn(and former MP Tony Benn) who really committed themselves to building the movement on a national level. Andy is right to say that Alan Simpson had a far higher profile than McDonnell until the leadership campaign. McDonnell no doubt was well known locally and voted the right way in Parliament but he was certainly nowhere near as active or vociferously anti-war as Galloway or Corbyn.

Louisefeminista said...

But actually I don't think Liam was being unfair re: his comment about McDonnell.

I mean, c'mon, who the hell heard of Galloway before the war? He wasn't in the Campaign Group of Labour MPs, he rarely attended (things don't change for The Gorgeous One, do they?), his voting record didn't show him up to someone taking on New Labour unlike McDonnell. Galloway was a lost opportunity and could have done a hell of a lot more to expose New Labour. But didn't!

McDonnell is a socialist and who is dogged in that commitment. You can rely on McDonnell to take on New Labour, supportive of industrial action and is consistent in his voting record.

Actually, McDonnell has been the only MP who has shown his support in the campaign against the Welfare Reform Bill. Galloway is MP in one of the poorest boroughs in London and this Bill will have an impact on many of his constituents yet where is his opposition...... where has his condemnation been...Oh where is the opposition from Galloway re: changes in civil legal aid which, again, will have an impact on his constituents.

Just because McDonnell isn't constantly in the media unlike George who just lurves courting it and obviously it is more important than his constituents and you know, doing what a committed socialist ought to be doing...

There has been a media blackout on the McDonnell campaign but at least with him you get a level of commitment, accountability and support than you ever would get with media clown Galloway.

I damn well have more respect (pardon the pun) and admiration for someone as committed as McDonnell who actually cares about the crap people face day in day out and tries to do something about it.

rob j said...

Wikipedia tells me that McDonnell was a GLC councillor in the early 80's and following that he was in senior management at Camden council and wasn't elected MP till 1997.Not living in London I'm not familiar with whoever was a councillor more than 20 years ago.
I'm sure McDonnell is an admirable chap and a fine socialist and I wish him well in his campaign.

AN said...

I just think it is moralistic to say that an activist should be embarrassed for not having heard of mcDonnell.

For most of us active in our unions or local communities, the activities of left labour MPs has almost no day to day relevenace.

It is a bit irrelevent to that argument how much respect you or I may have for MPs like McDonnell, we are talking about their media profile. And mcDonnell didn't even have a high profile in the Morning Star before this leadership campaign. No higher than for example Bob Marshall Andrews.

AN said...

And I do think Liam and Louise are perhaps being "London-centric."

Rob is right that Mps or councillors who have a high profile in campaigns in london do not necessarily have a national resonance.

Louisefeminista said...

Well, if you are talking about the campaign against the Welfare Reform Bill, it is in fact national and plenty of activists are outside London.

I wasn't being moralistic or saying it was "embarrasing" for someone not hearing of McDonnell. I was saying that McDonnell is a good committed socialist and I too am involved in trade union work and other campaigning activities as well.

Like I said he is not always in the media spotlight and actions kinda speak louder than words.

AN said...


It was Liam who said anyone claiming to be a socialist who had only heard of John Mc Donnell since the leadership campaign has been living somewhere very remote or has only just learned to read.

, which was moralistic.

You then wrote actually I don't think Liam was being unfair

Which i took to mean that you agreed with Liam.

You yourself concede that mcDonnell's strength is good solid work, rather than building a media profile.

In which case it is utterley reasonable for someone, who relies upon the news media for their information, not to have heard of mcDonnell.

And yes, the Welfare Refeorm Bill may be a national campaign, but it is not a mass camapign that every activist is aware of.

I was unaware that mcDonnell was involved in it before i read what you just wrote.

Louisefeminista said...

Okey dokey. I kinda understand what you mean now AN.

But just briefly I really would like to bring attention to the campaign around the Welfare Reform Bill and why it is important to oppose this Bill and show solidarity and support for the campaign.

I know I have been banging on about it but it will have a terrible impact on claimants and it will be becoming an Act fairly soon...

AN said...

Blimey, isn't it easy to have misunderstandings :o)

The thing is I totally agree with you about the relative merits of McDonnell compared to the gorgeous one. I just think that Rob was being abused unfairly.

I think you are doing a good job raising awareness of the Welfare reform Bill.

I think the difficulatly is that given the fact that the trade unions are becomming the main focus of opposition to New labour, then any labur attacks that fall outsdie of the remit of employment or workplace related issues tend to have no where to go.

rob j said...

It's ok.I didn't think I was being abused :-)

Mary said...

Waiseul Islam was an infiltrator who was waiting for the right moment to do this.

Duh, it's pretty obvious.

Liam Mac Uaid said...

My assumption was that the people who read and discuss on this site are not political novices. There are so few decent MPs that John Mc stands out by a mile.

As for the councillor, it indicates how weak the Respect group's politics are. That could have been different.

AN said...

Mary, that is the silliest thing I have ever read :o)

Liam, fair enough. In the words of mary Poppins, "never explain, never apologise"

Richard Marchese said...

Clearly this is a significant set back for Respect.

That said, (and I'm afraid I haven't got around to reading what you've written about the situation in Tower Hamlets, Liam) I'm curious as to how much this tells us about Respect's support in Tower Hamlets.

This isn't to deny that Galloway's antics, for example, have hurt Respect - in Plymouth, I'm aware of at least one member who left because of his foolish participation in Big Brother. Nonethless, I think it's surely important to remember that Respect's election victory came after Galloway appeared in the show.

I find it difficult to believe that someone who agrees with Respect on the key issues -namely privatisation of council housing and the war - could easily go over to New Labour. Perhaps Mary has a point - maybe this guy was an opportunist, looking out for the best deal for himself. I'm curious as to whether this might be the case for 2 of the other councillors; I remember an article in the WW suggesting that 3 councillors last summer were attempting to sign up 45 members of Respect in TH with a wad full of cash and application forms written in very similar hadnwriting.... (This said, I have been warned to take what is written in the WW with a pinch of salt.) Of course,if opportunists have stood as Respect candidates, this raises the question of how to prevent this happening again.

As for Respect's prospects elsewhere - the drop in membership figures is clearly a problem (I'm dismayed by the rather dismissive manner in which the leadership apparently dealt with this at conference). That said, I'm aware that a number of active members of Respect are fairly lax about renewing their membership (which isn't to knock those comrades in the slightest), so I suspect the official membership figures are an underestimate. I even recall learning with a very active member of the SWP that they'd never got around to joining Respect - and not because they didn't support Respect!

Electorally, I think it will be interesting to see how the vote turns out. Certainly the fact that we've had some defections from Labour and LibDem activists (and councillors) in the past few months suggests Respect still has the potential to develop - despite the evdident challenges it faces.