George Galloway Online
- ▼ December (6)
- ► 2011 (145)
Sunday, 2 December 2012
The second emotion experienced by the whole Respect leadership and campaign teams is one of frustration. But for 26 votes we would have been in third place in Rotherham and able to present these outcomes entirely differently. Indeed, there have been issues with the electoral count and its conduct in the town.
These elections have given us the shape of things to come. The likely Labour government will create electoral possibilities for a number of parties either on the right or with progressive policies. However, the general context of this Parliament remains one in which Labour is viewed as the instinctive vote of opposition with the Condem government despised. Progressive and disaffected voters will tend to rally to Labour as the party which can get the Condems out. The rapid erosion of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat voting base has created a larger pool of right leaning voters for right wing parties and above all UKIP to pick up. Left and progressive parties, on the other hand, always face a squeeze in these circumstances. The important lessons to take are that Respect is increasingly well placed to be the credible progressive left alternative when Labour comes back into government and that we are going to have to be patient and do the preparatory work over the next three years. There is simply no shortcut to building consistently in communities over a range of issues.
Yvonne Ridley beat both the governing parties of the United Kingdom, which is in itself no small thing for a small left-wing party in a 95% non-Muslim overwhelmingly white town. With 26 more votes - less than five families - she would've been third and have beaten the BNP which has been trying to establish an electoral base in Rotherham for over a decade. We had not a single member of Respect in Rotherham when we arrived three weeks ago. Critically in this election, we lacked resources in terms of finance and personnel, those that we had came from Bradford and from Rotherham people who came aboard our campaign just over two weeks before polling day. We lacked organization, meaning that time and resources were lost through lack of experienced electoral leadership available.
Labour paid Respect a backhanded compliment in calling the by-elections so quickly. It feared the ability of Respect to gain the Bradford momentum and rally the young and disaffected to our cause. The campaign on two fronts meant that time (George Galloway’s and others) had to be split between two constituencies involving a four hundred mile round trip. The elections were called precipitately (which ought to be illegal), reflected in the miserable turn-out in both but especially in Croydon. This created a number of problems for our vote, especially the relative significance of the postal vote which Respect was not able to reach at all. This vote was over half of the Rotherham result and Labour was able to farm this vote effectively relying on historic loyalties (and a few other things besides) while Respect was still trying to prepare its literature.
In both constituencies, we missed the deadline for the free postal delivery of election material. In Rotherham particularly, this surely proved fatal to the task of being third. The sympathy vote for UKIP, its tactical gambit on the adoption issue that paid off handsomely plus its steady rise in the polls nationally made beating it in a town like Rotherham beyond us this time. In Croydon, the free postal delivery could have gained us the 150 votes which could've put us in fourth place. It is hard to believe that in both places this leaflet couldn't have gained us less than 200 votes.
Despite all this, Respect’s campaigns were critically acclaimed by many people and media. This led to the extraordinary situation that both press and bookmakers were treating us as the second place party on the eve of polling. Polls conducted by the media over the weekend prior to the elections suggested we were challenging Labour, the bookmakers suspended betting on Respect to win and Labour hit the panic button mobilizing MPs, councillors and its entire HQ staff to get its vote out. In Croydon, every black Labour MP in London was drafted in to counter Lee Jasper. In Rotherham, a dirty tricks campaign was conducted culminating in fake leaflets being circulated (it remains to be seen who was responsible). All of this happened in November despite Respect being written off as dead twice in 2012 alone.
Respect was severely hamstrung by the loss of 6 members of our more experienced leadership in September, most notably our former leader. While this didn’t affect the membership trend which continues to grow, or lead to the predicted split, it did rob Respect of critical experience at a moment when resources were spread too thinly. Rotherham also proved just a few miles too far for the full impact of our experienced Bradford cadre to be felt though those who could make it performed heroically as always.
The Respect party continues to punch above its weight, its support in the country far outweighing its performance in these elections. Its profile is disproportionate, meaning electoral performance is often judged unfairly. The membership remains far too small. There is far too little concentration on fundraising. Too few of our members travel to help out in elections. When we campaign, it makes a difference (compare the Manchester Central result where there was no campaign team or resources to Croydon, let alone Rotherham).
George Galloway’s personal profile is getting larger by the day. He now have over 100,000 followers on Twitter, nearly 100,000 on Facebook and a full diary of speaking events all attended by big audiences. The Molucca Red podcasts have hundreds of thousands of viewers in just a few months and his videos have an audience of many millions.
The party should arrange a Respect Campaign Tour which aims to build membership around the main cities of England. We should hold this throughout 2013, preferably with a tour bus. The object should be to double our membership. For our members, Respect has a challenge – that each should reach one. We should aim to recruit one person per month in 2013. At the same time, we should launch a major fundraising effort. This would transform Respect’s situation.
If we take a footballing analogy, Respect is somewhere in the Championship now whilst our opponents on the left are firmly anchored at the bottom of Division 2. This cannot now be challenged by any of them. The ludicrous nature of the Communist Party's electoral profile was exposed again in Croydon (though its votes could have put us close to fourth place) and the absurdly sectarian Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in Rotherham (its votes would have actually placed us, ahead of the BNP). TUSC has been trying to build for the last few years in Rotherham yet managed only a redundant vote. As George Galloway has noted, ‘now, the dogs barking can scarcely be heard’.
The Respect Party continues to grow, has an envied electoral profile and is here to stay. Its task is to shape an organization that can deliver against the Labour electoral machine.
Respect Party National Secretary