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Spitalfields Special

This is a guest post by Dickie Perret

It’s respect wot won it

Last night both George Galloway, Respect MP for Blackburn and Yvonne Ridley leader of the Respect Party tweeted that the ‘Respect backed independent candidate has won’. The fact that Lutfur Rahman’s band of ‘Independents’ is now just an adjunct of Respect was further shown when Abjol Miah, the failed Respect PPC for Bethnal Green and Bow in 2010 and current Respect candidate for a forthcoming council by-election  tweeted that Lutfur Rahamn is supporting him. Also, the campaign literature for both of these elections is identical.

Does anybody in the Labour Party, even Ken Livingstone, really believe that Rahman and his chums should ever be allowed to rejoin?

Can Respect rely on their loyalty? When Robbani’s brother was a Labour councillor he crossed the floor from Labour to Respect and back again. Some of the ‘independents’ have been members of four parties!

Two tribes go to war

What was most notable on the rainy streets around Brick Lane yesterday (apart from how litter-strewn and badly looked after those streets now are) was the difference between the Labour Party canvassers and the Independent/Respect canvassers.

The Labour teams represented every sector of the community. The Independent/Respect canvassers were all Bangladeshi (There may have been some who weren’t, I’m sure Carole Swords would have been there) .

But. What they had that Labour didn’t were lots of young people and lots of Bangladeshi women.

Spitalfields and Banglatown is actually a lot less Bangladeshi than people imagine – only about 40%. They’re a very settled community and tend to be deprived families living in overcrowded accommodation. They’re at least twice as likely to vote as their more transient rich white neighbours – albeit some of these are part of a settled Bohemian community who are deeply rooted in the community, but they’re a minority of a minority.

The Bangladeshi community are concentrated in three council estates Within each of these estates there are majorities from various districts back in Sylhet. This allows the tribal communalism bloc voting that Respect are often accused of to prosper. But it’s not a s simple as that.

  • Postal Voting on demand destroys the secrecy of the ballot. Radio 4 did an analysis of the Bradford West by-election and introduced a young Muslim woman who said she’d come under presuure to vote in a certain way. I don’t for one moment suggest that only Respect supporters indulge in this.
  • Foreign affairs – while we all know your local councillor has little control over these, you cannot underestimate how important this is. Iraq. Afghanistan. But most importantly Labour is of course just a part of the Zionist plot.
  • Women and young people. Respect are simply a lot better at talking to them. While the Labour Party is extremely diverse, it has very few young Bangladeshi or Bangladeshi women activists.
  • Lutfur’s a victim of Labour’s Islamaphobic Zionist white racist control freaks. It doesn’t matter how untrue this is, that’s the perception.

My advice  to Labour?

  • Stick at it. You’re fighting the right campaign in the right way. You’re just not winning yet.
  • Build your women’s and youth network, there’s some gems out there and they’re scared off by the old men (white and Bengali) too easily – you did an amazing job in getting one-third of your elected councillors as women in 2010.  You need to review your structures yet again, all to often women (and men) turn up to very unwelcoming branch meetings to never return again.
  • Don’t ignore the gated communities. Get into them and get their votes.
  • Don’t fight Respect at their own game. Leave the village politics to them. Fight on our record and our principals. Unite the East End.

Most importantly Lutfur will run out of steam – as my Nan would say ‘ He’s all piss and wind’