On Saturday 16th May, around 100 people attending the Respect party’s national conference in Bradford, where in the past few months George Galloway has been elected MP for Bradford West and in May’s council elections they won 5 councillors, including deposing the Labour leader of the council.
The first session of the conference discussed these very developments, pointing out to use Galloways phrase ‘that the three main parties are three cheeks of the same arse’ and there is a desire amongst many working people for an alternative. Although Labour may benefit in many areas from opposition to the Con-Dems, increasing possibilities exist for anti-austerity alternatives, even though there seem to be small organised forces to do this at the moment. Galloway gave the example of his support growing from 5 people 3 weeks before the election, to a meeting of 1,000 shortly before election day. From the floor, delegates commented on how in Liverpool Tony Mulhearn’s campaign for Mayor had a similar impact and called for working together with TUSC.
The afternoon was given over to discussing international developments from Egypt and Syria to Greece and France, with the possibility of the election of a Syriza government in Greece seen as massively favourable to the struggle against austerity across Europe. Others during the discussion raised the need for an alternative society to capitalism, with a few mentioning socialism as that alternative.
Both the Socialist Party and TUSC have written to Respect to discuss a co-ordinated anti-cuts electoral challenge, which several delegate seemed supportive of. However, Respect have declared their candidate for the Bristol mayor without discussing with TUSC who stood 16 candidates across the city in the last election. The election was posed by some at the conference as Bristol choosing between Bradford or Brighton (in reference to the Green-run council in Brighton passing on the cuts). But Respect in Bradford have yet to be fully challenged, if they do not stand up fully against the cuts in the council chamber and act as the tribune for the concerns of working class people in the city, then their support could crumble as quickly as it emerged. For our part, the Socialist Party is keen to work with Respect and other activists to fight all the cuts and capitalism, both in Bradford and elsewhere.