First report on yesterday’s meeting of Respect Rotherham, our thanks go to Warren Vale for this:
“Let me start by saying well done to Sarah/Kiran. With alleged shennanigans again over a venue (this time forced to change over fears of rioting if you can believe that – but I’ll leave the details to Respect members to share), Sarah/Kiran and her small team of four managed to get 40 people in a room on a late Saturday afternoon to witness the official birth of Rotherham Respect and that’s no small feat.
Of course we were there to hear from George Galloway, but we’ll get to him shortly. I want to stick with Sarah and her team just for a moment. I’m sure that everyone on this blog realises just how quickly we all lose our ‘innocence’ in politics and it was refreshing to see young people still full of charm and naivety leading the Respect charge in Rotherham. Don’t go changing too quickly Sarah. Of course public speaking will get easier, but you were great, don’t go down the slick and polished route too soon.
So George? I’ll admit that politics is like rock n roll to me. If Dave, Ed and Nick are the bland One Direction of politics (pun intended), then George is the Sex Pistols – angry, confrontational but still lovably British. The Sex Pistols were the perfect band for the punk era and in some ways, Respect should be the perfect political party for these angry, nihilistic times. “No-one speaks for me anymore” is a refrain that needs to change, and quickly. At the moment, neither, Respect, TUSC nor the growing independent movement under Simon Copley are quite hitting the mark. Time will probably change that, but time is short.
George and Yvonne spoke passionately about Respect core beliefs of Peace, Justice and Equality, and you’d have been hard pushed to find anyone disagreeing with those sentiments. We were a little short on detail, particularly local campaigns in the offing, but that’s to be expected from a party just finding its feet locally. What gave me pause to consider Respect a little more than I may have done before was the make up of the audience. There were people there whom I admire and respect greatly, stalwarts of the Rotherham left, who are moving towards Respect, and this in itself demands our attention.
One point raised that does need addressing was an audience question concerning the notion that Respect is an Islamic Party. This is not true as any glance at the history of the Party will show, but it is a perception that persists. It is up to all of us, Respect supporters or not, to dispel this notion and examine policies rather than skin colour or faith. Let Respect stand or fall on policy, not on some distracting false division. So Sarah/Kiran, get some more meetings organised, advertise them here on Rothpol, and grow your numbers. It was a great start yesterday, but it was just a start. I know some of the people who helped with Yvonne’s campaign in November, and these wise old heads (sorry Tom) should be brought even closer in to Rotherham Respect – there is much you can learn from them and, dare I say it, there is much they can learn from you.
Does Rotherham need Respect? Well yes, if the rise of UKIP endures. Labour is not an option for much of the left, and TUSC are still not chiming with the public in a meaningful way so far. Respect may provide that organised opposition. Council seats are winnable next year (although a Parliamentary seat may still be a fair distance off into the future, sorry George) and there is definitely a ‘Rotherham’ feel to the Respect youngsters there yesterday.
Respect in Rotherham is new, it’s young, and it’s exciting. It’s small, so your voice can still be heard. Most importantly, it’s here to stay. So whatever your feelings towards marmite George, Respect are worth examining. Keep Rotherham Respect young, keep it vibrant, keep it going. George was great (as always), but it’s Galloway’s Garrison here in Rotherham that could make a difference.
Rotherham Respect may be contacted through the Secretary, Sarah Kiran Mahmood, by email click here.