Dead Men Left

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Beaten to it - Lenin's Tomb already gives Tatchell a grilling for his peculiar rant in the Guardian a couple of days back. I'd only add that, when the Tatchell hints that the "far left" cannot work with gays, he really ought to think back to his own experiences at the polls: as Labour candidate for Bermondsey in 1983, Tatchell faced a truly revolting homophobic campaign against him, led (of course) by the tabloid press, with the Lib Dems and the Labour right doing little to offer their support, the Labour right attempting initially to block his candidature, whilst the Lib Dems were eventually beneficiaries of this spectacularly revolting election, seeing Simon Hughes returned to a once-safe Labour seat with a campaign stressing his "Christianity". The "far left", within and without the Labour Party, stood by Tatchell as thousands upon thousands of anonymous leaflets were distributed through the constituency, denouncing Tatchell as a "traitor" and a "queer", and as Tatchell's home was attacked, as were those of his supporters. (The details are in Tatchell's own book, The Battle for Bermondsey. Personally, it's a terrible disappointment to see a man I have a great deal of admiration for managing to wallow in mindless sectarianism like this.)

Fresh red-baiting by the Green's more prominent members aside, Respect has selected its candidate for the Stepney Green by-election: Oliur Rahman, who polled so well in City and East. Having been outside of the constituency for much of the campaign, I attended the Lambeth and Southwark post-election meeting last night with a degree of trepidation. I was pleasantly surprised: the meetings was both well-attended, packing out the room, and a thorough and honest attempt to both account for the successes and failures of the campaign, as well as devise a plan for our next steps. The good-humoured seriousness of this discussion, the range of people involved, and the willingness to think ahead all make me think Respect has legs. We can establish oursevles as the left alternative to New Labour that is so desperately needed. We don't have any choice but to.