Dead Men Left

Friday, April 21, 2006

Slightly rambling around Tower Hamlets

Been reading Michael Young's last book, The New East End, which has appeared to rapturous praise from certain quarters. Will write a proper review/rant about it later, but as a taster: by god, this is shite. (See also here and here. Both articles, if anything, understate how very bad this book really is.)

Throwing this soggy communitarian fag-end aside (complete with unpleasant hacking cough, and promises never to touch the stuff again) and returning to the real New East End: several hours spent, over the last two weeks or so, pounding Whitechapel's salubrious streets with our three Respect candidates has convinced me that we are on the verge of a breakthrough here. (I'm not the only one.) Now, I'm not convinced - but then, I've never been convinced - that Respect is going to win control of the council, although it is a possibility. What seems most likely is that, given the complete fragmentation of the Labour vote, we'll end up with a council split four ways - potentially with Respect as the largest single block.

Particularly striking is that this fragmentation seems to be taking place across the constituency. Whitechapel itself is a poor and predominantly Bengali area that delivered a huge vote for George Galloway last year. From canvassing elsewhere, however, it's clear that sections of the white working class are looking to Respect as a viable alternative to New Labour. As I've said before, Respect simply could not have won George his seat without the support of white working class Labour defectors. The demographics of the constituency dictate as much, and certainly the canvassing returns made clear that our support was arriving from across BG&B.

Given the exceptional circumstances of that election, though, there was no guarantee that such support would be maintained. By all accounts, for a significant minority of longstanding Labour voters, it has been, and has even strengthened: we have an excellent slate of candidates, presenting a solid political programme. Getting the candidates out, meeting people, and having the arguments where needed has materially contributed to Respect's support.

So I'm reasonably chipper about proceedings, thus far. Anybody wanting to see the East London Respect bandwagon rolling onwards should get down to Liverpool Street Station at 10.30am this Saturday for the mass canvassing and leafletting - we're aiming for at least four hundred people out across the constituency, matching last year's near-heroic effort.

New Labour have chosen the same day to mobilise their remaining activists in East London. Curiously, and despite frantically talking up the Nazi threat there, they're chosing not to send them to Barking and Dagenham. Instead, it's all out to prop up their corrupt and ailing council in Tower Hamlets. Important to get your priorities right, I suppose; internal Labour Party polls a few weeks back (I'm reliably informed) put Respect on something over 10% across London - which, considering we're not standing right across London, suggests a very significant amount of support in the east. Another one for the rumour mill: guess which "Party of Liberation" is reportedly offering its support for New Labour in Shadwell?