National RESPECT Renewal Newsletters

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National Respect Newsletter Thursday 31st January 2008

 1) The new paper is out!

With articles on Brown’s attacks on public sector pay, climate change, the student movement, Iran, Palestine, the anti-war movement and building the left as well as letters, reports from around the country and reviews, it’s a great read. We’ve got Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, Victoria Brittain, Brian Caton from the Prison Officers’ Association and loads more.

If you’d like to buy individual copies, they’re £1 each. But we really want the word spread, so we’re offering “supporters’ subscriptions”, where you’ll get 7 copies sent to you each month for just £4 a month. If you take out a 6 month supporters’ subscription,
it’ll only cost £20.

You can also buy 100 for £20 if collected from East London or £20 plus postage if not.

For individual orders or subscriptions, please email

subscriptions@respectrenewal.org or send cheques, payable to “Respect
Renewal Conference”, to PO Box 1109, London N4 2UU.

2) The Electoral Commission, Respect and the GLA

Members and supporters should be aware that the Socialist Workers Party, who split from Respect last November, have been trying to persuade the Electoral Commission to hand over the name Respect to the control of one of the breakaway councillors in Tower Hamlets. The Electoral Commission has just ruled they have no power to do this,
even if they were persuaded to do it, which they are not. The name Respect will therefore remain in the hands of Linda Smith, a founder member of the Respect Renewal platform.

This effectively ends the SWP’s attempt to hijack the party. In a bizarre twist the SWP are holding a meeting tonight (31 Jan) to deselect six of the 16-strong GLA list originally elected last year and to launch Lindsey German’s “mayoral” campaign. In yet another obvious breach of Respect’s constitution, this meeting has been called by a body with no constitutional authority and involves the unconstitutional “expulsion” from Respect of four of the GLA list candidates – Linda Smith (the national chair), Councillor Abdul Karim
Sheikh and two young Bengali women including the vice chair of Tower Hamlets Respect.

George Galloway and other prominent Respect members have made it clear they cannot support the mayoral candidacy of Lindsey German under whatever label she might eventually stand. George said, “It would be self-indulgence, a luxury the left can no longer afford, to stand a candidate of the left against Livingstone for mayor. The danger of Livingstone being defeated by the right is too great.

“With opinion polls varying between neck-and-neck and a substantial Tory lead, a left candidate opposing Livingstone really could aid the Tories and risk handing the keys to City Hall to the rancid reactionaries around Boris Johnson.”

3) George Galloway to stand for London Assembly

A national meeting held on January 16th endorsed the proposal for George Galloway to put together a list of candidates to stand for the GLA list section in May. George has said he is willing to stand and is actively seeking support from progressive figures and groups beyond Respect as well as those who are already members. That broad progressive list would probably not stand as Respect in the GLA elections because it will consist of some figures who are not Respect members.

Unfortunately, mischievous newspaper reports last week suggested that George was therefore “quitting” Respect. Nothing could be further from the truth. George has made his commitment to Respect absolutely clear and intends to stand for the seat of Poplar and Limehouse as the Respect candidate whenever the General Election is called. All the
indications are that, recent problems in Respect notwithstanding, New Labour are frightened that Respect are poised for a dramatic breakthrough in both Poplar and Limehouse and Bethnal Green and Bow some time between now and 2010.

We are aiming to have our GLA list complete by the middle of February and to officially launch the campaign then. We will need just 5% across London to see a list candidate elected.

4) Climate Change meeting & Climate Change Trade Union Conference

There will be a very important public meeting in Bethnal Green, east London, on Thursday 7 February organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change, to discuss the issues around global warming.

Respect MP George Galloway will be speaking alongside Tony Kearns, the Deputy General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Phil Thornhill from the Campaign Against Climate Change, Green Party councillor Romayne Phoenix and a speaker from the Heathrow Climate Camp. The meeting is at Oxford House, Derbyshire Street (opposite Bethnal Green Tesco).

How we respond to climate change is the biggest political challenge of the 21st century. In countries like Britain it will be working people and the poor who will be worst hit. Food prices have already started going up because grain to make bread is being used as fuel.
In the developing world tens of thousands of people are already dying because of changes in weather systems and disease caused by climate change.

Please visit the Respect Renewal website for more details.

Then on Saturday 9th February Campaign Against Climate Change are holding a trade union conference. Union activists from across the country will be getting together next February in London for a day of discussion and planning – speakers include FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka and Caroline Lucas, Green
Party MEP, Respect national vice chair Councillor Salma Yaqoob along with a number of speakers from unions and political groups.

The day will be divided into workshops covering issues from sustainable transport to greening the workplace.

Union members can play a key part in building the movement against climate change into a mass movement – we urge all Respect members and supporters to attend. Please visit the website for more details.

5) Burns Night and other successes

Last Saturday 110 revellers packed into the Cittee of Yorke pub in London’s west end to celebrate Burns Night. Dozens more had to be turned away due to capacity constraints. A fantastic time was had by all. George Galloway addressed the haggis and gave a eulogy to the great poet and radical Robert Burns.

Food and company were terrific and everyone pledged to make this an annual event. We are also currently exploring more events to commemorate which will bring Respect members together in a convivial social atmosphere. A huge thank you to everyone who made Burns Night such a success and particularly Ghada Razuki.

Then on Wednesday a packed public meeting in Oxford Town Hall was held with George Galloway in Oxford. More such meetings are planned in Cambridge, Greater Manchester, South London and Bristol.

6) Tower Hamlets public meeting on Palestine this Saturday

“Mass murder in Palestine – End Israel’s siege of Gaza” – organised by Tower Hamlets Respect Youth

Speakers: George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, Dr Azam Tamimi, Director of the Institute of Islamic Thought in London, Councillor Abjol Miah, Respect group leader on Tower Hamlets council and Respect candidate for Bethnal Green & Bow and Dawood Abdullah, Muslim Council of Britain

Saturday, February 2, 2008 6:30pm

Venue: Berners Hall, Berners Estate, Ponler Street, London E1 1QN – nearest tubes, Aldgate, Aldgate East and Shadwell.

7) Jobs spot

Respect Renewal urgently needs a part-time worker to work on key elements of office administration on behalf of the platform. The post would be a short term appointment until the middle of May, a week or so after the GLA and local council elections. We are inviting  applicants to email will@respectrenewal.org for more details, terms
and conditions or to apply for the post together with CV.
Remuneration will be a fee of £400 per month. We need to appoint this post quickly, so please don’t delay.

We are also looking for a volunteer to take on the responsibilities of a membership secretary. This would be an unpaid post but of vital importance for Respect Renewal. Again please email will@respectrenewal.org if you are interested.

8) Help me raise money for charity

An appeal from Respect founder member Jay Stewart

“On Sunday the 13th April I will be putting my body through the ultimate gruelling challenge The London Marathon. It s my third marathon and I hope to beat my 2007 time of 3hrs 46min.

“I have decided this year that I will devote my attention to the charity called ‘Action on addiction’ which deals with young people in the vortex of addiction in one form or another. The reason I chose this charity is because I have personal experience from the terrible
illness of alcoholism. My uncle almost died as a result of this addiction. I’m aiming to raise £2000 and am about half way there. I could really use everybody’s help. It takes a couple of minutes on line and any contribution big or small is extremely welcome. You can go to www.georgegalloway.com for the link to my page or direct to www.justgiving.com/jaystewart. Thanks to all and RESPECT!

Visit out website: http://www.respectrenewal.org

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National RESPECT Renewal News 22nd December 2007

We would like to wish all our friends and supporters a very happy Christmas and new year.

1) Back to the future

2) We are Respect

3) Dubaious check!

4) Emails from Respect chair to John Rees and from George Galloway to Michael Gavan

5) Morning Star article from George Galloway

6) MCB votes to end boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day

1) BACK TO THE FUTURE

No-one would have wished for the unfortunate divisions that have occurred over the last four months but, nonetheless, we have reached the year end in very optimistic mood. Gordon Brown s brief bounce has ended in a dramatic splat with his government now trailing the Tories by 15 percentage points. Meantime doubts remain about Old Etonian bully boy David Cameron and about the anonymous clone Nick Clegg. Polls continue to show enormous opposition to the war in Iraq and any threat of war against Iran. Privatisation remains deeply unpopular. Even the Financial Times is calling for the nationalisation of failed bank Northern Rock and there is a lot more economic trouble in the pipeline. This is the context in which there remains an enormous space to be filled to the left of New Labour.

Following the terrific Respect Renewal conference in the middle of November which had 371 people attending over the day, we have held a very successful meeting in Tower Hamlets in the last four weeks, selecting our candidates Councillor Abjol Miah and George Galloway MP to fight the two Tower Hamlets seats in the next General Election – now not likely by the way until May 2010. We have also held a very successful meeting in Newham with our three councillors and George Galloway. In Birmingham selection of candidates is under way for the May elections when we are very confident we can elect at least one more councillor to the council chamber, making it a clean sweep in Salma Yaqoob’s Sparkbrook ward. Elsewhere there have been Respect meetings of members more optimistic now than they have been for many months. And we have attracted some very important students to our ranks.

We also produced the first edition of a new monthly Respect paper which has gone down tremendously well and of which we sold over 200 on the Climate Change demo in the pouring rain! We have an excellent new website under development. Both of these are the product of the new enthusiasm and energy we have begum to tap from our previously
neglected members.

We are now drawing up plans for a comprehensive speaking tour with George Galloway, Salma Yaqoob, Ken Loach and others to tour key cities and universities in the New Year. And we are going to thoroughly review all our options for the Greater London Assembly
elections in May.

It is for these reasons and more that we are therefore looking forward to putting our recent problems well and truly behind us and making dramatic progress in 2008.

2) WE ARE RESPECT

We wish to reaffirm to all our readers that Linda Smith remains Respect s registered leader and nominating officer with the Electoral Commission and both she and Salma Yaqoob remain our National Chair and Vice Chair respectively. We do not recognise the legitimacy of the conference  held by the SWP in the name of Respect in November which was packed with delegates representing bogus student members, members who had not re-registered by the appropriate deadlines and delegates who had not been selected by bona fide members’ meetings. That conference  elected a national council whose overwhelming majority, some 29 people out of 46, consists of SWP members, making a farce of any attempt to call themselves a Respect Coalition.

We intend to contest very vigorously any attempt to replace Linda Smith as registered leader and nominating officer with the Electoral Commission and we are completely confident we will persuade the Electoral Commission that the SWP  conference  was illegitimate.

Linda Smith and Salma Yaqoob have also written to the National Secretary John Rees and the National Treasurer Elaine Graham-Leigh to urge the SWP to return to the negotiating table to resolve the divisions that have occurred. That letter was emailed to them three weeks ago (copy below) but they have not yet had the courtesy to reply. We will continue to press the SWP to return to the negotiating table that they walked away from at the beginning of November, but in the meantime rest assured that the name Respect in any election will only be carried by candidates approved by Linda.

3) DUBAIOUS CHECK!

Last week, the SWP Central Committee issued an unprecedented public apology for the actions of John Rees in soliciting and accepting a cheque for Organising For Fighting Unions (OFFU) from a Dubai company whose largest shareholder is Interserve plc. This is one of the leading PFI companies in Britain run by a former aide to John Major and which was behind, for example, the Dudley and University College London Hospital PFIs, both of them strongly opposed by SWP and other members in Respect.

That apology was accompanied by a copy of a letter from John Rees to victimised trade unionist and Respect member Michael Gavan who is secretary of the OFFU Committee. Unfortunately that letter did not go as far as the SWP Central Committee apology and was seriously misleading. As a result, George Galloway wrote to Michael Gavan to give his side of the story relating to this donation and to correct the misleading impression that had been conveyed. The fact is that George Galloway first learned of the donation at the end of August, raised his concerns about it privately but immediately with John Rees and Elaine Graham-Leigh and shortly afterwards discovered through a simple google search the deeply embarrassing associations of the Dubai company concerned.

No less than four members of the SWP Central Committee, John Rees himself, Lindsey German, Chris Bambery and Professor Alex Callinicos were informed of these associations on 10th September. But George’s concerns were simply brushed aside contemptuously. We have to ask why has it taken the SWP Central Committee three months to issue an apology and recommend the donation should returned. A copy of the letter from George Galloway setting out the sequence of events follows the letter from Linda and Salma for your information.

4) EMAILS FROM RESPECT CHAIR TO JOHN REES AND FROM GEORGE GALLOWAY TO MICHAEL GAVAN

Email sent 30th November 2007 to John Rees and Elaine Graham Leigh

Dear John and Elaine,

We note from reports we have read that you did proceed with what purported to be the annual conference of Respect on Saturday 17th November. We also note that you claim to have elected a new National Council, Chair and National Organiser and that John Rees was re-elected National Secretary at this gathering.

We repeat that we do not recognise the legitimacy of this meeting as the annual conference of Respect for the reasons we listed in previous emails. As far as we are concerned, there has been no legitimate election of a new National Council or a new election of officers and therefore the previous National Council and officers are still in place.

We intend to take every appropriate action to ensure that the rights of Respect members are preserved and we will certainly not hesitate to take any action to stop those rights being undermined by this illegitimate conference. In particular, we will vigorously resist any attempt to change the officers currently registered with the Electoral Commission.

We regret the fact that you and other representatives of the Socialist Workers Party unilaterally walked away from the meetings we were having to try to conclude an amicable solution to the problems that had arisen. We ask you to reconsider this unfortunate decision and to consider returning to talks to try to end a situation which continues to be very damaging both to Respect and the SWP.

Yours,

Linda Smith, National Chair of Respect

Salma Yaqoob, National Vice Chair of Respect

Email sent 18th December 2007 to Michael Gavan, secretary of OFFU

Dear Michael,

I have been sent a copy of a letter to you from John Rees, distributed by email to SWP members, along with an apology from the SWP Central Committee concerning the donation to OFFU of £5,000 from Dubai.

I think it would be appropriate for me to give you my side of this unfortunate story as John Rees s letter is misleading. When a cheque arrived in January at the Respect Office made out to Respect from a person I did not know but who was clearly a foreign national who said he admired and supported me, I took the position obvious to everyone involved in these things, except perhaps the Labour Party s former General Secretary, that we were grateful for the offer but we had to refuse it on legal grounds.

When John Rees suggested an alternative organisation for the money to be donated to, my assistant Kevin Ovenden had a discussion with him and with Elaine Graham-Leigh saying this might be potentially difficult with the Electoral Commission but that, if such a proposal were to be made, an obvious organisation to suggest was the Stop the War Coalition. This organisation had no formal links with Respect, pre-existed Respect and was an organisation, given the likely nature of the support of the individual concerned, which he might be happy to donate to. The Stop the War Coalition also has robust structures and would have been able to come to a collective decision over whether it might accept such a donation. Kevin, on my behalf, categorically argued against the suggestion by John Rees and Elaine Graham-Leigh that the cheque be reissued payable to OFFU.

There was no further communication between me or my staff and John Rees about this matter until the end of August. In particular, I and my office were unaware that John Rees had written back soliciting the donation for OFFU. He did not circulate that letter to me, to the officers of Respect, or, it seems, to the OFFU committee.

It is utterly disingenuous therefore to say that neither I nor John Rees knew of the company connections of the individual concerned when the donation was made to OFFU in June. I did not know the donation had been made to OFFU. It also seems to be the case that the committee and officers of OFFU were not told that a £5,000 donation from Dubai had been accepted in their name. A Google search after I did learn of the donation, in late August, established the unfortunate links which have caused so much embarrassment.

I did not include this issue in my letter to the Respect National Council in late August as I wanted to resolve matters concerning this donation as quickly as possible and without any possibility of it embarrassing either Respect or OFFU. It was however part of the my
opening remarks at a meeting with SWP Central Committee members John Rees, Lindsey German, Chris Bambery and Alex Callinicos on 4 September. These remarks were made in the context of my accusation against John Rees of his lack of accountability and his recklessness on this and another matter. However, they were dismissed by John Rees as being a cover for a right wing attack on the left in Respect. At a meeting of 250 London SWP members later that week, Alex Callinicos referred to my having spent 25 minutes going on about an obscure cheque.

Despite this, I continued to deal with John Rees and Elaine Graham-Leigh on a confidential basis with regard to this cheque. I insisted on referring the matter to the Electoral Commission on the grounds that the donation might still have been illegal and, in any case, to demonstrate that we were complying with our obligations of transparency. However, my best efforts met with resistance and obfuscation all the way down the line by both Rees and Graham-Leigh.

I raised the connection between the Dubai donation and the Interserve privateers in an email to John Rees, Elaine Graham-Leigh, Alex Callinicos, Lindsey German and Chris Bambery three months ago   on 10 September.

John Rees breezily dismissed these concerns in an emailed response on 13 September. He wrote:

“…this was an individual donation not a corporate donatation (sic).
Many people work for firms that do bad things~but accepting money from them as individuals does not imply either that they endorse the actions of their employers or that we endorse the actions of the firms. Consequently, the whole  anything in the world can be
connected by six degrees of separation  argument falls at the first hurdle.

“More broadly, why should any labour movement body not accept a bit of the profit coming back to the workers so long as there are no strings attached.”

I continued to press John Rees and Elaine Graham-Leigh to refer this to the Electoral Commission until finally I felt obliged, not least for my own reputation, having been the victim of a genuine witch-hunt over donations from the Middle East to the Mariam Appeal, to refer the matter myself. The Electoral Commission are currently looking into the matter.

Given how widely the SWP leadership raised this issue in their own organisation, it was only going to be a matter of time before the issue got into the press, and so it has proved. I am sorry that it has taken press exposure to bring the necessary action to bear on this issue, although I note that John Rees s letter does not actually suggest the return of the donation, which is the recommendation of the SWP Central Committee.

It would certainly be my view that the cheque should never have been solicited for OFFU for two reasons. Firstly, OFFU was set up as a result of a decision by the Respect Officers Committee, its National Council and resolution of the Respect Annual Conference. Its leading officers were members of Respect and one of the signatories to the bank account was an employee of Respect. Respect employees were engaged more or less full time in arranging OFFU s only conference thus far, a conference which lost £5,000. These are connections to Respect which made the donation to OFFU potentially illegal and certainly potentially politically embarrassing. The second reason is, of course, the fact that the major shareholder in the Dubai company is leading PFI privateer Interserve   a connection which is far from tenuous . The Stop the War Coalition might have felt able to accept that money   I cannot see how a body of trade union militants would.

I am very sorry that this embarrassment has occurred for all who are involved in OFFU in good faith, but it entirely vindicates my criticisms of the way in which John Rees has operated both with respect to Respect and OFFU.

On another matter you continue to have my utmost support and good wishes against your victimisation by Newham Council and I remain at your disposal to help in any way I can.

With best wishes,

George Galloway MP

5) MORNING STAR ARTICLE

George Galloway’s latest Morning Star article, which covers the “liberation” of Kosovo and the discussions going on in Respect over the GLA and London Mayor elections in 2008, is now on the Respect website. Please visit http://www.respectrenewal.org/content/view/120/11/ to read it. We’re gradually adding more content to our new site, so please do check back.

6) MCB VOTES TO END BOYCOTT OF HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY

The Muslim Council of Britain recently voted to end its boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day. Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob was pivotal in influencing that vote. Please read the article here – http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/paper/index.php?article=3299

National RESPECT Renewal Web Site at:
http://www.respectrenewal.org

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Respect Renewal Conference 2007

Respect Renewal Conference 2007

National RESPECT Renewal News 5th December 2007 

Dear Friend,

We aim to bring you regular reports of events and initiatives. Please let us know what you are doing in your area and we can pass it on – send your reports to office@respectrenewal.org

1) NEW PAPER!

This Saturday 8 December will see the launch of our new paper “RESPECT”. Its 24 pages are packed with excellent material. The front page leads with an article by Phil Thornhill, organiser of the Campaign against Climate Change, which should go down well on the Climate Change demo.

It’s a remarkable achievement to get this paper written, laid out and printed in just two weeks. Well done to all those involved. It’s something that every Respect Renewal supporter can be proud of.

We need your help to sell it – get in touch at office@respectrenewal.org if you can help! 

2) CLIMATE CHANGE DEMO – Saturday 8 December 12.00 noon, Millbank, London. 

Respect Renewal will have a stall outside Tesco, next to Westminster tube station, from 11.00am. We are calling for volunteers and paper sellers to meet us there at 11.00am.

We hope to sell at least 500 copies of the paper on the demo and collect lots of names of new supporters. There will be a stall at the end where all paper money will be collected. Help us make a successful intervention.  

3) LEAFLETING IN TOWER HAMLETS 

9th, 15th and 16th December – 12 Noon at 9 Club Row, London E1 6JX (Nearest tubes Liverpool Street and Aldgate East)

At a 160 strong all members meeting of Tower Hamlets Respect, Abjol Miah was selected as the Respect Candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow and George Galloway was selected as the candidate for Poplar and Limehouse for the next General election.   We are asking people to join us on the above dates to leaflet as many households as possible in order to introduce both candidates. 

4) TOWER HAMLETS FUND-RAISING DINNER FOR THE BANGLADESH CYCLONE DISASTER – Sunday 9th December 2007

Thousands have died and millions are homeless and without any livelihood after coastal areas in Bangladesh were devastated by Cyclone Sidr, the worst cyclone disaster since 1991. Members of Respect in Tower Hamlets have lost family & friends and other family & friends have had their houses destroyed.

We are holding a fund-raising dinner on Sunday 9th December from 7pm in Jeet Restaurant, 49 Hanbury Street E1 (George Galloway’s campaign HQ during his election campaign for Bethnal Green and Bow).

There will be first class food from this brand new restaurant and first class entertainment. We are asking for a £20 minimum contribution.

You can book your place(s) (going fast) by emailing Tower Hamlets Respect Chair Azmal Hussain at azmalmert@yahoo.co.uk , or Rob Hoveman, parliamentary assistant to George Galloway MP at rob@respectrenewal.org 
Do come along and do bring your friends. We hope to see you there! 

5) DEMONSTRATE AGAINST PRIVATISATION OF THE EAST LONDON LINE 

Thursday 13th December 2007, 11am, outside City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, More London, London SE1 2AA

Join the RMT rail union protest against the privatisation of this tube line. 

6) BURNS NIGHT SOCIAL – SATURDAY 26 JANUARY 2008 

Come and join us to celebrate Burns Night. George Galloway MP will address the haggis and we will have a man in a kilt doing a jig, so why not join him?

Venue: Cittee of Yorke Pub, 22 High Holborn, London WC1V (nearest tube Chancery Lane). 7.30pm. to eat at 8.00pm.

Price: £20 for 3 course meal, dash of whisky and entertainment.

For tickets or more information please call Ghada on 07958 450 867 or e-mail ghada@respectrenewal.org 

7) RESPECT RENEWAL REPORTS 

There’s a very good report from Ger Francis on the Respect branch meeting in South Birmingham at http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=1166

There’s a report on the SWP coup in Bristol Respect at http://liammacuaid.wordpress.com/2007/11/28/bristol-swp-coup-smashes-respect-branch/ 

Meanwhile, Ian Drummond, a student from SOAS, reports on the strange concept of democracy at the Respect (SWP) Student conference on Sunday 2 December. There were only between 30 – 50 students present, compared with about 100 at last year’s event. Ian had prepared a leaflet with a message from George Galloway and Salma Yaqoob about the split. He was told that he would not be allowed into the event if he did not hand the leaflets over. He did so and went into the meeting to intervene. However, John Rees declined to take any questions from the floor, even though his session finished 15 minutes early and Ian was the only one with his hand up.  

Several areas are arranging meetings for the New Year, with George Galloway MP speaking. If you want to organise a meeting please get in touch: ghada@respectrenewal.org 
 

Best wishes, 

Respect Renewal – http://www.respectrenewal.org
office@respectrenewal.org

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