Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Why vote Respect?

Investment not cuts

Slashing public spending will only deepen the recession. Instead of the obsession with cuts we need to invest for growth. This will allow Government income to rise and will cut unemployment. That is the best way to reduce the national debt.

Troops out of Afghanistan

Too many lives have been lost. Escalating the conflict will only make things worse. We need to find a peaceful solution.

New Green Deal

Invest in Green technology to save our planet. the UK could create up to 400,000 jobs in new green industries, instead of wasting tens of billions of pounds on ID cards and Trident nuclear weapons.

One Society, Many Cultures

Everyone is equal no matter their race, religion or lifestyle. We are differet, but we are one society. We should not be divided by racism and intolerance.

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For more about the things the Respect party and its candidates stands for, visit: www.therespectparty.net and www.salmayaqoob.com.

There IS an alternative to cuts

There is an alternative to cuts, says Respect and Salma Yaqoob

Birmingham City Council cuts alone will slash services and axe up to 7,000 jobs.

Labour, Tories and Lib Dems say there is ‘no alternative’ to cuts. They only disagree on when to wield the knife.

These are the same people who said there was ‘no alternative’ to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is an alternative.

The Robin Hood Tax is one. It calls for a tiny tax on bankers which would have the power to raise hundreds of billions every year.

It could give a vital boost to the NHS, our schools and the fight against child poverty in the UK – as well as tackling poverty and climate change around the world.’

Respect and Salma Yaqoob are supporters of The Robin Hood Tax. We urge you to become a supporter too.

Find out more by visiting www.robinhoodtax.org.uk

Salma Yaqoob: The real debate we should have about Afghanistan

Salma Yaqoob, chair of Birmingham Stop the War, says If we are genuinely concerned about the troops, as we are about the Afghan people, we must have an open debate about why we are in Afghanistan and whether we should pull out.

Wootton Bassett

Crowds watch as the hearse carrying the body of the 100th soldier to die in Afghanistan returns home.

By Salma Yaqoob | guardian.co.uk | 5 January 20105 January 2010

When I was invited to appear on Question Time at Wootton Bassett, I did feel a hesitation because of the programme’s location. I was very mindful of the fact that this is where every soldier who has been killed is honoured and where respects are paid.

Regardless of where you stand politically, their loss is a very real and human tragedy for their families.

But these are more than personal tragedies. Our soldiers and military families put their trust in the politicians who send them into battle. They trust them to tell the truth.

The political tragedy is that, once again, we are fighting a war that is based on lies and that will not make us safe.

So it is necessary to hold our politicians to account for their decisions. And that debate should not be silenced.

There is a subtext that if you support our troops, then you have to support the war itself; because if you question the purpose of the occupation, then you are accused not only of being unpatriotic, but also even of endangering the troops by undermining morale.

That silencing of debate leaves a huge vacuum in our politics, because all three parties back the line that we have to get behind the troops and “finish the job”.

There is also a double standard also about deaths in Afghanistan. On the one hand, with the parades in Wootton Bassett we congratulate ourselves that we’re so civilised that no loss goes unmourned; yet, if you’re Afghan, no one even counts your death.

Afghan suffering

From British politicians there’s absolutely no acknowledgment of Afghan people’s suffering, or the fact that their lives are not better-off because of the west’s intervention – although that is the lie that continues to be told. Thousands have been killed and seven million made refugees, but that’s not on anybody’s radar.

Anjem Choudary

Anjem Choudary

This dignified and serious debate is the last thing on the mind of Anjem Choudary and Islam4UK. He is a bigot whose goal in life is to provoke division. He engages in these provocations because he is deeply hostile to any coming together of Muslims and non-Muslims. For him, the fact that a majority of the British people – Muslim and non-Muslim – oppose the war in Afghanistan is not something to be celebrated, but is something to be feared.

If we are genuinely concerned about the troops, as we are about the Afghan people, we must have an open debate about why we are in Afghanistan and whether we should pull out. Instead, the airwaves are dominated by the rantings of a marginal provocateur.

My experience on Question Time confirms to me the need for a genuinely open political debate, conducted with seriousness and sensitivity. I wasn’t surprised to be received at first in silence, given the programme’s pro-war bias, but by the end, people were saying that the majority was behind me.

I do trust the conscience of ordinary British people, even if I am cynical about our political leadership.

Original article (The Guardian) here.

Stop the War Coalition (STWC) article here.

An Election Statement from Salma Yaqoob

An election message from Salma Yaqoob

Salma Yaqoob

The General Election is a matter of months away. Once again, this is an election in which only two parties are competing to form a government – Labour or the Tories.

A series of opinion polls have pointed strongly to the defeat of the Labour government. The outcome, however, is not a foregone conclusion. A recent poll suggests that the result will be finely balanced, with a hung parliament a real possibility.

Respect is neither neutral nor indifferent to the outcome of this election. We think that a Tory victory would be a disaster for working people. Yes, New Labour has betrayed the aspirations of its traditional electorate in working class communities, among Black and Asian communities, and among trades unionists. But its strongest support still comes from these communities and the vast majority of the trade union movement will support Labour at the next election. Despite the efforts of the New Labour clique that now dominates the Labour Party, it is still seen by millions of people as a party that looks after the interests of working people – albeit a disastrously right wing example of such a party.

David Cameron

A Tory victory will lead to a massive assault on public services

A Tory victory in the context of a deep economic crisis will herald a deep attack on the welfare state. The Tory obsession with cutting the national debt not only risks a deeper and more prolonged recession, but will inevitably lead to a massive assault on public services and public sector workers. It will represent a much more profound shift to the right in the political agenda. Respect therefore stands with the vast majority of the labour movement in seeking the defeat of the Tory challenge at this election.

Gordon Brown

Labour has demoralised much of its traditional support

Under Blair, and now Brown, Labour have demoralised large parts of its traditional support. Many people have broken from Labour to the left in disgust at Blair’s support for the Iraq war, and New Labour’s subservience to the bankers and privatisers. Respect was born out of the movement against the Iraq war, and we have successfully built a real base in limited parts of the country. We believed then, and believe now, that there is an urgent need for a radical left wing party that can help shift the political consensus towards an agenda of peace, anti-racism and social justice.

In 3 parliamentary seats in Birmingham and East London, Respect is fighting to win. We do not know what the outcome will be, and we are well aware of the difficulties in the way of small parties under a first past the post electoral system. But in these 3 seats we have a genuine chance of victory. We have deep roots and credible candidates. There are only a handful of seats up for grabs in the general election that could conceivably be won by parties to the left of Labour (including the challenge by Caroline Lucas for the Green Party). The most important contribution that we in Respect can make to the left as a whole in the immediate future is to do everything within our power to win these seats.

Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas

We do not believe, however, that a radical alternative can be built by acting in way that allows the Tories – or the BNP – to be the beneficiaries of discontent with Labour or our efforts to build an alternative. In areas where we are highly unlikely to win it is important that we are not seen to be reckless over the consequences of standing in marginal seats where the likely beneficiary would be the Tories. Where we do stand, we want our supporters to know they can express their discontent with the Labour government without handing seats on a plate to the Tories.

Nick Griffin

United against the BNP

We are also in favour of the maximum possible unity against the BNP. Nick Griffin has announced he is standing in Barking and Dagenham. His election to the European parliament was an historic breakthrough for British fascism. But it would be nothing in comparison to a BNP MP. Hard choices have to be made. There is absolutely no prospect of a candidate to the left of Labour winning this seat, and any such candidate could only split the anti-BNP vote.

Abjol Miah

Abjol Miah is standing in East London

Respect will therefore not consider standing in Barking and Dagenham, and call on other left wing parties to do likewise. We are well aware of the way in which New Labour have created the conditions for the BNP to grow, and equally aware that Labour’s candidate, Margaret Hodge, is one of the least palatable New Labour MPs. Nonetheless we call for a vote for the Labour candidate as the only practical way of defeating the BNP.

Respect believes that the interests of working people are best served by working for the maximum unity against a Tory victory in the General Election, while continuing to build left wing alternatives to the Labour Party in the most tactically effective manner.

Salma Yaqoob will be appearing on BBC1’s Question Time, 10.35pm Thursday December 10.

Respect Annual Conference 2009

Salma Yaqoob at the Respect Annual Conference 2009

The Respect Annual Conference was held in Birmingham this year.

The Respect annual conference took place in Birmingham on Saturday with 210 delegates attending. The event revolved around the three key themes of our general election campaign: anti-racism and defense of multiculturalism, opposition to the cuts agenda of the mainstream parties, and international solidarity.

The opening session was introduced by Respect party leader Salma Yaqoob. Salma laid into New Labour for creating the conditions under which the BNP has grown; with its attacks on the Muslim community and increasingly anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Salma Yaqoob speaks at the Respect Annual Conference 2009

Salma Yaqoob

She described how, since 9/11, Labour has resisted any examination of the disastrous role of its own foreign policy in creating a homegrown terrorist threat, leaving the impression that there is something intrinsic to the religon and culture of British Muslims that presents a threat to British society. She cited Jack Straw’s attacks on Muslim women who wear niqab; the attacks on mainstream Muslim organisations like the MCB and MAB for “sitting on the sidelines” in the fight against terrorism from the former Secretary for State for Communities, Ruth Kelly; and the Preventing Violent Extremism agenda, now described by Liberty as the ‘biggest spying operation’ since the Cold War.

Delegates at the Respect Annual Conference 2009

Conference delegates

Similarly when Gordon Brown says that he wants ‘British jobs for British workers’, or ‘local homes for local people’, or curbs on immigration, he is stoking the fires of fear and intolerance that the BNP are the primary beneficiaries of. Salma challenged myths about immigrants being responsible for the recession or shortages in housing and concluded by emphasising Respect’s twin track approach in tackling racism: On the one hand, upholding and defending multiculturalism and challenging all forms of racism; and on the other hand, challenging the social inequality that allows the politics of resentment and division to breed.

The following discussion was by far the best of the conference. Not only was the quality of contributions largely very impressive, but they also conveyed a deep sense of commitment to tackling racism and an engagement in that struggle.

George Galloway at the Respect Annual Conference 2009

George Galloway

The second session was introduced by George Galloway, focusing on the recession and the politics of an alternative to economic crisis. Unfortunately, the discussion became distorted by those advocating the yet to be born ‘son-of-No2EU’.

An account of what followed, by an observer from the Green Left, accurately conveyed George’s response: ‘Galloway absolutely hammered No2EU in particular for standing against Peter Cranie in the North West… and refused to entertain any talk of coalition with the son of NO2EU.’ In addition to hammering NO2EU for effectively letting the BNP in (‘if the left had united it would have been Peter Cranie on Question Time not Nick Griffin’) he was scathing about the exaggeration being peddled about son-of-NO2EU. Contrary to claims by Ian Donovan, there were not ‘three national unions’ supporting this initiative; the reality was that three national union secretaries addressed a meeting in a personal capacity on working class political representation. George predicted the FBU would not support any so-called ‘new coalition’ and ridiculed the idea that the Prison Officers Association were now in the vanguard of building a far-left of Labour alternative, saying this would come as a bit of a surprise to any prisoner, especially those black, Irish or Muslim prisoners who had been on the receiving end of dealings with ‘screws’.

A sharp tone was adopted by both George and Salma towards an increasingly marginal current of opinion in Respect that sees our future as part of a coalition of the far left. The tone reflects the degree of frustration with an argument, just 6 months before a General Election, over backing a coalition with no name, no policies and no electoral credibility.

Nick Wrack at the Respect Annual Conference 2009

Nick Wrack

It also reflects a clear difference of strategy. As both George and Salmaexplained, we are focused on building unity and working with others, but we reject the narrow conception of left unity that gives pride of place to organizations with absolutely no popular support. Respect’s former National Secretary, Nick Wrack, came in for particular criticism, with Salma pointing out the irony of his calls for ‘left unity’ when he was one of those insisting that Respect should stand against the Greens in the North-West European region.

The message was delivered loud and clear: we wish all those who want to join the ‘coalition with no name’ well on their journey, and where we can establish friendly relations with any other progressive party or coalition we will do so, but we have an opportunity to advance the left by getting Respect MPs elected. If we fail, it will not be for the want of trying.

Andrew Murray at the Respect Annual Conference 2009

Andrew Murray

The final session was introduced by Andrew Murray who received a standing ovation for his passionate call for opposition to the war in Afghanistan and for Respect to use its strengths to help Stop the War reconnect with its core support. He was followed by Francisco Dominguez from the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, who painted a vivid picture of the Bolivarian revolution 10 years on, the threats it faces, and the importance of international solidarity. Finally, Kevin Ovenden outlined exciting new developments in Palestinian solidarity, describing the way that Viva Palestina was fast becoming a global campaign, finding new and significant support in Malaysia among other places, and deepening its productive relationship with the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

Delegates vote at the Respect Annual Conference 2009

Delegates vote

There was genuine and sharp debate at this conference. And the outcome was clear. Respect’s leadership is absolutely determined that the influence of the ultra-left will remain marginal. There is no place for the kind of political sectarianism that is indifferent to a Tory victory or bitterly hostile to cooperation with the Green Party. Such views, often articulated by politically irrelevant grouplets of the far left, are an obstacle to the growth of a radical party of the left. The potential for a serious radical and left-wing party will be determined by its ability to speak to the millions who are essentially disillusioned Labour

Respect Annual Conference 2009

Respect Conference

supporters, and its ability to provide convincing alternatives to the politics of war, racism and cuts.
I fully expect the new National Council, on which the more sectarian voices are a shrinking minority, to drive through this perspective more forcefully in the coming year.

A report by Ger Francis


[Videos for this event will be available soon. Picture gallery on the Birmingham Respect facebook group: here]

Additional reports:

Respect Conference – Andy Newman, Socialist Unity (15.11.09)

Respect Conference in Birmingham today – Derek Wall (Green Party), Another World is Possible (14.11.09)

Salma Yaqoob: Tackling the ‘cancer’ of BNP fascism

Nick Griffin: the leader of the BNP has admitted defeat after failing to find enough far-Right allies to form a new bloc in the European Parliament

Nick Griffin: the leader of the BNP has admitted defeat after failing to find enough far-Right allies to form a new bloc in the European Parliament

The election of two BNP MEPs has removed the cover on a political sewer that should have been sealed for all time. Nick Griffin, a man with a history of anti-Semitism and holocaust denial, now calls for “chemotherapy” against the Islamic “cancer” in Europe (1). The echoes of the past are deliberate. The choice of words is chilling.

Griffin’s election has given the BNP unprecedented access to the media, and he is using it to promote the most vicious racism. His genocidal rantings towards Muslims followed his call (2) for the sinking of ships carrying migrants from Africa to Europe – in other words the premeditated murder of men, women and children on a desperate voyage to escape poverty and oppression.

We should remind ourselves that almost 1 million people voted for the BNP in the European Elections. If there is a cancer in Europe, then it is the cancer of racism. Yet the response from the political establishment to Griffin’s remarks has, so far, been less than overwhelming.

Defensiveness and political compromise has marked the response of mainstream parties to the rise of the BNP. It should be clear enough by now. This is not a temporary blip before we return to business as usual. Ignoring the BNP or playing down their successes will not make them go away. It is time for the anti-fascist movement to go on the offensive.

Griffin’s Nazi-style outbursts cannot be dismissed as an irrelevant excess by a marginal figure. He knows what he is doing. He wants to make legitimate what was once illegitimate. He aims to shift the centre of gravity of political debate sharply to the right. He knows that his more extreme rhetoric is in tune with his party’s membership, and large swathes of his voters. But he also knows that every time mainstream politicians bend to his agenda in an attempt to occupy ground he is staking out, that the racist argument is strengthened.

It is a pattern we have seen all too frequently in recent years. Faced with a rise in racism, politicians seek to ride both horses at once: deploring racism while conceding ever more political ground to the far right.

Isn’t this exactly what Gordon Brown was doing when he called for “local homes for local people”? (3). Concerns about housing are undoubtedly genuine. There are too few affordable homes. But that is because successive governments have relied on the market to provide what it patently cannot do. What should be done is to tackle this policy failure, which would provide affordable homes for all those in need. Furthermore, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has revealed that 9 out of 10 social housing residents were born in Britain, giving a lie to the BNP myths bout “local people” losing out to immigrants and asylum seekers (4). Instead of focusing on these realities, voters are told that their prejudices are justified and that the government will do what the BNP cannot. It is a tactic that is both cynical and ineffective.

Let us be clear. The response to Griffins call to “sink the boats” cannot be one of pledging to do everything possible to keep out immigrants short of launching missiles at defenceless people. His call for “chemotherapy” against Muslims must be met with robust challenge, and not by conceding that fears of Islam in Europe are justified. The alternative is to accept that ever more extreme and dangerous fascist rhetoric will define the nature of political debate in our society.

Those who promote fear and hatred of African immigrants knocking at our door, or of the Muslims already within the gates of Europe, have to be openly and directly confronted. Their arguments have to be dealt with head on.

It is not legitimate to blame migrants or refugees for the recession. They were not the ones who became rich beyond anyone’s dreams while gambling away our economy. It is not legitimate to blame immigrants for rising unemployment. They did not close our factories and devastate our manufacturing base. It is not legitimate to blame ‘outsiders’ for the housing crisis (5). They are not the ones who passed legislation that strangled the ability of local councils to build new housing on the scale we need.

And it is not legitimate to scapegoat Muslims, who represent just 3% of the population, for any supposed threat to British identity. The recent Gallup poll on Muslim integration (6) revealed that while only half the UK population very strongly identifies with being British, 77% of Muslims did so. And only 17% of British Muslims wanted to live in an area consisting mostly of people of the same religious and ethnic background as themselves, compared to 33% of the population as a whole.

This is the positive side of our multicultural society. Being ‘different’ is not a sign of alienation from society as a whole. Yet while Muslims increasingly identify with Britain and value its mix of people and faiths, more and more people conclude that Muslims are a breed apart. There is a gulf between the reality of our lives and the perception that is created by a constant stream of horror stories.

Today, it is anti-Muslim racism that is at the cutting edge of the fascist strategy. It is effective because it feeds on the suspicion and prejudice that is the theme of so much mainstream discussion of our lives as British Muslims.

Its consequences are real. Already, there are signs that attacks on mosques and individual Muslims may be rising (7). The police are warning of the danger of far-right terrorism (8). And, earlier this month we saw an openly racist provocation in Birmingham city centre, under the guise of a protest against “Islamic extremism” – a label that the organiser made clear applied to all Muslims (9).

We, as British Muslims, have a direct and immediate interest in defeating this fascist threat. The anti-fascist movement must reach out to Muslim communities who are at the sharp end of BNP attacks. But the rise in racism is not only a threat to Muslims. The BNP may be playing down their anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism in order to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of society. But to the BNP we are all “racial foreigners”, (10) our very existence as British people denied.

We have to not only unite all those targeted by the BNP, with every possible ally who rejects racism and fascism. We have to also positively assert our multicultural and pluralist society. It is a message of hope that is in tune in an increasingly interconnected world. It is a source of strength and vibrancy. We are one society and many cultures. And we will only remain so if we are prepared to stand up and be counted.

Salma Yaqoob is councillor for Birmingham Sparkbrook, Leader of the Respect party and chair of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition.

‘Gordon Brown’s BNP-favoured immigrant claim is a myth’, says Salma Yaqoob

By Salma Yaqoob

Gordon Brown's immigrant claim is a myth

Gordon Brown's immigrant claim is a myth

Gordon Brown’s pledge to provide “local homes for local people” is based on a myth. And it is the same myth spread by the BNP for years. The BNP claim that “local people” are losing out to immigrants and asylum seekers. This is not true.

The Prime Minister is trying to win back voters from the BNP by telling them that their prejudices are justified. Every time this has been tried it only strengthens their arguments and gives them credibility. We have to challenge their lies with facts, and not back down in the face of racism.

Research has now shown that 90% of people in social housing were born in Britain. New arrivals represented less than 3% of the total. The big majority of new arrivals to the country end up in expensive and poor quality private rented accommodation. They are not the cause of the housing shortage.

The real source of the problem is the desperate shortage of affordable homes. Over four and a half million people are in need of social housing in the UK, including 35,000 in Birmingham alone. Gordon Brown’s new policy will not give homes to the millions who are waiting, and will only cause further resentment and division.

When the Tories were last in power they destroyed the ability of councils to build new homes. The best homes were sold off under the Right to Buy and were not replaced. When Labour was elected it had the chance to reverse this and failed to do so.  It stopped local councils from borrowing the money needed to provide affordable homes, and it starved them of cash for repairs and improvements as part of their policy of selling off council estates.

This housing crisis has not been caused by immigration. It has been caused by Tory and Labour politicians who have dismally failed to invest in affordable housing over decades.

Gordon Brown has now announced a new house-building programme. But it is too little and too late. His plans include proposals for an extra 3,000 council houses. With only 375 council homes built in England last year, and millions of people queuing for them, it is a drop in the ocean. We need an urgent programme of building on a massive scale, something that the government has failed to deliver.

Many people are angry about the failure of both Tory and Labour governments to solve the housing crisis. Many more people despair at ever finding a home they can afford. The BNP is exploiting this anger and despair.

The housing crisis will not be solved by blaming immigrants. It will only be solved if our politicians invest in producing the homes that we need.”

‘Queue jumping immigrants’ are a myth, says studyThe Independent