Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
RESPECT The Unity Coalition
RESPECT The Unity Coalition is a British political party founded on 25 January 2004 in London. RESPECT is a recursive acronym and a backronym. It represents the words Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community and Trade unionism.
The main components of the coalition are:
- George Galloway, a Member of Parliament expelled from the Labour Party,
- the Socialist Workers Party, and
- leading figures from the Muslim Association of Britain.
Other notable supporters include:
- Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS),
- playwright Harold Pinter and
- British television and film director Ken Loach, who is an elected member of its national council.
The coalition also has the support of:
- the national council of the Socialist Alliance,
- the International Socialist Group,
- the Socialist Unity Network and
- the Communist Party of Great Britain (PCC) (CPGB).
RESPECT co-initiator George Monbiot, a left-liberal anti-globalisation writer, resigned from RESPECT before its launch, because RESPECT intended to stand against existing Green Party Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). RESPECT had offered to form a pact with the Green Party to stand down in each other's favoured seats, but this was rejected by the Greens. This may have proved problematic as both groups favoured standing in London, where RESPECT has received its highest votes and the Green Party hold seats.
The leader of RESPECT is listed in the register of political parties as Nick Wrack , and its nominating officer and treasurer as Linda Smith. A list of its elected national council can be found here .
History and electoral performance
The coalition sought to challenge Tony Blair from the left at the London Assembly and European elections in 2004, and gained a quarter of a million votes. This the best result, in aggregate, ever achieved by the socialist left outside of the Labour Party. They claim these votes have been achieved primarily by capitalising on the 2003 anti-war protests, and by attracting the votes of 'Old Labour ' supporters who feel Blair has moved the party too far to the right of their socialist beliefs. The correlation between the performance of RESPECT and the Muslim population of an area suggests that it has succeeded in attracting the votes of some Muslims who feel alienated by Labour's support for the war.
RESPECT candidate Lindsey German came fifth in the 2004 Mayoral election. Its largest constituency vote in the 2004 assembly elections was in City and East London, where it picked up 13.46%, reaching third place.
In their first UK European elections, also in 2004, RESPECT's proportion of the national vote was 1.7%. They failed to win any seats. Their best result was in London itself, with a relatively strong 4.8%, and worst in Wales and the South West with 0.6% and 0.7% respectively. Their strongest borough was Newham, London with 21.41% of the vote. RESPECT finished behind the Green Party in every region where both ran, and behind the BNP everywhere but London. However, in Tower Hamlets, RESPECT received more votes than any other party.
The party did very well (for a fourth party) at the Birmingham Hodge Hill and Leicester South by-elections in 2004, with 6.3% and 12.7% of the vote respectively — enough to retain its deposit in both seats. However, in Birmingham Hodge Hill, the Anti-War vote was split between RESPECT and the Lib Dems allowing Labour to slip through.
In the Hartlepool By-Election (30 September 2004), RESPECT only came fifth with 572 votes and lost their deposit. Hartlepool does not have a large Muslim community and the result is indicative of the very low underlying support it has within the non-Muslim communities that predominate in the UK.
In September 2004, RESPECT candidate Paul McGarr stood in the Milwall by-election and came second, pushing the Labour Party into third place.
Policies campaigned on by RESPECT, as of 2004 (from the RESPECT website):
- An end to the war and occupation in Iraq. We will not join any further imperialist wars.
- An end to all privatisation and the bringing back into democratic public ownership of the railways and other public services.
- An education system that is not dependent on the ability to pay, that is comprehensive and gives an equal chance in life to every child no matter how wealthy or poor their parents, from nursery to university.
- A publicly owned and funded, democratically controlled NHS, free to all users.
- Pensions that are linked to average earnings.
- Raising the minimum wage to the European Union Decency threshold of £7.40 an hour.
- Tax the rich to fund welfare and to close the growing gap between the poor and the wealthy few.
- The repeal of the Tory anti-union laws.
- Opposition to all forms of discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs (or lack of them), sexual orientation, disabilities, national origin or citizenship.
- The right to self-determination of every individual in relation to their religious (or non-religious) beliefs, as well as sexual choices.
- The defence of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Opposition to the European Union's 'Fortress Europe' policies.
- We will strongly oppose the anti-European xenophobic right wing in any Euro referendum. But we oppose the 'stability pact' that the European Union seeks to impose on all those who join the euro. This pact would outlaw government deficit spending and reinforce the drive to privatise and deregulate the economy and we will therefore vote 'No' in any referendum on this issue.
- Support for the Palestinian cause and opposition to the rule of the State of Israel over the Palestinian People.
- An end to the destruction of the environment by states and corporations for whom profit is more important than sustaining the natural world on which all life depends.
- A maximum fare of £1 to travel on the London Underground and buses, and that the underground should be available 24 hours per day
Criticisms of RESPECT
Critics of RESPECT such as the Socialist Party of England and Wales, Workers Liberty and Workers Power, former members of the Socialist Alliance, claim that it is undemocratic and has an overly London-centric, top-down approach, its programme having been created largely by negotiations between the SWP and George Galloway. RESPECT has countered this claim by stating that it is simply false, that the RESPECT programme was formed as an "emergency response" to the June 10 European and local elections, and that a full constitution will be developed democratically through elections at its annual conferences. See report on the first national conference  including new resolutions passed.
Other criticisms have been levelled at George Galloway's refusal to accept an average worker's wage (Galloway previously claimed he needs £150,000 a year to "function in politics" - The Scotsman, 19 May 2003), 'divisive' targeting of the Muslim vote, and the lack of the distinctively socialist policies of supporting "no borders " and abolition of the British monarchy. In response, George Galloway claims the majority of his wage is spent on political campaigns not himself, and RESPECT claims that in order to engage wider forces it is necessary to have debates on these issues inside the grouping after its creation. The idea has been to avoid the normal position of left-wing groups, which is to focus on division, instead focussing on the areas of agreement.
Plans for 2005 election
RESPECT plans to target a limited number of seats (26) for the 2005 general election in order to try to maximise its impact. A list of constituencies in which it plans to stand as of 7 February 2005 can be found at the party's website. These include George Galloway contesting Bethnal Green & Bow, London , and Lindsey German contesting West Ham, London
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