Firstly, I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who worked so hard in the election campaign across the country. We could not have asked for greater effort or dedication from candidates, members and supporters. Our supporters certainly cannot be criticised for a lack of effort or commitment.
But there is no hiding from reality. The 2010 General Election was not a good day for Respect. We had hoped to add to our single MP, two more in Abjol Miah and Salma Yaqoob. Instead we are reduced to none. Electoral politics is a brutal game – and where you can win elections you can just as easily lose them.
Everyone will naturally be disappointed. We are still awaiting all the council results in Tower Hamlets but they are unlikely to change the general picture. It appears that our core vote has been swamped by the huge increase in turnout.
Given the results across the country, it’s clear that we were up against a national political trend that no amount of extra campaigning would have reversed.
In Tower Hamlets and Birmingham we have fought hard to establish a political presence locally that could present Respect as a serious alternative. But in this election the national picture was overwhelming. The TV debates between the three main party leaders engaged millions of people and shook up the election. The outcome, however, was the dominance of the two big parties – Labour and the Tories – with everyone else squeezed out of the picture.
So the Lib Dems, despite their initial bounce in the polls, ended up with much the same percentage as they got five years ago but with five fewer MPs. If the Lib-Dems were squeezed the smaller parties suffered even more.
Both George and Abjol were knocked back into third place with around 17% of the vote each. Only Salma managed to buck the general trend gaining an 11.7% swing from Labour to Respect – but sadly it was not enough to win. Full results can be found on this site.
In many traditionally Labour seats the fear of the Tories returning to power meant that poorer people, working people and ethnic minorities voted Labour – despite its appalling record. This also explains Labour gains in the English local elections.
The squeeze was also in play in Wales and Scotland, where the left nationalist parties lost ground to Labour. The SNP had set a target of 20 seats, but in the end they retained 6. In Wales, the independent left MP Dai Davies lost to Labour even though he and his left predecessor had held the seat at the previous two elections. Independent MP Richard Taylor in Wyre Forest who won his seat in 2001, and defended it successfully in 2005, also lost his seat to the Tories.
The leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, did extremely well to win in Brighton. Her victory was a bright spark on an otherwise dark night and Respect would like to send he out heartfelt congratulations.
Elsewhere, however, even the Greens found their vote squeezed down for example Adrian Ramsay gained a creditable but 4th placed 15% in the green target seat of Norwich South. On a warmer note, the pull towards the two main parties also hit the fascists of the BNP who not only failed to get their leader elected, but also lost all their seats in Barking.
But it was still a bad night for progressive forces in Britain. Respect didn’t win an MP, but we got 16,692 votes across Tower Hamlets and 12,240 for Salma in Birmingham. And while no consolation, this is still in a different league from others on the left who also stood in the election.
We have a lot to be proud of in our record since our formation just over the last six years ago and we have a responsibility to continue to speak out for the poor and marginalised communities we seek to serve.
Whatever government emerges from the political turmoil over the coming days and weeks will move to introduce savage austerity measures, which will only increase all the social problems and suffering in towns and cities across the country. Our case for investment and not cuts remains an essential counterpoint to the cuts agenda.
Respect will be discussing over the next days how we can continue our mission to give a voice to the voiceless and to offer a political alternative based on peace, justice and equality.
The National Council will meet on Saturday 22nd May to discuss the lessons of the election and will then submit a discussion document for branches and members to discuss. At the end of June, Respect will be holding a one-day conference, open to all members, to discuss the future strategy for our organisation. We will publish details soon.
Once again I should like to thank all the members and supporters who worked so hard – not just during the election campaign but also in the many months before. A huge thank you to all our candidates who put themselves in the frame for this election. You have done us all proud.
Yours in peace and solidarity,
National Secretary Respect Party