Friday, March 11, 2005

Respect has to be earned

Oliver Kamm writes:

This is a bittersweet story.

Last July the Respect Coalition (an electoral front for the Socialist Workers' Party) won a council seat in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Its successful candidate was a civil servant in his early 20s called Oliur Rahman, who had also secured a substantial vote in the elections for the London Assembly. Socialist Worker headlined their piece on the first of those results, 'Labour's not laughing'.

I fear that Labour probably is laughing, along with many others. My regular Respect-watching correspondent informs me that Mr Rahman, having immersed himself in the Socialist Worker/Respect campaign for "direct investment in council housing, and ... opposition to privatisation and stock transfer housing schemes", voted for the transfer of the council's housing stock at a Tower Hamlets council meeting this week. He was confused about procedure.

I have a certain amount of sympathy with Mr Rahman. I advised the one Independent member of the House of Commons in the last Parliament, and I understand it genuinely does take a degree of alertness, in the absence of a whip, to make sure you get in the voting lobby you want. But it is a manageable proposition nonetheless, especially on issues you're supposed to be vigorously campaigning about.

[...] It's odd, though, that when putting himself forward to be included in the 'Left Unity' list of candidates for his trade union's national executive, he lost heavily. Evidently Respect members believe Mr Rahman is ideally suited to be an MP but, for some reason, not to represent them.

What appears to have happened, in short, is that Mr Rahman's brief flurry of local publicity caused Respect supporters to eye a chance for further glory, only to discover belatedly that their man is not up to the job and they’re stuck with him. These things happen. I hope Mr Rahman has a happy and fulfilled career and personal life ahead of him, long after his party has been relegated to a footnote in the histories of the 2005 general election.

Previous posts on the new Stalinists: Authoritarian Leninists against real human emancipation, Livingstone and the Left, Resistance?, Democracy in the socialist movement, No disrepect: the Kilroy of the left, Debating Iraq, Whose side are you on?

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