Does George Galloway’s Respect Party still have role to play in East London?

Bradford MP George Galloway speaks at meeting organised by Newham People's Alliance

Bradford MP George Galloway speaks at meeting organised by Newham People's Alliance - Credit: Archant

Is there still a role for the Respect Party in East London?

Newham councillor for Canning Town North Clive Furness

Newham councillor for Canning Town North Clive Furness - Credit: submitted

This is the question we posed after the former Bethnal Green and Bow MP, now the MP for Bradford West, spoke in Newham again last week following the re-launch of his Respect Party in the borough in December.

The re-launch came as Mr Galloway criticised Newham Council for rejecting plans for a mosque holding more than 9,000 people.

Here Mr Galloway explains why he thinks his party is needed in the borough while Newham councillor Clive Furness warns that Mr Galloway and the Respect Party will “divide” the borough.

Mr Galloway said: “Newham is a one party dictatorship presided over by an autocratic Mayor, Robin Wales, who has been in office far too long.

The Mayor does not listen to the voters and the councillors, all 60 of them Labour, are too scared or feckless to challenge Wales and are just happy to pick up £26,000 per year in allowances paid for by the council taxpayers of Newham. For too long Wales has played the game of divide and rule across Newham’s diverse communities to preserve his power.

“The Respect Party is the only party that can challenge this basic lack of democracy, bring people together and crack open this dictatorship based on patronage and fear, just as we have done in Tower Hamlets and now in Bradford.

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We’re the only party that can force the Mayor to resign and make way for new blood and fresh thinking. We’re the only party saying enough is enough, out with the yes men and in with men and women who will stand up for the residents of Newham and of East London more generally.

East London has huge levels of poverty, overcrowded housing and youth unemployment side by side with the riches of Canary Wharf and the City of London. Both New Labour and the Tories have pursued policies which has made the gap between rich and poor ever larger.

The Respect Party is the only credible party with the principles of peace justice and equality, and the policies to stop the class cleansing of East London and bring work, better schools, a house building programme, all the things that the majority of people in the East End really want. We changed politics in Tower Hamlets for the better although there remains much to do. In 2014 Respect will stand for Mayor of Newham and to get a majority on the council. It’s time to change this “rotten borough” and give hope to the East End once again.”

Labour councillor for Canning Town North, Clive Furness, hits back against George Galloway.

Cllr Furness said: “George Galloway is undoubtedly a character. Who can forget watching him pretend to lick milk from the hands of Rula Lenska, playing at being her cat on Celebrity Big Brother? Or miming in a red lycra on that very same show?

“And do you, like me, still shiver in horror at his fraternal greeting when he visited Saddam Hussein in Iraq. So when he came to Newham last week to lecture us about dictators, he could certainly draw from personal experience.

His latest attempt to relaunch Respect in Newham is a low point for the borough. Newham residents get on well together and the diversity of our borough is a fundamental strength, not a weakness. But for diversity to remain strong no single part of our community should seek to assert power or authority through force of numbers or by shouting louder than others.

“Newham Council will not be bullied into favouring a single faith, ethnic or national group, nor will we act against such a group.

“The Abbey Mills mosque failed to get planning permission as the plans would not have helped the development of the wider area.

The Mayor of London overwhelmingly rejected it too. I spoke at that planning meeting, in opposition to that specific plan, but made clear that I and many others would not oppose a mosque on that site as part of a mixed development.

The owners of the site breached a legal undertaking that they proposed, to submit a policy compliant planning application by February 2012. They volunteered that if they failed to do so they would ‘cease the use of the land of buildings as a place of worship and remove all the buildings associated with the use’. The Council is now enforcing that agreement, fairly and transparently, as it would with any other site.

Working with residents of Newham and our partners, this Council has achieved much for local people and is set to deliver even more. If there is a political argument to be had about that record or that future let us have it. But let’s do that with facts.”