Respect Back In East London.
“George Galloway took to the stage last night to relaunch his Respect party in Newham and try to force a local election after the council rejected plans for a so-called “mega mosque”.
Mr Galloway vowed to put a petition up on the Downing Street website as soon as Parliament resumes after its Christmas break demanding Newham Council changes its decision on the mosque or changes its leadership.
The former MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, who is now the MP for Bradford, said he believed Newham is ready for a political revival after councillors voted against a planning application for a mosque holding more than 9,000 people in Canning Town, run by followers of the controversial Tablighi Jamaat movement*.
More than 50 people turned out last night for the public meeting in Plaistow which also saw Lee Jasper, a former advisor to previous London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and Yvonne Ridley, a war correspondent who converted to Islam after being captured by the Taliban, take to the stage.
Dressed all in black Mr Galloway told people gathered inside Harold Road Centre, off Green Street, that he would send one of his top people to challenge Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales’ leadership in Newham at the next local election. He did not rule out that he might take on the challenge himself.
If the Respect party does not succeed in forcing an early election in Newham, following the refusal of the mosque, then the party plans to put up a mayoral candidate and councillors in 2014 when elections are due.
Mr Galloway said: “Newham is ready for a political revival and as far as we’re concerned it begins here tonight. We know there is something rotten in this borough. New Labour has far too much power for the good of the borough.”
He then hit out at the councillors decision to reject the mosque.
He said: “It’s a big mosque because a lot of people want to pray to the almighty. What is wrong with praying?”
Mr Galloway went on to say that you can lend money at high interest rates at a time when “destructive” aspects of society such as alcohol and gambling is rife.
“But you can’t build a mosque,” he said.
Full Story London 24.
* “Due to the orthodox nature of Tablighi Jamaat, they have been criticized for being retrogressive. The women in the movement observe completest hijab for which the Tablighi Jamaat is accused of keeping women “strictly subservient and second string”. More criticisms and answers to them here.
Socialist Resistance carry this report on the meeting, A Respect revival in East London?
…the overwhelming backdrop to the meeting was anger at decision earlier in the month by Newham Council, led by its Executive Mayor Robin Wales, to refuse planning permission to a new mosque development in the borough (dubbed a ‘super-mosque’ or ‘megamosque’ by its opponents and the media). Over 3,000 supporters of the Mosque had gathered at the Council meeting on 5 December to hear the rejection of plans for the 9,000 capacity Abbey Mills development proposed by Tablighi Jamaat, a relatively conservative Islamic grouping.
Comment ‘relatively conservative’ – relative to what?
But we let this pass for the main part of the (unsigned) article repays re-reading,
Newham council leaders had claimed the proposed mosque was ‘too big’. “It’s big” said Galloway “because so many people want to go”. “I have no doubt”, he told the meeting, reminding them of his Catholic background, “that if 95,000 Catholics had wanted a ‘big’ church to pray in it would have got planning permission”, particularly as it was on disused, unattractive wasteland. Galloway and some other speakers repeatedly pointed to the positive aspects of people wanting to pray, ”in these godless times”, and, at times, the meeting had more than the hint of a religious ‘Revivalist’ meeting, rather than one purely about reviving a political party.
Galloway went into a tirade against gambling and alcohol promotions on Christmas Television and Lee Jasper also spoke about how “despite these godless times” the growth of London’s black evangelical Christian churches, who had encountered difficulties with getting new premises, should be supported because they were bringing hope to people. The notion of faith as a centre of resistance for communities facing austerity now seems to be more than a passing part of Respect’s frame of reference following the departure of some key secularist left figures during the recent difficulties over Galloway’s appalling statements on rape.
Note however that Socialist Resistance, the last organised left group to be part of the Respect ‘Coalition’ then limit their main criticism of Galloway to his personalised party building strategy, or “top down” policy.
Aka, his grasping and egomaniacal unbearable personal foibles.
But wait, there, is what they call his “Scottish Folly’.
So proud is the author of this criticism that she/he adds,
Like a certain Shakespearean play in the theatre, the ‘Scottish Folly’ is never mentioned openly…
Nobody mentions this because nobody gives a toss about the fact that Socialist Resistance finally broke with Respect, not over Galloway’s kowtowing to Islamism and the Syrian Regime, but because he is a British Unionist who is against the right-wing SNP leader Salmond and his plans for bonnie Scotland.
The piece ends with this mealy-mouthed statement,
Respert may well be here to stay and part of the wider solution, particularly in electoral successes, but on the evidence so far it does not seem to ‘the’ sole solution to building a broad left party.
I have expressed the view elsewhere that getting 60 people (assuming that these are not ‘Socialist Worker’ figures, real total 30) along to a meeting in Newham, for all the cold shiverin’ weather, and the counter attractions of alcohol and gambling, and no doubt Evangelical Churches, is an achievement of sorts for a place with a population of, hey what is it, a couple of hundred of thousand people.