Respect Party

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Respect Party
Leader George Galloway[1]
Chairman Abjol Miah
Deputy Leader Dawud Islam[2]
Founded 25 January 2004
Youth wing Student RESPECT
Membership  (2014) 640[3]
Ideology Anti-war
Democratic socialism
Environmentalism
Trade unionism
Euroscepticism
Political position Left-wing[4][5][6]
European affiliation European Anticapitalist Left
Colours Red and green
House of Commons
0 / 650

Local government[7]
0 / 21,871

Website
www.respectparty.org

The Respect Party is a socialist and anti-EU[8] political party in the United Kingdom, founded in 2004.[4][5] Its name is a contrived acronym standing for:Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, andTrade unionism.[5] The Respect Party was established in London in January 2004; it grew out of the Stop the War Coalition, opposing the Iraq War.

The Respect Party’s highest profile figure and leader is George Galloway,former MP for Bradford West and Bethnal Green and Bow, while its National Secretary is Chris Chilvers.

Founding[edit]

Respect fringe meeting at the 2004 ESF

The party was originally launched by The Guardian journalist George Monbiot andBirmingham Stop the War Coalition chair Salma Yaqoob.[4] The party was opposed to the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan. It seeks to “provide a broad-based and inclusive alternative to the parties of privatisation, war, and occupation” and has a socialist agenda.[10]

Monbiot left in February 2004 because the party now intended to stand candidates against the Green Party. Respect had offered to form a pact with the Green Party standing on joint lists in the European elections, but this was rejected by the Greens.[11] The Greens also said that they had selected their candidates months previously by postal ballot for the 2004 European Parliamentary elections and were sceptical of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) influence on Respect.[12]

In its founding constitution the Respect Party states its overall aim is to “help create a socially just and ecologicallysustainable society”, giving a definition of social justice that includes “the organisation of society in the most open, participative, [sic] and accountable way practicable based on common ownership and democratic control”.[10] Galloway said in April 2004: “Respect. It’s a young word. It’s a black word. It’s the first postmodern name for an electoral political movement; most are one or other arrangement of the words The, Something, and Party. With respect, we’re different.”[13]

Respect allows its members to hold membership of other political organisations. The coalition has the support of members of the Muslim Association of Britain and Muslim Council of Britain. Nick Cohen wrote of Respect in June 2004 “for the first time since the Enlightenment, a section of the left is allied with religious fanaticism and, for the first time since the Hitler-Stalin pact, a section of the left has gone soft on fascism.”[14]

In its 2006 accounts filed with the Electoral Commission, the party noted it had three paid employees, including John Reesand 5,739 registered members on 31 December 2006 (2005: 5,674). It has 42 branches (2005: 25) and had a total income of £273,023 and expenditure of £228,100.[15]

Originally Respect did not have a leader as such and was run by an elected “national council”, but this later changed. The former party leaders include Salma Yaqoob, Linda Smith and Nick Wrack.

Alliance with the Socialist Workers Party[edit]

Respect campaigners decorating a bus in Manchester for the 2005 elections

The Respect Party sought to challenge Prime Minister Tony Blair‘s New LabourParty from the left at the London Assembly and European Parliament elections in 2004, and gained a quarter of a million votes. The party claims that this support was achieved primarily as a result of the anti-war protests and by attracting votes from “disillusioned” Labour voters.[16] The correlation between the performance of Respect and the Muslim population of an area suggested that it succeeded in attracting the votes of some Muslims who felt alienated by Labour’s support for the war in Iraq. Respect almost immediately won a council seat in Preston, as SWPmember Michael Lavalette was elected as a Socialist Alliance candidate in 2003, but subsequently voted with the majority of the SWP to wind down the Socialist Alliance in favour of the newly formed coalition.

2004 elections[edit]

Respect candidate Lindsey German came fifth in the 2004 London mayoral election. Its largest constituency vote in the 2004 assembly elections was in City and East London, where it polled 13.46%, reaching third place. Respect mocked Ken Livingstone‘s Labour candidacy as the “Blair Mayor Project”.[17]

In their first European Parliament elections (on 10 June 2004), Respect’s proportion of the national vote was 1.7%, and they failed to win any seats, “but that is still more than a quarter of a million votes”, wrote Lindsey German.[18] Ron McKay, their spokesman, had been anticipating that the Coalition might win one or two MEPs during the campaign,[16] while Galloway had hoped to “prick the bubble” of Blair’s support.[17] Respect’s best result was in London itself, with a 4.8% share of the vote, and their worst was in Wales and the South West, with 0.6% and 0.7% respectively. Their strongest borough wasNewham, London, with 21.41% of the vote.

The results at the Birmingham Hodge Hill and Leicester South by-elections, both held on 15 July 2004, were 6.3% and 12.7% of the vote respectively – enough to retain the deposits in both seats (which requires a minimum of 5% of the vote). Respect won its first election on 29 July 2004, when Oliur Rahman won a ward from Labour in Tower Hamlets.[19] At the time, Respect had a council seat in Nuneaton and Preston after defections from other parties.[20]

2005 general election[edit]

Salma Yaqoob(c.2005), co-founder of Respect

In the 2005 general election Respect made gains in a number of inner-city working class constituencies. The coalition put up candidates in 26 constituencies, just under half of them from the SWP.[21] The election led to one Member of Parliament, George Galloway, who had been expelled from the Labour Party less than two years earlier.[22] He overturned a large Labour majority to succeed Oona King, who had supported the Iraq War, in Bethnal Green and Bow. According to King during the campaign, Respect canvassers had urged Muslims not to vote for her because she is Jewish. Respect threatened legal action if King repeated the claim.[23]

Abjol Miah is a Respect activist who was involved in the campaign to elect Galloway.[24] Miah is also active in the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), which wishes to create a sharia state in Europe.[25] The Channel 4 series Dispatches revealed in 2010 that after gaining his seat in Bethnal Green at the 2005 general election, Galloway was secretly recorded speaking at a dinner. He commented to his audience that the IFE played “the decisive role” in his win. “I am indebted more than I can say to the Islamic Forum of Europe”, he was recorded as saying during his speech. The IFE denied it had campaign for Galloway in the programme, although Galloway himself admitted in a statement that the allegation was true.[24] The Disaptches reporter was Andrew Gilligan, who also wrote about the issue forThe Daily Telegraph newspaper. Miah subsequently made several unsuccessful complaints to the broadcasting regulatorOfcom and the Press Complaints Commission about Gilligan’s coverage of issues with which Miah is connected.[26]

Respect came second in three constituencies: Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath, East Ham and West Ham. By far their best result outside London was in Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath, where Respect candidate Salma Yaqoobcame second with 27.5% of the vote.

2006–7: local elections[edit]

Respect candidate Ghazi Khan, with someone dressed as the then British prime ministerTony Blair, at the 18 March 2006 Anti-War Protest in London

Respect stood about 150 candidates in the 2006 local elections, predominantly in Newham and Tower Hamlets; 4,360 seats were being contested nationally. At Respect’s campaign launch, Galloway anticipated a “referendum on new Labour”, and said the election “will be the last blow that will knock out Tony Blair”.[27] In Tower Hamlets, the Coalition took twelve council seats.[28] Although Respect defeated the Labour leader and deputy leader of the council, the council remained under Labour’s control,[29] but Respect became the official opposition in the borough council.[30]

Respect won only one ward in Newham despite winning 26% of the total vote – a greater proportion than that gained in Tower Hamlets. In total Respect gained fifteen new councillors including Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham who won 49% of the vote.[31]

None of the new Respect councillors were connected with the SWP. Galloway explained at the time that many Respect supporters “are small business people and wouldn’t describe themselves as socialists and are not bound to accept it.”[32]

Respect stood a total of 48 candidates in 2007, of which three were elected (Mohammed Ishtiaq in Birmingham Sparkbrook, Ray Holmes in Bolsover Shirebrook and Michael Lavalette, who retained his seat in Preston.[33])

Split in Respect[edit]

Crisis[edit]

In September 2007 George Galloway wrote a letter to Respect’s national council members saying that the party was “too disorganised” and “faced oblivion” unless it reformed its internal party management.[34] The letter also criticised the amount of money spent on the Organising for Fighting Unions conference and on an intervention at the Pride London LGBT rights event.

The letter was the opening shot in a dispute in Respect between Galloway and his supporters including Salma Yaqoob on one side, and supporters of the SWP on the other. In particular Galloway called for a National Organiser, advocating the appointment of Nick Wrack, former head of the Socialist Alliance and an SWP member. A letter from the SWP’s Central Committee asserted: “The SWP believed that the post was created to undermine Respect National Secretary John Rees.”[35]

In the course of the dispute, the SWP expelled three members who sided with Galloway: Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoveman, who both worked for Galloway, and Nick Wrack, who was nominated for the position of national organiser. Meanwhile, four of Respect’s councillors in Tower Hamlets resigned the party whip in late October 2007 to sit as part of a new group, Respect (Independent), although they remained members of Respect.[36]

On 3 November 2007, Galloway’s side announced plans to hold a “Respect Renewal” conference on 17 November, the same day as the planned national conference of Respect. In its opinion, the conference being organised by the officers of Respect was being packed by delegates who supported the SWP. They claimed that the conference was unconstitutional, as it had not been ratified by the National Council and had disagreements especially on the matter of delegations from student branches. As a result, two conferences took place, neither of which recognised the other. The Respect Renewal conference was an open event and organisers claim 350 people attended. This figure has been disputed. The national conference organised by the Respect officers, which went ahead on the same day was attended by 270 delegates from 49 local branches and 17 student groups, as well as 90 observers.[37]

Reasons for the split[edit]

Linda Smith, Respect’s national chair at the time of the split, has claimed: “The sectarianism and ‘control freak’ methods of the SWP have led us to a situation where Respect is irretrievably split.”[38] This opinion was shared by Hilary Wainwright, who saw a common pattern of “leaderism” in this and other leftist debacles, although she thought Galloway possessed positive qualities.[39] The SWP attributed the split to a shift to the right by Galloway and his allies, motivated by electoralism (seeking to gain Muslim votes) and attacks on the left.[40] SWP dominated branches of Respect were reportedly less active than those with far fewer members of that group. A narrow failure of John Rees in 2006 to gain election in the Tower Hamlets local elections, while the 12 candidates from the Bangladeshi community were all elected, was also alleged to have alienated the SWP from the project.[40]

Regrouping[edit]

The Electoral Commission continued to recognise Linda Smith as the Nominating Officer for Respect.[41] This meant that her signature was required for candidates wishing to use the electoral label “Respect” (and similar registered names) on ballot papers in British elections. A letter from the Electoral Commission to Linda Smith on 23 January 2008, set out its position on the split, following confusion on the matter from both sides. [42]

Following the split, the side that included the SWP (but not Galloway or Linda Smith) nominated candidates in two district council by-elections. They could not use the name “Respect” on ballot papers without the signature of the nominating officer. Instead, both were labelled “Independent” on the ballot papers.[43] The SWP faction stood as the Left List in those elections, and later renamed itself the Left Alternative.

In 2008, one Left List councillor defected to the Conservative Party. In June, the three remaining Left List councillors in Tower Hamlets, including the Chair and Nominating Officer of the Left List, defected to the Labour Party as did one Respect Renewal councillor.[44] Left Alternative subsequently deregistered from the Electoral Commission Register of Political Parties in April 2010.

In October 2008, representatives of both sides made an agreement, with the result that “former Respect Treasurer Elaine Graham-Leigh has signed the official forms required for a member of Respect (Renewal) to be registered as the party treasurer.”[45] Will McMahon’s appointment removed the obstacles preventing Galloway’s organisation from full control over the organisation’s name and legal status.

In December 2009, the party de-registered (removed) itself from the Register of Political Parties for Northern Ireland,[46] but remains registered for England, Scotland and Wales.

Post-split developments[edit]

2008 and 2009 elections[edit]

As a result of the 2007 split there were two organisations, both claiming legitimacy over the Respect identity. The group led by the SWP stood as the Left List, while Respect Renewal members stood as Respect and as ‘Respect (George Galloway)’ in London.

Lindsey German stood as the Left List candidate for London mayor.[47] Some members of Respect Renewal supported Lindsey German, while others supported the incumbent, Labour Party candidate Ken Livingstone.[48] The International Socialist Group, part of Respect Renewal, called for a first preference vote for the Green Party candidate, Siân Berry, rather than Lindsey German.[49] Lindsey German received 0.68% of the vote (16,796), compared to 3.21% when standing for Respect in 2004, coming 8th out of 10 candidates [50]

Both Respect Renewal and the Left List stood candidates for the Greater London Assembly. The Left List contested every constituency as well as standing on the London-wide list, headed by Lindsey German[51] Respect Renewal stood in the City and East London constituency as well as contesting the London-wide list, headed by George Galloway.[52]

In the Assembly election, the Left List constituency candidates polled an average of 1.37%. On the London-Wide Assembly Lists, the Left List and Respect (George Galloway) received 0.92% (22,583) and 2.43% (59,721) respectively, compared to the 2004 vote for Respect of 4.57%.[53]

Respect Renewal stood 10 candidates in the local council elections also taking place on 1 May across England and Wales. They returned one new councillor, Nahim Khan, in Birmingham Sparkbrook, who received 42.64% of the vote.[54] The Left list stood or supported 24 candidates, who most received few votes, but they came second in Preston Town Centre and Sheffield Burngreave.[55]

During the European elections in 2009 many Respect members supported a vote for the Green lists, especially in the north of England, including Respect activist Salma Yaqoob.[56]

2010 general election[edit]

George Galloway, Respect’s only Member of Parliament, had announced in 2007 that he would not stand again for Bethnal Green & Bow at the next General Election. Instead, while another Respect member would contest Bethnal Green & Bow, Galloway was going to be a candidate for the nearby, newly created and notionally fairly safe Labour seat of Poplar and Limehouse.[57] The strategy backfired, with Labour’s Jim Fitzpatrick easily achieving re-election in Poplar and Limehouse with 18,679 votes (40.0% of the vote, up +4.7%). Conservative Tim Archer came in second (12,649; 27.1%, up 2.6%) and Galloway a distant third with 8,460 votes, 17.5%, down 0.7%, ahead of Liberal Democrat Jonathan Fryer (5,209; 11.2%, down −2.8) and others. Meanwhile, in Galloway’s former constituency, Respect’s candidate Abjol Miah received 8,532 votes, 16.8%, fewer than either the Labour or the Liberal Democratic candidate.[58] Miah was elected as the National Chair of Respect in January 2011.[59]

However the party had better results elsewhere. In Birmingham Hall Green constituency Respect candidate Salma Yaqoobperformed better, receiving 12,240 votes, 25.1%, placing second after Labour candidate Roger Godsiff, who received 16,039 votes, 32.9%[60] making this a marginal seat. In the 2005 general election, she had stood as the Respect candidate for the Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath constituency, since abolished, and also finished in second place, with 27.5% of the vote.

Respect fielded eight more candidates in other constituencies, who together polled 4,319 votes. Arshad Ali received 1,245 votes, 3.1%, in Bradford West, and Kay Phillips received 996 votes, 2.9%, in Blackley and Broughton.[61] In total, Respect candidates received 33,269 votes, which amounted to 6.8% of the total vote in the constituencies where they stood and 0.1% of the total UK vote.[62]

During the 2010 General Election the Green Party stood down in favour of Respect candidates in Birmingham Sparkbrook and Manchester, Blackley and Broughton indicating the beginning of a tentative co-operation.[63]

2012: Galloway wins Bradford West by-election[edit]

George Galloway successfully contested Bradford West in a by-election held on 29 March, following the resignation of Labour MP Marsha Singh due to ill health.[64][65]

Galloway and his supporters, such as the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK), were active in a campaign againstImran Hussain, the Muslim deputy leader of Bradford City Council, whose commitment to his faith was queried because he is reported to drink alcohol.[25] Meanwhile, one of Galloway’s supporting speakers at a rally on the Sunday before the byelection was Abjol Miah, once group leader of the Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets, who is also active in the IFE.[25][66]

Galloway was elected with a majority of 10,140 with one of the largest swings in the polls against the defending political party in modern political history.[67] “Thousands of young people infected with apathy, contempt, despair and a disgust with mainstream politics”, wrote Tariq Ali in The Guardian at the end of March 2012, were “galvanised” by the by-election. Ali wrote that Respect “puts forward a leftist social-democratic programme that challenges the status quo and is loud in its condemnation of imperial misdeeds.”[68]

2012: party resignations[edit]

Salma Yaqoob resigned as leader of the party in September following Galloway’s remarks about rape with respect to theJulian Assange case.[69] Yaqoob said, in an interview with Aida Edemariam of The Guardian, that she had been forced to make a “false choice” between Galloway;’s “anti-imperialist stance” and women’s rights.[70] In October 2012, party secretary Chris Chilvers said Respect had 2,000 members, while before the by-election it had 300.[71] Arshad Ali, who succeeded Yaqoob as leader, resigned as national chair in December 2012 after it was discovered that he has a spent conviction for electoral fraud (dating from his time in the Labour Party), although at this point the Electoral Commission still had Yaqoob listed as the party’s leader.[72]

Kate Hudson had originally been selected for the Manchester Central by-election, but stood down in early September following Galloway’s comments on rape,[73] and left the party in October. In the same month, Respect announced that Catherine Higgins, a local “community advocate”, would contest the by-election on 15 November 2012. Higgins finished 9th out of 12 candidates.

2012: other by-elections[edit]

Later that month, on 29 October, Chair of London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium and former Senior Policy Advisor to the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Lee Jasper, was selected as the candidate for the Croydon North by-electionwhich took place on 29 November 2012; Jasper finished 6th out of 12 candidates.

In November 2012, at a rally in Rotherham, Respect announced Yvonne Ridley had been chosen to contend theRotherham by-election.[74] In 2006, Ridley described Israel as a “vile little state” and said that any Zionists “in the Respect Party … would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists.”[75] The election took place on 29 November 2012; Ridley finished fourth with 8% of the vote, ahead of both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates.[76]

2012–15: Respect’s Bradford councillors[edit]

Respect won five seats on Bradford Council in May 2012 following Galloway’s success in the byelection at the end of March. Amid a fiercely fought campaign, there were claims and complaints of violence and harassment from both Respect’s opponents and the Respect party itself.[77] The party came second in Oldham‘s Werneth ward and Tower Hamlets‘ Weavers ward.

After several months of inconclusive reports in the media,[78] on 10 August 2013, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus reported that Galloway might not be a candidate in Bradford at the 2015 general election and instead stand in the 2016 London Mayoral election.[79] Two of the five Respect councillors in Bradford, elected shortly after his by-election win, were suspended after they said that Galloway should resign as an MP if he intended to stand in the London election for Mayor.[80]

The five Respect councillors in Bradford elected the previous year resigned from the party whip on 15 August 2013[81] after coming into conflict with Galloway over his comments on 10 August that he might run in the 2016 London Mayoral election.[79] They argued that the MP was needed in Bradford.[81] Two of the councillors had said the MP should resign if he intended to stand in London; Galloway and his associates had immediately suspended them, although their three fellow council members were in agreement.[80] One of the other three councillors, Alyas Karmani, then leader of the Respect group on Bradford City Council, said the party had not, in fact, been consulted about Galloway’s plans.[80]

Galloway had also claimed that the councillors were working against him and the party with Aisha Ali Khan, his former aide, and her husband.[81] (Both Ali Khan and her husband later received criminal convictions related to her former employment by Galloway.)[82] After no retraction of the assertions made against them had been forthcoming,[83] the five councillors entirely severed their connections with Respect towards the end of October and then intended to sit as independents for the remainder of their term of office.[84] Claims that they had been “conniving” with Galloway’s former aide were false, they said.[85] A spokesman from Respect accused them of attempting to gain control of the party in Bradford.[83]

In the 2014 local elections, Respect stood eight candidates in Bradford, but none of them won in their council wards.[86] Two other Respect councillors lost their seats, leaving Respect without any representation on local authorities.[7]

This changed in March 2015 when 4 of the former Respect councillors rejoined and a Labour member of the council, Asama Javed, left the party and aligned herself with Respect.[87] The remaining councillor of the five who resigned in August 2013, Mohammad Shabbir, announced he was joining the Labour group on the council in mid-April 2015 with immediate effect rather than rejoining Respect with his former colleagues.[88] In July 2015, the four councillors who had rejoined reversed their decision and decided to continue under the Bradford Independent Group label, although rejoining Respect was still a possibility.[89]

2015–present: general election and after[edit]

At the 2015 general election, Respect had four candidates, in Halifax and two Birmingham seats (Hall Green and Yardley) in addition to Bradford West.[90] None of the candidates were elected. In George Galloway’s seat, the 10,000 majority he had gained at the 2012 Bradford West by-election was reversed, and the Labour Party candidate Naz Shah became the constituency’s MP with a majority of 11,420 votes.[91]

In December 2015, it became known that former Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob had applied to join the Labour Party in Hall Green following Jeremy Corbyn‘s election as leader. Her application was rejected by her local constituency Labour Party owing to her standing against Labour candidates.[92]

Robert Colville reported in The Spectator at the beginning of January 2016:

Respect barely exists in Bradford — or anywhere else. In 2013, the membership fell to 230 people. Last year [2014], that had rebounded to 630 — but beyond their membership fees, Respect raised only £1,133 in donations. Its assets were just £1,947.[3]

Following his defeat in the 2015 general election, Galloway announced that he would stand as the Respect Party’s candidate in the 2016 London Mayoral Election.[93] In the final result of the London Mayoral election held on 5 May 2016, Galloway came seventh with 37,007 (1.4%) first preference votes. After second preference were accounted for, Sadiq Khan became London mayor.[94]Respect failed to retake any seats in Bradford in the 2016 local elections.[95]

International affiliation[edit]

While Respect is not part of any international organisation and has no formal links to any party from other countries, it does have fraternal links with various organisations. Respect participates however in the European Anticapitalist Left.

Respect is registered as a political party in Scotland but have claimed that this is just so no one else uses their name in Scotland. They have only once stood in Scotland in one region during the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, where George Galloway stood as the lead candidate on the Glasgow list (Solidarity agreed not to stand in Glasgow and contested the remaining seven regions), and have in all other elections urged voters to support the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

Criticisms of Respect[edit]

Equality[edit]

Respect has been accused of abandoning some traditional liberal-social issues, including women’s rights, abortion, gay rights and fighting homophobia to attract Muslim support.[96] While Respect included opposition to discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation in its founding declaration,[97] critics claim Galloway has tended to avoid Commons votes involving equal rights for gay people – although he did vote to lower the age of consent for gay people in England and Wales to sixteen in 2000, earning him an invitation to open a new Lesbian and Gay centre in Glasgow. He has also praised New Labour’s record on improving gay rights, and says of his absence from one vote that “there was never any doubt about the passage of the civil partnerships [bill], I wholly support it”.[98]

According to a resolution at that year’s conference, Respect’s 2005 manifesto omitted the “defence of LGBT rights despite policy adopted at last year’s AGM and contained in the founding statement”. A resolution was passed calling for the end to all discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people and that this policy would be stated in all of its manifestos and principal election materials.[99] Despite this commitment, Respect and parts of the LGBT community have clashed on several occasions. In November 2005, Respect’s second largest single financial donor, Dr Mohammad Naseem,[100] was accused in an article by Peter Tatchell of being homophobic due to his senior position in the Islamic Party of Britain,[101] which Tatchell claimed advocated the “banning of gay organisations” and the “execution of homosexuals”.[102]Naseem, however, stated that the Islamic Party was now little more than a thinktank, and furthermore, disagreed with the statements on the Islamic Party website which Tatchell pointed to, stating his views on homosexuality as follows: “These things are a matter of personal choice […] I am not concerned with what people do in their bedrooms.”[103] Naseem was also present at Respect’s 2005 conference, where the vote to reaffirm Respect’s support of LGBT rights was passed unanimously.[104]

In January 2006, an article attacking Tatchell’s opposition to the party was written by Respect member and journalist Adam Yosef. Writing for Desi Xpress, Yosef accused Tatchell of Islamophobia but was attacked by gay organisations for “encouraging violence against Tatchell” and for using “xenophobic” and “homophobic” language. Yosef also used other articles to attack same-sex unions, describing them as a front for “tax fraud“. Tatchell called on Respect to expel Yosef but the party responded with the following statement: “Adam Yosef has the right to voice his own opinions in his own column – they range from an ecstatic review of Birmingham’s gay pride to venting his thoughts about Peter Tatchell.”[105] However, in October 2009, Yosef pledged his formal support to Tatchell’s General Election parliamentary candidacy, calling for the left to “embrace a mutual personal and political commitment towards equality and human rights”.[106]

Controversy about anti-war protest[edit]

Birmingham Respect councillors Salma Yaqoob and Mohammed Ishtiaq stayed seated with their arms folded at a council meeting to honour L/Cpl Matt Croucher (former 40 Commando, now Royal Marines Reserve Merseyside) the George Crossfor bravery. L/Cpl Croucher was awarded the medal for throwing himself on top of a Taliban grenade in Helmand in 2008 to protect his colleagues, and was applauded by the entire council except for the two Respect councillors. This led to criticism from other councillors, including allegations that it was a disrespectful act. The two councillors argued that they were protesting against “false patriotism” by politicians, while defending their own record of support of individual soldiers.[107]

Antisemitism[edit]

Abul Hussain, a former member of Respect’s national council, posted antisemitic comments on Facebook and was expelled from the party in 2010. The councillor joked about chopping off a Jewish person’s sidelocks and confiscating their kippah. He also wrote about Jews, “Here’s a penny go put it in the bank and [you] just might get a pound after ten years interest!”. The Respect Party stated that “such views are demonstrably incompatible with party membership”.[108]

Following Naz Khan’s appointment as Respect’s women’s officer in Bradford in October 2012, it emerged that Khan had recently commented on Facebook that “history teachers in our school” were and are “the first to start brainwashing us and our children into thinking the bad guy was Hitler. What have the Jews done good in this world??”[109] David Aaronovitch inThe Jewish Chronicle wrote: “‘What have the Jews done good in this world?’ clearly means ‘The Jews do only bad’. The Jews haven’t suffered as much as they say they have, but insofar as they have suffered it’s their own fault and, in any case, they have gone on to inflict equal or more suffering on others. That’s ‘the Jews’ as a group, not ‘many Jews’, ‘some Jews’ or ‘a few Jews.'”[110] Ron McKay, Galloway’s spokesman, said Khan’s comments had been written shortly before she joined Respect, on an “unofficial site” (the Respect Bradford Facebook page), and that she “now deeply regrets and repudiates that posting.”[109]

George Galloway has been accused by The Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman of having “said and done things that cross the line from anti-Israel to antisemitic”. He threatened to sue her for the comments which were made on twitter in February 2015, although the tweet had already been deleted.[111] Her tweet followed the Question Time George Galloway in Finchley controversy, an edition of the BBC’s political debate series on which Freeman’s Guardian colleague Jonathan Freedlandhad also appeared and made similar assertions about Galloway’s conduct.[111] Galloway’s support for Hizbollah and Hamas, considered terrorist organisations by some governments; his refusal to debate with Israeli Jews; his endorsement of the reputed antisemite Gilad Atzmon and his declaration of Bradford as being an “Israeli-free zone” are among the issues which have led to the attitudes of the politician being thought suspect.[111][112]

Anti-Zionism[edit]

In 2011 Carole Swords, the chairwoman of the Respect Party in Tower Hamlets, was convicted for a public order offence after an altercation with a Jewish counter-protester at a protest inside a Covent Garden Tesco Metro supermarket. She was alleged to have struck him in the face while he was protecting Israeli goods from potentially being damaged.[113] A subsequent appeal in December cleared her of the offence.[114] Swords had earlier described Zionists as “cockroaches … bugs [which] need to be stomped out”[113] and at a different rally, Swords had told a Jewish protester to “go back to Russia”.[115]

On 20 February 2013, George Galloway walked out of a debate organised by Christ Church, Oxford because his opposer was a speaker with Israeli citizenship, Eylon Aslan-Levy, a student at Brasenose College, Oxford.[116] Galloway wrote on his Facebook page that he had refused to debate with “a supporter of the apartheid state of Israel”.[117] He expanded: “The reason is simple: no recognition, no normalisation. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated. I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media. If they want to speak about Palestine – the address is the PLO.”[117] The Zionist Federation called it a “racist” walkout displaying “xenophobic” tendencies.[118]

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