Say what you like about the Communist Party of Great Britain and their scandal-sheet the Weekly Worker, but they sure do have a gift for sniffing out interesting types who happen to also be Respect local election candidates. This week, it’s the turn of former Lib Dem from Sunderland, Tafazzal Hussein. Peter Manson interviews the local businessman, who left the Lib Dems earlier this year and joined Respect on March 11th. What isn’t entirely clear, however, is why he did so.
Hussein clearly is anti-war on Iraq – but then (at least in terms of formal parliamentary votes) so were the Lib Dems. It does seem odd for someone to leave the most solidly anti-war of the mainstream parties and join a fringe group like Respect, purely because of his stance on the war. So Manson presses him to state what else he likes about Respect, and gets the answer that it “…respects everybody. They believe everyone should have the right to live in dignity”. Which clarifies nothing much really, given that every prominent member of every political party outside the far right would fall over themselves to agree with that statement. Indeed, when pressed further, it appears that Hussein doesn’t actually know what the letters in Respect’s name are each supposed to stand for. In fact, it isn’t really clear that he knows much about the party at all. He’s interested in car parking, and in continuing to act as a “community representative”, but doesn’t seem to nail his colours to the mast on much more than that. A local Lib Dem activist mentioned in the article appears somewhat baffled as to why he left.
So the interesting question is not why the poor chap’s involved in local politics – that’s his right, whatever the CPGB might think of him. The interesting question is on what political basis he’s supposed to co-exist in the same party as the SWP? At least on the evidence of this article, the man appears to have not a lot in the way of ideological politics at all, still less any kind of worked-out socialist view of the world.
Of course, the SWP do appear to be losing their grip on Respect in other parts of the country, as demonstrated by their expulsion of former Birmingham full timer Ger Francis and the defeat of prospective local authority candidate Helen Salmon by Yasir Idris in Moseley and King’s Heath ward within that city. Furthermore, by the next general election the party may possibly have lost its figurehead, if George Galloway carries through on his pledge not to stand again in Bethnal Green and Bow (and does not seek another constituency). That would presumably leave Salma Yaqoob, the party’s only other figure of any national stature, as the putative leader.
Is it possible that we might in the coming year see Respect go from strength to strength in electoral terms, whilst simultaneously pulling away from those in the SWP whose brainchild it was? I wouldn’t bet against it. If so, I suppose it might be a lesson learned, but then it would also be a lesson richly deserved.