54 people braved a bitterly cold night to attend the launch meeting of the new Respect Renewal branch in Atherton, Lancashire on Tuesday 19th February. Atherton is a small otwn near Wigan. It is worth noting here that we have made a decision in Respect Renewal to be very accurate and truthful about numbers attending events. When we say 54 people, we mean 54 people. George Galloway has a busy day in manchester today, with two two walkabouts , one in north manchester, then one south manchester, and a Respect meeting at 5pm in Rushlome, S. Manchester, followed by a Stop the War Coalition meeting in north Mancs this evening.
Here is a report from Clive Searle.
Despite the failure of the heating last night the temperature inside the meeting soon heated up as the start of the meeting had to be delayed while George Galloway MP conducted a live interview with Channel 4 news from inside the meeting hall. George passionately defended the gains of the Cuban revolution receiving a great round of applause from the meeting after tearing a strip off the interviewer in London.
As the meeting proper got underway, prospective local election candidate Steven Hall outlined why he was taking on the council at the May elections. Steve spoke of how the former industrial and mining town had been reduced to a ‘dormitory town’ by the closure of the pits and local industry under both the Margaret Thatcher, and more recently New Labour, governments.
Steve also celebrated the history of resistance and radicalism in the town, recalling the fantastic struggle of the Women Against Pit Closures locally in both 1984-5 and later in 1992-3. Some of those campaigners were in the room to acknowledge his praise.
Steve laid special emphasis on why Respect should be championing the issue of youth services in the locality but also called on Respect to celebrate its own young supporters by setting up a youth section.
Next the meeting heard from Dr Kay Phillips, Respect’s prospective candidate in the Cheetham ward in nearby Manchester. Kay recalled how as a GP working with the homeless so many of her patients had spent time in the army – only to be thrown on the scrap heap battered and scarred by their experience of war, with little support from those who had sent them to fight.
She also raised the issue of Virgin Health Care trying to get their hands on – and extract profits from – some of our NHS services. She contrasted the welcome given to these privatisers with the way local community nurse Karen Reissmann had been sacked for speaking out against NHS cuts.
Finally George Galloway MP took to the floor. In an inspiring speech George took the audience through a century of Labour history – from the path-breaking election of Kier Hardie to the terrible betrayals of Blair, Brown and nearby Bolton MP Ruth Kelly. George emphasised that Respect stood for all those values, and all those people, abandoned by New Labour – whether students, trade unionists or pensioners. He called on all present to back Steve’s election to the council as ‘a lion that will roar in the council chamber.’
During contributions form the floor one speaker, whose son had been tragically killed in Iraq, spoke of how he wanted to see Blair on trial for lying about the war. He also complained that the army was being prevented from recruiting in town centres and schools. George responded to the moving contribution by agreeing for the need for Blair to stand trial but saying he felt the army should be prevented from recruiting more young men to die needlessly’ for a pack of lies.’
As George left for yet another interview at the BBC in Manchester many stayed behind to talk about supporting Steve’s campaign. With a number of new recruits joining on the night and several more taking membership forms away to consider joining Respect it was a very successful night for the new branch