SWP Fightback against Entryism

Oh dear. What is going on here?

A packed meeting of south west Birmingham Respect took place on Tuesday of last week, in order to select a candidate for the May elections.

“A “packed” meeting?” What an interesting choice of language by the Socialist Worker, observes Dave Osler.

The meeting took place in the wake of the selection of six other candidates. Concern had been expressed that all of these six were men.

The two people putting themselves forward as candidates were Yasir Idris, a recruitment consultant and former amateur boxer who lives in the ward, and Helen Salmon, an active member of the local committee of the Stop the War Coalition.

Helen had been approached by leading figures in Birmingham Respect to put herself forward for this ward, in which the black and ethnic minority community forms around a third of the population.

However, in the wake of Yasir’s nomination there was a large increase in the number of Respect members in the ward. Around 60 people joined in the two days leading up to the meeting.

Yasir was selected as the candidate by 35 votes to 20, meaning that all seven candidates in Respect’s target wards are male.

The issue of equality has been one that Respect has given prominence to in the past, with a diverse selection of candidates for both the European election in 2004 and last year’s council elections.

There is evidence that Respect’s most spectacular successes in Birmingham owe a great deal to the enthusiastic support of women in particular.

Respect members in Moseley & Kings Heath ward will fight to give full support to Yasir, who is an energetic and enthusiastic candidate.

But it is clear that the selection procedure in Birmingham will need careful re-examination to see if it has lived up to the organisation’s aim of being a representative and inclusive coalition.

How disappointing for the Socialist Workers Party.

Imagine how dismal it must feel to the SWP Central Committe to set up a front organisation, in order to harvest the muslim vote, only to find that its meetings are “packed” to ensure the election of “local” candidates over loyal SWP activists.

So dismal that the SWP is actually prepared to complain about RESPECT in its own newspaper.

I wonder how interested recruitment consultant Yasir Idris will be in promoting international socialism.

The SWP must feel as if the dream is slipping away.

The problem of getting SWP activists selected and elected is not a new one.

In fact, the SWP can’t even count on its own leading members to help it control RESPECT anymore.

They’ve just expelled Respect National Council member, Ger Francis, from the SWP “over Ger’s role in swinging a selection of candidates in Birmingham contrary to the SWP’s wishes”.

Ger Francis was described by the SWP’s Dear Leader, John Rees, as “Salma Yaqoob’s right hand man” at the RESPECT conference 2005.

Salma Yaqoob still believes that RESPECT can be a “representative and inclusive coalition”, and that SWP members aren’t completely unelectable.

She’s the only one who believes that.