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Year 2005 No. 65, May 11, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

The Results of the May 2005 General Election

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

The Results of the May 2005 General Election

George Galloway, Respect, Bethnal Green and Bow
Roger Nettleship, Safeguard the National Health Service, Jarrow
Reg Keys, Independent Keys, Sedgefield
Salma Yaqoob, Respect, Sparkbrook and Small Heath

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The Results of the May 2005 General Election

According to the results of the May 5 General Election, just over 27 million of the UK's 44.2 million registered voters cast a valid vote in the general election. This means that 61.3% of the registered voters voted while 38.7%, or some 17 million people, did not. The total adult population of the UK was 58.8 million on Census Day 2001 (thus around 43.8% of the adult population voted in the election). Figures have not yet been released as to what percentage of the valid votes  were postal votes, but media reports  state that some 4 million were applied for, which equates with some 9% of the registered voters and nearly 15% of those who participated in the election.

            Although it is not clear what proportion of these were actually cast in the election, it is quite clear that without them the electorate's participation in the election would have fallen even lower than in 2001. In that election, which reached an 80-year low in terms of voter turnout, only 59.2% of the electorate participated in the election. It is significant that postal votes should have played such a key role in terms of voter turn out given the persistent reports of postal voting fraud which surround them and the government's adamant refusal to implement any safeguards in this regard until after the election.

            Of the valid votes cast, just over 9.5 million were cast for the Labour Party. This meant this party received the votes of 21.6% of the registered voters (even in the so-called “landslide victories” of 1997 and 2001, Labour’s share was around 30% and 25% respectively), on the basis of which they were awarded 356 of the 646 seats in the House of Commons, which represents 55% of the seats. (Only 645 seats were contested, because of the death of the Liberal Democrat candidate in Staffordshire South. A by-election will follow.) Even in terms of the number of votes cast, Labour's share was 35.2%, representing the lowest percentage of the votes cast to have brought a party to power. The share of the vote cast for candidates other than Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat was 10.5%, and the percentage of registered voters who did not vote for these three parties amounts to 44.9%.

            Only around 16.2% of the adult population of the UK cast a vote for the Labour Party.

            In this issue of WDIE we are also printing the election night speeches of a number of candidates.

Article Index

George Galloway, Respect, Bethnal Green and Bow

"Tony Blair, this and other defeats that New Labour has suffered are for Iraq. All the people you've killed, all the lies that you told, have come back to haunt you. Labour should sack you tomorrow morning.

            "New Labour plumbed new depths in this campaign, and now the police and the courts will try to fathom exactly what they’ve been up to. But it was no aberration – the reason this count took so long; the turnout was so low; that hundreds if not thousands of ghost figures appeared on the electoral role but only 68% of postal ballots were cast. Tower Hamlets is in the grip of a corrupt political culture, and when we begin our campaign on Monday to take control of this borough council it will be as a new broom to sweep that political corruption away.

            "Oona King boasted she was going to finish me off. I will be more gracious. I have not finished her off. She's an able person who will be back in politics and in Parliament. It wasn't her defeat; it was a defeat for Tony Blair and New Labour. And I'd like to thank Oona King for her eight years in this constituency and wish her well for what will be her resumed political career.

            "But I can't thank the Borough of Tower Hamlets, which has put together a shambles of an electoral role that would disgrace a banana republic. It is about time you tender your resignation.

            "There is a revolt spreading throughout east London against the betrayals of east London and you ain't seen nothing yet."


George Galloway's later speech to supporters

"This victory belongs to all of us and neither time nor my memory will permit me to thank everyone… We won support across all the communities in Tower Hamlets. However, I want from the bottom of my heart to thank the Bengali community here. That community has shown its political power. I promise you no one will ever take it for granted again. No one will ever ignore it again, and anyone who betrays it again will do so at their peril. [Goes on to thank several individuals] One of them even went to prison for me when I was trapped in a room by people calling themselves 'Muslims' who threatened to kill me… [more individual thanks].

            "The Muslim Association of Britain are our allies in the Stop the War Coalition and in Respect and I want to thank their President who is here with us tonight. I also want to thank all the other Muslim organisations who put their heart and sole into this great battle.

            "Thanks to the organisers of this victory within Respect. I'd like to thank my dear comrade and friend John Rees… [and other individuals, Respect staff and volunteers, and his office staff].

            "This is an outstanding night for Respect, not just here in Bethnal Green & Bow, although that's what the headlines will concentrate on, but the results we've achieved elsewhere have been outstanding too. Oliur Rahman, who spent almost the entire election working here in this constituency, still got more than 20% of the vote in Poplar. … Respect won second place in both East Ham and West Ham, with Abdul Khaliq Mian gaining 24% and Lindsey German gaining 20% respectively. Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham polled more than 10,000 votes, coming within 3,000, I think, of capturing seats.

            "There is a revolt spreading throughout the land in those areas where the poorest people live, where the immigrants, where the exploited live. The revolt is spreading in these areas because these are the areas New Labour has betrayed the most in the last eight years.

            "We will now build on our campaign to capture the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham, starting on Monday. We intend to be the new broom that sweeps clean these two rotten boroughs. …

            "I want to close with a word or two on a subject I raised in my acceptance speech.

            "Mr Blair, this is for Iraq. This victory is for the people of Iraq. My telephone is full of texts and audio messages from Fallujah, from Baghdad, from Palestine and Lebanon. All over the Arab and Muslim world people are dancing in the streets. As I said to Blair tonight live on television: all those lies that you told all those people that you killed are coming back to haunt you. And they will haunt you to your end and beyond.

            "We will not rest until every last British soldier has been withdrawn to safety from the frontline of Iraq to which Tony Blair has sent them. And we will not rest until he and his war cabinet of fellow criminals are on trial in the Hague in front of the International Criminal Court.

            "Comrades and friends, we have really written history today.

            "And by the way, you'll soon not be able to find one person in Tower Hamlets who didn't vote for us today. The Bangladeshis talk about the 16th division… the division that turns up the day after liberation. Never mind, we'll accept them all. Every person here has written a glorious chapter in the history of the popular movement in this country. This great battle between war and anti-war. This great battle between New Labour and real Labour, the ideals of labour that were fought for here today and which were won decisively by us. Respect.”


A New Dawn Has Broken over the East End

Respect MP George Galloway, 07/05/05

As the sun came up over Brick Lane on Friday a new dawn had truly broken over the East End of London – and over British politics.

            The impact of Respect's victory in Bethnal Green & Bow and our spectacular results elsewhere will only fully become apparent in the weeks and months to come.

            But already we have some of the measure of it. This is one of the most historic victories in British politics.

            Not since 1945 has a party to the left of Labour in England won a seat in parliament. Then it was Phil Piratin, Communist hero of the Jewish East End. Today it is Respect, standing in his old constituency.

            Sixty years ago Piratin's victory came as the Labour Party was cementing its hegemony over the British working class.

            Today it comes as New Labour is shredding those bonds, leaving in its wake the bitter tears of those it has taken for granted for far too long. The meaning of our victory is that those people can no longer be taken for granted.

            With one blow we have shattered the cynical policy of triangulation, which Tony Blair imported from the US Democrats.

            According to that strategy he felt free to seek the votes of Tories on Tory terms, while assuming that Labour's core support would have to back him, because there was nowhere else to go.

            Now there is somewhere else to go. Our ideals, the ideals of generations of activists who built and sustained the Labour Party, have taken organised form.

            And that organisation has reached into every corner of Bethnal Green & Bow. We piled up votes in every ward and within every community.

            A wave of enthusiasm swept from Brick Lane – the first port of call for almost every group of newcomers to this country – through to the housing estates in the shadow of Bryant & May factory in Bow, where young women heroically struck in 1888.

            Our support was concentrated on the housing estates that have been left to rot, their occupants blackmailed by a corrupt council that says no repairs will be made unless tenants vote for their homes to be privatised.

            As our battle bus toured east London the waves and cheers of support came in their majority from those who have nothing to sell but their capacity to work and whose work produces everything we see around us and every service we avail ourselves of.

            Our vote was particularly strong among the Bengali community and other immigrants.

            We wear that as a badge of honour – for it used to be a point of pride that the left could rally to its banner those who are most downtrodden.

            In Bethnal Green & Bow some 25 percent of the population are living in overcrowded conditions. Among immigrant communities, the figure is 50 percent.

            The climate of Islamophobia nurtured by New Labour over the last four years has fuelled a 300 percent increase in the number of young Muslim men stopped and searched.

            The response from Hazel Blears, home office minister in the last parliament, was to say Muslims should get used to being targeted by the police.

            Then there is Blair's decision to go to war against Iraq, and the support he received in doing that from his two MPs in Tower Hamlets, Oona King and Jim Fitzpatrick, against the wishes of the vast majority of their constituents.

            There can be only one reason why they felt they could back the war in Iraq. They thought that whatever they did, however they voted in parliament, they would be re-elected.

            The result in Bethnal Green & Bow buried that complacency. It should also bury the slur that people who have solidly backed Labour in the past, as most immigrants have, suddenly become "communalist" when they feel the sting of betrayal and vote for an alternative.

            That was just one of the smears and dirty tricks that formed part of New Labour's campaign against us.

            An utterly incredible "poll" appeared on election day purporting to show that the Tories were the ones who were threatening to take the seat.

            All who read that fabrication now have another reason not to believe a single thing New Labour says.

            And then there is the conduct of the vote itself. Respect has uncovered ghost voters on the electoral register, people turning up to vote to find that a postal vote has already been cast in their name without their knowledge, and malpractice that would disgrace a banana republic.

            This is one thing we intend to clear away at the council elections next May. The campaign to take control of the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham begins on Monday.

            Abdul Khaliq Mian and Lindsey German have already shaken up the New Labour councillors in Newham by taking one in five of the votes in a borough where all but one of the councillors is New Labour.

            Oliur Rahman, the first councillor elected under the Respect banner, has done the same in Poplar & Canning Town.

            Respect intends to be the stiff new broom that will sweep away those New Labour councils that feel they are above answering to their electors.

            We aim to launch a charter for the people of east London, reaching out to those areas where we have only begun to make inroads, and to organise around it to politically lay siege to the seats of power in Westminster and the City of London.

            And the impact of our breakthrough is not confined to east London. Salma Yaqoob's breathtaking vote in Birmingham, just 3,000 votes short of taking the seat, shows we have the capacity to become a national force.

            The repercussions are already national. In the Stop the War movement, out of which Respect emerged, we worked with many people of good will from the Labour Party, from other progressive parties, the Green Party and people of no party at all.

            We will continue to do so. At the same time we appeal to those people to join us and help us build Respect on the solid foundation we have already laid down.

            Respect brings to the discussions and debates that will inevitably follow this general election a method of working that has served us well and that fits the mood of the moment.

            All the different components of Respect thrive on mutual respect and a recognition that we have so much in common which unites us.

            It is a winning combination, at elections, certainly, but also in the campaigning work to which we are committed.

            Finally, our victory on Thursday has an international dimension too. The news was flashed around the world. Within minutes the voicemail and text memory of my mobile phone were full with messages of congratulation from Fallujah, Baghdad, Lebanon and many other places that have so much reason to detest what Blair has done in our name.

            We have shone out a ray of hope into the corners of Britain long abandoned by New Labour to the darkness Blair and his friend George Bush have cast across the globe.

            Respect has dealt Blair a mortal blow. He'd have rather lost another dozen seats to the Tories than just one to us.

            For our victory is unambiguously a victory for the anti-war movement and for the real Labour people whom Blair has tried to silence.

            It has altered the political landscape and created new possibilities for the left and for progressive people.

            For us last Friday morning, bliss was it that dawn to be alive. For Blair's New Labour, it will never be glad confident morning again.

Article Index

Roger Nettleship, Safeguard the National Health Service, Jarrow

I would like thank those in the Health Workers Forum in South Tyneside Health Care NHS Trust and ST PCT for being the inspiration behind my standing as a safeguard the NHS candidate.

            I would like to thank all those health workers who nominated me and to thank Chris and Alan who gave up so much of their time for the campaign as well as those health workers who covered my role in the hospital and in the union.  

            I would like to thank the acting returning officer and his staff, the postal workers and all those who contributed to the election.

            To those who voted for me I would like to say that you have highlighted in this election that National Health Service is under threat and you have given your mandate for ending the involvement of the private sector in public services and the bringing back of all private health care under public control.

            You have given your mandate that everyone has a right to health care at the highest level that society can provide, investing in health means investing in the NHS.

            Your vote is an inspiration to the Health Workers Forum to carry forward this work which we have started in South Tyneside and an inspiration that every collective be it health worker, anti-war, youth and so on should stand their own candidates and go all out to end the rule of the big parties.

            Thank you.

Article Index

Reg Keys, Independent Keys, Sedgefield

I dedicate this campaign to my son Tom, who was killed in Iraq four days short of his 21st birthday. He was sent to war under very controversial circumstances.

            If this war was justified then I would not be here today. If the war had been just I would have been grieving and not campaigning. If weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, then I would not have come to Sedgefield, to the Prime Minister's stronghold, to challenge him on its legality.

            I don’t pretend to be a politician, and it has not been easy for me, but it has been a very rewarding campaign, and I think it is remarkable that an amateur like me has come from a standing start in one of the most traditional and safe Labour seats of all to achieve a share of the vote which is not so far short of that of an established political party.

            For this I thank the team which built spontaneously around me, my wife Sally and my other son Richard who have stood behind me, and above all I thank the voters of Sedgefield who put their trust in me.

            I hope in my heart that one day the Prime Minister will be able to say sorry to the families bereaved by this war, and that one day he will find himself able to visit in hospital the soldiers who have been wounded by it.

            So, as well as to Tom, I would like to dedicate my campaign to all the British servicemen - and I am aware that some people do not know how many it is who have been killed - to all 88 British servicemen who have been killed and given their young lives in this conflict.

            And especially to those Royal Military Policemen who have become known as The Six, who were abandoned and slaughtered in a filthy police station in Al Majar Al-Kabir.

Article Index

Salma Yaqoob, Respect, Sparkbrook and Small Heath

"My friends, we have achieved a moral victory today and slashed over 13,000 votes off Labour's majority in Sparkbrook & Small Heath.  People no longer have to vote for the least 'worst' party.  Today we have made history and it is now time for change, time for Respect."

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