Respect has also benefited from defections from Labour recently, most notably the secretary of New Street station RMT. It should now be poised to draw in others and build Respect more deeply in Sparkbrook itself and the surrounding wards, with a view to the forthcoming Council and General Elections. It has already selected a candidate for the adjacent Springfield ward, where it did well last time.
One negative factor was the lack of support from the rest of the Birmingham left. Birmingham Socialist Resistance’s open letter calling for unity of the left in the city as we approach the General election included a call for assistance in Sparkbrook as an indication the seriousness of the various unity calls of late. However, not a finger was lifted, outside of our own supporters. Will the same sectarian indifference lead to a boycott of Salma’s attempt to win the Hall Green Westminster seat? Would it not have mattered if New Labour had won the seat from Respect this time? Would it not matter if they hold on to Hall Green next year?
Birmingham Socialist Resistance has had its differences with the local Respect. In the middle of the election campaign came the EDL invasions of the city centre. We felt that large scale mobilisations were always necessary to thwart fascist provocations, whatever their nature. While the issue was covered well in election material, the lack of mobilisation at one event, which was counter posed to calls for a state ban, exposed those that did turn up to a degree of danger. The “Birmingham United” event was banned instead! We also felt that the education statement needed a lot of strengthening. However, we were happy to be part of this election campaign and on the side of a successful challenge to the left of New Labour.
There are now many challenges to be faced in the Council chamber; resisting the cuts and privatisation offensive, the green agenda, Palestinian solidarity and developing a vision for the city that inspires people to move towards Respect outside of its core area.
Yet before we get into all that, let us still savour the moment. Victory is sweet. Congratulations to Shokat Ali and his team.
The full result at Sparkbrook:
Ali Shokat (Resp): 2495
Mohammed Azim (Lab): 2228
Abdul Kadir (Con): 799
Naeem Qureshi (Lib Dem): 506
Charles Alldrick (Green): 213
Sakander Mahmood (Ind): 55