Salma Yaqoob’s dignified exit

4405998935_eee91f43b7_bSalma Yaqoob’s resignation from Respect can, or so it seems from the outside, only mean the death of the organisation writes Liam Mac Uaid. The announcement on her website says “I feel necessary relations of trust and collaborative working have unfortunately broken down.” This can only be a reference to her public criticism of George Galloway’s defence of what he termed Julian Assange’s “bad sexual etiquette” and, perhaps, his remarks on disabled people.

We can assume that it alludes to intense discussions inside the party and the decision by Kate Hudson to stand down as a parliamentary candidate. It’s rare that two such prominent figures in an organisation are willing to take a public stand on a matter of principle and it it is obvious that political responsibility for this setback for Respect is entirely George Galloway’s. If a Labour MP had made similar statements he would have had the whip withdrawn from him and would, most, likely be facing expulsion from the party. “He” is used deliberately in this context. Only a particular type of man would be so cavalier in his attitudes to alleged sexual offences.

The end of Respect is a defeat for the left in Britain and George Galloway holds the unique distinction of having had three opportunities to build a new party to the left of Labour and ruining every one.

In the period after his election in Bethnal Green Respect was an attractive force to many on the traditional left and, more importantly, had achieved real support in some of the poorest parts of England, areas with large immigrant communities. Galloway actively resisted converting this potential into the reality of a party, preferring, with the SWP, a looser coalition which was often hard to distinguish from a personality vehicle. While it’s true that electoral parties need publicly recognisable figureheads with good media skills, his undoubted talents in that area allowed him a freedom from the party’s authority which resulted in the Big Brother charade.

Priorities and limitations


Unexpectedly, most of all to supporters of Socialist Resistance, Galloway appeared to accept many of our criticisms of the old way in which Respect operated. This led to the split with the SWP and the re-establishment of Respect. It retained a good proportion of the independent left and a strong electoral base in Tower Hamlets, Birmingham and other areas. Salma Yaqoob came very close to winning another Westminster seat. However the old ways of working won out. Although she developed a good media presence the party reverted to being dominated by its MP. Its priorities were his priorities and severe limitations were imposed on building Respect as a party. By not opposing this method and endorsing Galloway’s priorities, including his quixotic attempt to stand in Scotland, Salma had some responsibility for these setbacks.

The Bradford by election which Galloway won was the third and final opportunity to put Respect at the centre of creating a new force on the left of British politics. New blood, including Kate Hudson, flowed into Respect with the vision of linking it to the emerging European left. SYRIZA was an explicit point of reference and there was little difference between the ideas of those comrades and supporters of Socialist Resistance on the urgency of, and possibility of, building a new left party in Britain.

For those who were members and those who voted for it, Respect was a party which offered an alternative to capitalist austerity; it was  the anti-war party; it had good positions on ecology. If the leadership had seen, as part of its role, the importance of equipping its members with the political confidence to go out and argue for its programme and to feel able to assert their own voices inside the party George Galloway may not have felt able to come out with the outrageous statements he did. Perhaps also those who wanted to take a principled stand against him would have been able to do so inside the party. The tragedy is that the apologist for poor “sexual etiquette” remains in Respect and those who want to hold him to account are forced out.

Salma Yaqoob retains the potential to be a major figure on the British left, at a time when the ecological crisis is about to become a major factor in people’s lives and every day they feel themselves getting poorer and more economically insecure.  At the same time Respect has many important lessons about what to do, and what not to do, for the left. What seems to be lacking is a willingness to rise to the scale of the challenge on the part of the existing organised left.

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13 Comments on Salma Yaqoob’s dignified exit

  1. I think you show clearly how the responsibility for this almighty f***-up lies squarely with Mr Cat and his shamelessly misogynist supporters … AND, like you say, what a wasted historic opportunity he has thrown away repeatedly!! Perhaps out of this bursting bubble of over-inflated male ego we might get a left that can deal with these fundamental issues of trust that Salma and Kate have so publically shown great integrity about. Great article Liam 🙂

  2. If the U.K. Cannot manage what hope do we here in the states have? Those on the right are so anxious to obey & do what they’re told; of course it’s easier for the oligarchs to create thei synchronized goose-stepping team of born-again voters. On the left, alas, we, like Sisyphus, are keft at the mountain’s base with our rock.

  3. The British left must break the habit of seeking short-cuts to political relevance by hitching its bandwagon to charismatic individuals: Scargill, Sheridan, Galloway.

    Yes, electoral success is an important asset – but it should complement deep roots in working class communities and workplaces. These cannot be built from the top down.

    So the next time a charismatic left-wing figure takes a seat in a parliament let’s stop and think before announcing that it represents ‘a significant break-through for the left’.

    I never had time for Galloway and will be happy to see him isolated and eventually defeated. Meanwhile, the task of building a resilient, independent left whose success is based on political support rather than the televisual qualities of its leading figures remains…

    • Unfortunately, it’s partly through “charismatic individuals” that most people relate to politics, if they do so at all. It is unavoidable and it is probably better that they be under some kind of control by the members of a political party than not at all. The real problem is how to get people whose egos are bigger than their brains to agree to being democratically accountable.

      • Yes, charisma helps. But the ‘charisma-isation’ of politics is something we should also fight against, and be very wary of when it appears on the left. It usually ends in tears.

        The more substantive point (which I forgot to make last time) is that Salma Yaqoob’s exit may have been ‘dignified’ – but it was also wrong. A serious political party must have the means to discipline and criticise its leaders when they bring the party into disrepute.

        If you simply leave when a leader acts wrongly you will never build a party of any substance and resilience. That Salma Yaqoob left the party simply because of Galloway’s behaviour suggests that Respect became little more than a ‘Galloway fan club’. In recognition of this, others on the left appear to be using his behaviour as an excuse to finally abandon a political project that, in reality, died some time ago.

  4. The electoral demise of Respect was sown when the clique suppoting GG overplayed their hand against the SR and myself at conference when we opposed Respect’s and GG’s standing in the Scottish parliamentary election.
    The Bradford result showed the SR position was correct, that Respect electoral work should be focussed only in their own heartlands. Events have proved SR and myself right.
    The latest utterances from the monster GG is a contradiction of natural justice for women and the disabled people. Thank God Kate and Salma seen it as the last straw to break Respect’s back, and resigned. Salma did not resign lightly, she realised that there was a clueless, spineless clique that overwhelmingly blindly supported the GG’s cult of personality and she wisely washed her hands of Respect completely.
    His super ego of bragging rights of being the Greatest and his 90,000 followers on facebook, is indicative of a mad man caught up with his own shameful verbosity

  5. I’m sure that if Respect had been in better shape,another response to Galloway’s deeply wrong statements woudl have been found.

    • John, you and Larry are absolutely right: Respect was found wanting in its treatment of yet another internal crisis. Salma Yaqoob appears to have tried to raise the issue in Respect and been rebuffed. This would explain her comment that “necessary relations of trust and collaborative working have unfortunately broken down”.

  6. We can of course remember Slama and the SWP shutting down STW meetings in Birmingham so as take it over. Or the burecartic clique she surrounded herself with to tightly run Birmingham Respect exclding all others from democratic participation. Or busing of her supporters from Birmingham to make sure the Respect conference voted for Galloway to stand in the Scottish parliament electiosn.

    Lots of good points but many bad ones as well.

  7. Ralphie, Inner Party Democracy did not exist in the Respect Party at anytime when Salma was the leader. And they do not have any real links with the wider trade union and labour movement, nationally to develop such.
    It has descended to tailcoat stunts run by a clueless ruling clique of Galloway parasites that latch themselves to the body politique with an absolutely sole approach to foreign policy and no real home policies worked for, and lacks financial support for staff other than GG’s stage money. It is now a one person appreciation society.It is not the Respect Party I hoped for
    Julian Assange criminal charges does have big political issues that we all understand but must be taken apart from the criminal charges. Kate and Salma understood that and had to endure the humiliation of “Tailcoat Geordie” disastrously getting on in the acts was their last humiliation.
    The facts are he is a loose cannon and snubs accountability (democratic centralism) His non views on inner party democracy may stem from his early days in Lebanon when he was in touch with groups such as the Syrian Baathist Party. Whose interpretation of democracy is Inner Party Fascism. I am not saying he is a fascist. I am saying he is a chameleon of all sorts. He only represent himself and He is all that is wrong with the British Left

  8. Any thoughts on the Green Party, Salma is rumoured to be joining them? Every member of that party gets 1 vote to shape party policy (leader included!) – seems highly democratic to me.
    They also realise they are seen as the party of the middle-class by some, and want to change to reflect a more diverse population.

  9. At last, it will prove that Salma never believed in communal politics and has purged herself of Svengali Galloway’s cult of tailcoating.
    She will also be able to smell rosy, away from that putrid decomposing zombie party called Respect.
    It is now over one year since Len McClusky swept away the Respect member’s challenge. Their isolation in the trade union movement is assured because voters see through a party that only has a rightwing foreign policy that follows without question the leaders of Iran and Syria. And has not the taken up the economic and social injustices of the British electorate. Galloway has thrown away the golden opportunity of representing people properly with his barmy utterances on rape and his moronic labeling of the mind impaired as “window lickers”. He cannot say sorry properly. He tries to justify his boner with it is in the context of his street definitions. Really George, what an ignorant oaf you are.

    Yes, Salma will help universal suffrage by joining the Greens and not be seen depending on a dodgy right of passage from tailcoat Geordie, that thick and elusive parliamentarian

  10. Here is my latest response to John Wight’s latest whitewash of the unsavoury remarks by GG. I am barred from the socialist unity blog. I do have an axe to grind with Galloway and his unintelligent scribe and failed ham actor called John Wight. I percieve that Andy Newman and Tony Collins deem my contributions are trolling. I don’t.
    Many know, I was the only one from Scotland at that conference and I supported the Socialist Resistance motion against Respect standing in Scotland. I don’t do walking away. Only the carpetbagger Galloway show s a clear pair of heels and creates collateral damage to the left in his wake. Ask Salma and Kate.
    Today the following comment was not allowed under the handle of Why Why Why.

    No matter how weak the case is and how stupid the actions are by those acting on behalf of the NUS, I hope we do not lose sight that the women and Assange must have their day.
    John’s unstinting loyalty to GG brings into question his tainted loyalty to the Bradford West MP. I prefer Salma’s and Kate’s stance rather that John on the outside feeding his anti women conjecture and doubt. This is best left to the legal teams.
    Maybe, just like the butler, he is expecting a gold nugget and a 500 year old book from his fake omnipresence Gorgeous George The First Misogynist

    It is alright for cowards to use the”molotov ” psyuedonym to attack those opposed to Galloway’s megalomania.

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