Wednesday, October 04, 2006

George Galloway's Respect: huge fall in membership

The purpose of Respect – according to a recent speech by its national secretary John Rees, also a leading member of the Socialist Workers’ Party – is "to replace Labour as the representative of working people in this country".

Wow. That’s one ambitious target. And Rees isn’t the only Respect supporter ostensibly convinced the project is heading for the big time.

Over at Respect Supporters Blog, for instance, Neil Williams – a nice guy and a good socialist – insists that ‘many’ Labour Party members are signing up with George Galloway’s outfit. I've tried arguing otherwise in his comment box, but to no avail.

Then I found this altogether more serious assessment of Respect's prospects, in the form of an online report from Alan Thornett. Thornett , who sits on the Respect national committee, does his best to talk up real but limited successes in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Birmingham.

Yet despite being fully committed to the formation, he makes many telling criticisms. Perhaps most damningly of all, he reveals the true extent of Respect’s paid up support:

‘After Respect was formed in January 2004 its membership rose to over 5,000 by the time it fought the European elections five months later. The National Council initiated a recruitment drive, at that time, with a target of 10,000. It was a realistic target.’

But things have not gone according to plan. Thornett talks of ‘… the moribund state of a number of Respect branches and declining membership figures, which now stand at 2160 according to the annual report – down from 3040 last year.’

In other words, membership has halved in two years and fallen 29% over the last year alone. Proportionally speaking, Respect is losing adherents more rapidly even than New Labour itself, and its ranks can contain no more than a few hundred people who are not members of the SWP already. Not much of a front organisation, is it? Neil, comrade. You really should stop deluding yourself.

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