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Galloway backs Birmingham five!

Brum Respect | 30.03.2006 14:31 | Social Struggles | Birmingham | London

George Galloway MP has backed five candidates to stand in Birmingham on behalf of the Respect coalition for the local elections on May 4.

Alliya Stennett, George Galloway and Raghib Ahsan
Alliya Stennett, George Galloway and Raghib Ahsan

Alliya Stennet speaks to the crowd
Alliya Stennet speaks to the crowd

The audience at Newtown Community Centre in Aston, Birmingham
The audience at Newtown Community Centre in Aston, Birmingham

Alliya Stennet speaking at the Respect party meeting
Alliya Stennet speaking at the Respect party meeting

George Galloway MP speaking at the Respect meeting in Birmingham
George Galloway MP speaking at the Respect meeting in Birmingham

A FORMER councillor who was expelled by the Labour Party after campaigning against unfit housing is to stand in May's council elections for MP George Galloway's Respect Party.

Raghib Ahsan, who plans to represent the Lozells and East Handsworth ward, told an audience of over 150 at the Newtown Community Centre in Aston that he was betrayed by Labour for representing their views.

"I was expelled from the Labour Party because I campaigned against unfit housing. I campaigned, as a councillor, to improve the conditions of people's lives.

"I believe in representing the views of constituents and putting that before personal finance," he said.

Mr Ahsan, who has a case of racial discrimination pending in the House of Lords, urged locals to stand behind him in the forthcoming elections.

"The right should always stay with the constituents and that is what I shall stand for if I am elected."

He said those who currently claim to represent residents had ignored the area.

"This ward has three councillors. It is one of the most deprived wards in the country but has three councillors who keep their mouths shut in council meetings year after year after year."

Also speaking at the event in Birmingham was fellow Respect candidate Alliya Stennett who assisted in calming tensions during the recent Lozells riot. She spoke of her dismay at authorities ignoring those most in need.

"The other day I was speaking to an elderly Afro-Caribbean woman who was telling me about her life. She spoke about her children here and how she remembered Jamaica and so on. I found out she'd been living in Britain for 40 years so I asked her about how it was for her.

"She suddenly went quiet and my heart sank. I wandered what she was going to say and was curious to see if she was going to blame the usual stereotypes of asylum seekers and refugees. But all she said, with complete seriousness, was 'how am I going to pay my gas bill? I'm a pensioner, I can¹t do this anymore.'"

Mrs Stennett blamed the government's interest in corporations over citizens for the suffering of pensioners.

"Pensioners like that elderly woman are being faced with poverty, illness and death because they can't afford to pay their gas bills. The most recent rise of 22%, the cuts in social care and the constantly rising council tax are making our elder generation choose between eating or heating," she said.

The mother and City College teacher pointed out that companies had the ability to reduce bills but the government amounted no pressure on them so as to protect their own commercial enterprise.

"We¹re the fourth largest gas producer in the world and we¹re not running out of gas because we produce more than we consume. Gas companies that are making £1.5bn in profit this last year don¹t need to raise prices to buy gas, they do it to 'maintain profitability' ­ but at what cost?" argued Mrs

She added that the "cost of living is going up while the chance of living is going down".

Also speaking at the public meeting were party vice-chair Salma Yaqoob and party leader George Galloway MP along with a student from Matthew Boulton College, Assed Baig, who had been expelled after campaigning for a prayer room and producing a newsletter.

Mrs Yaqoob shared her views on Blair's 'war on terror', explaining how it affected Britain¹s Muslim community.

"The Islamophobic climate in this country is a direct result of the war on terror by this government. I'm not exaggerating when I say the far-right are on the march again and it's because of this climate of fear.

"This climate is also strong in Europe where women are having to choose between their religious identity or an education. They [Europeans] claim to be encouraging a liberated Muslim youth yet people have become so scared of
ordinary peaceful Muslims that a woman wearing a hijab is denied her right to a basic education or a position in any public office. What kind of liberation is that?"

Mr Galloway endorsed the candidates and said the event was "the launch of our campaign against Tweedle-Dum, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dee-and-a-half," with reference to political opponents.

"Or as an old lady in Aberdeen told me this week, 'Tony Blair and Gordon Brown ­ two cheeks of the same arse'," he added. He went on to tell the audience that Muslims had become the new political scapegoats, as were the Irish and black communities before them.

He questioned how a place where all three parties congregated could be "middle ground" and said that Respect¹s ideas were that centre ground. Mr Galloway claimed the majority of people in Britain supported the party's
ideas, as they were "common sense ideas".

"If we get five councillors in Birmingham, we will change the political landscape in this city. If, on 4th May, you want to reward the British politicians for the Iraq war, like Tony Blair, it will be glorifying terrorism. Do you want to send those donkeys wearing Labour rosettes back to city hall? Do you want to send fraudsters who sit in car parks at
midnight with sacks back to City Hall?" said Galloway.

"Surely, the thing to do is punish those responsible for great crimes and betrayals. You can find new direction for our country and that¹s what we stand for ­ Respect."

Respect has put forward 5 candidates for the forthcoming council elections.

Aston: Alliya Stennett; Lozells & East Handsworth: Raghib Ahsan; Sparkbrook: Salma Yaqoob; Springfield: Salma Iqbal; Kings Heath & Moseley: Lynne Hubbard.

(Re-written by Hassan Keddie of The Asian Today newspaper.)

Brum Respect