Respect Councillor joins Tory Party
Although no one could have guessed Cllr Ahmed would have gone to the right he was always the loose cannon, the councillor who described Galloway as a "mad dog" and the least solid of the four Respect councillors. The group was very much driven by Oli, Lutfa and Rania who have a clear political direction. They managed to bring one councillor with them and seemed close to pulling one more from renewal.
In a way it symbolic of the recent crisis in Respect that the SWP have been fighting so hard to counteract. The Tower Hamlets councillors group was to politically weak to resist becoming sucked into the mainstream world of electorialism and town hall politics. Galloway was able to exploit the pull on the councillors and the figure of Abjol Miah to isolate the left and move renewal further into electorialism.
Since the split the alliance of Abjol, Galloway and Yacoob has been enough to stem defections to labour from renewals council group which has done little to pull away from the comfort zone of council politics. Unfortunately the move of respect towards Trade Union activists and the social movements on radical politics broke one of the councillors who came over with us. In doing so he has radically broken with the politics he was elected on, crossing class lines, and should resign his seat to fight re-election as a tory.
Do I thing the defection proves Respect was wrong? Not exactly. I think it does prove that radical left formations need a clear anti-capitalist current in them which can pull others to them.
The problem in Tower Hamlets was that to much was compromised over the selection of candidates and the council group had a marginal left within it. This was proved when only one councillor came over with Oli, Rania and Lutfa the fact he eventually left progressive politics altogether is more damaging but less relevant. Even communists and anarchists renouncing their radicalism is not unheard of after all.
The general point it proves is not controversial - That when the left is moving forwards confidently it pulls around it other forces which are attracted to its ideas. In these scenarios it is possible to pull together broader coalitions over various points of program. When a crisis hits (Brown bounce, economics crisis, new movements etc) the degree to which they hold together depends on the strength of the organised left within them. That’s doubly true in representative chambers like council or parliament where politics is "the distorted echo" or real life politics and the radical left is one step removed from the everyday politics whish give movements strength.
The renewal councillors adapted by accommodating themselves to electoral labourism and ours by radically distancing themselves from labour. As part of a small group excluded from the "official life" of the council Cllr Ahmed clearly became demoralised with the project and lost his tie to leftwing politics in the process while maintaining his hatred of the war and new labour. As such he broke both with the radicalism of respect and the labourism of renewal and went to the other side which seemed to offer support in the chamber and a new base for some form of "community" politics. Respect's offical statement