To see all of the pictures click here

To find out more about who the Tolpuddle matters were, and why they are importnat, click here

Members of Southwark Respect went to Tolpuddle last weekend for the annual festival.

The festival is held every year to commemorate the Tolpuddle Martyrs (to find out more about the Tolpuddle Martyrs click here).

Supported by the trade union movement it attracts several thousand people both across the weekend and on the main day, which is Sunday.

SANY0050We arrived on Friday to set our tent up on the campsite, which is set up for the festival. The weather was windy (which made the tent erection a bit difficult) but pleasant. The rain that was forecast managed to hold off.

The first night saw the arrival of many more campers, the start of the entertainment and the opening of the bar. It sold a selection of local ales and ciders as well as the usual lager fare. (Somewhere also available it seemed was cider in plastic cartons, which I, the townie, identified as diesel, until corrected).

You could even drink the beer out of the official festival beer glass which said solidarity all over it in various different languages.

We also managed to meet up with Respect members from Tamworth and some of the local Dorset members who ran Respect stall in the Martyrs Marquee.

The music was provided by a number of different live acts. None were big name groups but the standard was high (if with a high folk-rock quotient).

The entertainment on Saturday night was nothing if not eclectic, ranging from the agit-prop/performance art Radio Gagarin, to the klezmer/gypsy inspired Gadjo. The evening was finished off by your classic Irish guitars-and-bodhran affair, the Dublin City Workingman’s Band.

SANY0054There was also debate and discussion and lots of nick-knacks to take home. Most of the unions which were there to campaign about something (on the other hand some of the union stalls could have been for a supermarket), were campaigning against something New Labour had brought in. This probably counted for the general feeling of hostility or indifference to Labour that seemed to be in the air. People either seemed angry at Labour for what it had done, or resigned to the defeat that faced it, and its seeming inability to change direction.

SANY0018On Sunday morning some of the Southwark comrades joined the Prison Officers Association hike from Dorchester Prison (where the martyrs were taken in 1834) to Tolpuddle. The walk was 8m miles across the countryside, through woods and across fields. The weather held up, which made the walk very pleasant but also resulted in some serious sunburn.

More than fifty people took part in this year’s walk, which is apparently twice as many as last year. For our efforts we were all given a commemorative badge.
Sunday saw the parade through the village accompanied by brass bands and a pipe band. The day finished off with the Service at the Methodist Chapel, or if you were more secularly minded music from the Trans Global Underground (who was excellent) and Billy Bragg (who wasn’t).

SANY0099Some of the Southwark comrades then had to return to London but others stayed the night again in Tolpuddle and had a quiet drink in the village pub before returning to camp to find that for the first time all weekend the wind had completely dropped. So we sat a looked out across the hills before returning to our tent.

We returned the following day having had the breakfast at the camp and packed at our leisure.

It was an excellent weekend to be recommended to all.

Southwark Respect welcomes the appeals of the last few days for action to be taken to pose a united socialist alternative at the next general election.

In the face of the recession and the growing assault on working class living standards the left needs to unite in defence of our class.

The recession is also being accompanied by its evil outrider, the rise of the fascists as a force in politics.

The BNP represent a real danger. The anger at the corruption of the mainstream politics linked into the worsening recession means that the BNP now have the opportunity to establish themselves as a permanent
fixture on the political landscape, and to solidify a still soft voting base into a harder, more racist and more openly fascist one.

This has happened in these elections not through a spectacular growth of the BNP vote, but by the collapse of the labour vote.

A strategy that merely relies on stacking up as many votes as possible against the Nazis cannot succeed.

Support for the BNP is growing out of the lack of hope and the fear which is now stalking working class communities.

A real alternative has to be posed.

That is why we in Southwark Respect supported NO2EU in this election. It was a temporary platform formed shortly before the election and though it had imperfections, it was a real attempt to grapple with this question.

Though it might not have staged a dramatic breakthrough, NO2EU together with the SLP got  326,000 votes, more than Respect (standing as the sole national left force) got in the 2004 European elections in aftermath of the Iraq War. It also did better than Respect did in some important working class areas such as Wales and the North East.

The vote was not as large as we would have liked, but it proved that there is still, despite the difficulties that the project of a new political force to the left of labour has experienced, the basis for such a party.

The experience of constructing a political alternative to Labour has proved to be a difficult and bruising one for the left.

The project has suffered a number of setbacks and the left is now hampered by the fact that after twelve years of Labour government it has not managed to build a political force that can seriously challenge the mainstream parties, or the fascists, across the country.

The need for unity however presses heavy on all now. We cannot let previous strife prevent us uniting again. We should not allow past differences to blind us to the importance of the task in hand.

We notice that there is a growing realisation in the trade union movement that there is a need to pose a political alternative to Labour and stand candidates against it in the general election. NO2EU is the most concrete example of this, but the PCS is also talking about standing candidates, the FBU remains disaffiliated and relations between Labour and the CWU have been stretched to breaking point.

We welcome the appeals put out by Bob Crow, the CPB and the SP following their joint work in NO2EU. We also we welcome the moves by the SWP and others to seek unity again with the rest of the left.

These moves will not immediately result in the kind of party that we believe is necessary, but they could be steps towards it.

We in Southwark Respect have long maintained that what the working class needs a new party, rooted in the labour movement, to represent its interests.

We welcome every step taken by the labour and trade union movement to find its own political voice again.

The broadcast times for the No2EU Election Broadcast are:

BBC one – Wednesday May 27, 10.35pm
BBC two – Wednesday May 27, 11.20pm
BBC Wales – Wednesday May 27, 10.35pm
BBC Scotland – Wednesday May 27, 10.35pm
ITV Scotland – Wednesday May 29, 10.30pm
ITV – Friday May 29, 10.30pm
ITV Wales – Friday May 29, 10.30pm

peckham3 16-5-09Southwark Respect had a successful weekend campaigning for N02EU in the Euro elections.

On Saturday 1,300 leaflets were handed out on the Walworth Road. This was followed by more leafletting on Saturday afternnoon and on Sunday and Monday.

Leafletting has continued this week with a large part of Brunswick Park and Camberwell Green wards now having been leafleted.

The timetable for the coming week is:

Thursday 28th May

meet 6.30 for leafletting in Camberwell area.

Saturday 30th May

11am Stall on Walworth Road

2pm leafletting

Evening: Fundraising barbecue

Sunday 31st May

11am leafletting

2pm leafletting

If you would like to get involved in any of this or would like to find out more about Southwark Respect click here

Picture 3

To mark the official launch of the No2EU election campaign today Bob Crowe appeared on the BBC’s Daily Politics show.

To watch the interview click here


Southwark Respect starts its campaign to support No2EU in the European elections this weekend with stalls and leafleting in the borough.

To find out more about what we are doing click here.

Over the coming weeks we will be organising more activities both as Respect and together with others who support No2EU.

No2EU is an electoral platform launched by Bob Crowe of the RMT union and others including the CPB and Socialist Party/ It is also backed by many trade unionists.

At a time when Labour’s support is collapsing it is th p arties of the right who hope to benefit. It is vital that there is a voice on the left in these elections.

We welcome everybody who supports No2EU to get involved with our activites, whether you are a member of Respect or not. All will be welcome.

To go to No2EU’s website click here

NickWrackNick Wrack, Southwark Respect and No2EU candidate in London, writes:

Southwark Respect has decided to support to No2EU in the Euro Elections in London. Other branches of Respect have also voted to back it.

The NO2EU list in the capital is headed by Bob Crow, leader of the rail workers union, the RMT and the most militant union in the country.

Other candidates in London include Kevin Nolan, convener of the Visteon workers in Enfield.

NO2EU is an important initiative that that seeks to pose an alternative for working class people to vote for across the country. It is backed by the RMT, many other trade unionists, the CPB and the Socialist Party.

The European Union is a bosses club. Its purpose is to create a Europe in which there are no barriers to big business and to allow the free rule of the market.

It is the EU that has been the greatest force for deregulation and privatisation across the continent in recent years.

Laws passed by the European parliament and the decisions of the European Court have undermined workers’ rights. The posted workers directive, which was at the centre of the Lindsey dispute, is only the best-known example in this country.

The neo-liberal Europe being pushed by the EU must be opposed.

Up until now in this country the arguments against the EU have mostly come from the right.

They create fear that it is scheming foreigners who want to undermine our way of life and whip up feeling against migrant workers.

Yet it has been British governments, whether Labour or Tory, that have pushed most enthusiastically for privatisation and deregulation in the EU.

No2EU stands for international workers solidarity. It is an opportunity to undermine the racist lies of the right.

Mainstream politics is dominated by a deadening consensus. Despite the economy sliding into the greatest crisis since in fifty years the differences between the major parties are miniscule.

Rather than reject the economic policies that have led to this crisis Gordon Brown’s government is giving us more of the same. Rather than taking the failed banking system into full state control and using it for the good of ordinary people they have thrown billions to the bankers.

And we will be paying for this for a generation to come. Whoever forms the next government they will push for massive cuts in public spending and services.

New Labour has betrayed the working class and accepted the bosses’ agenda lock stock and barrel.

They have betrayed the hopes that millions put in them in 1997. This has created conditions for the growth of the BNP and other parties of the right.

To resist the shift to the right, and to defend working class people against the crisis and the inevitable attacks on jobs, wages and conditions that it will bring, the working class needs a political alternative that can gain mass support. The working class needs a new party to represent it. That is the reason why Respect was formed five years ago.

In 1901 the RMT (the NUR as it then was) became one of the founding members of the Labour party because it realised the labour movement needed its own political voice. In 2004 it was expelled from that same party.

The fact that it is now one of the main moving forces behind No2EU is of massive importance. It is a sure sign that many in the labour movement now see the necessity to pose an electoral alternative to the neo-liberal consensus.

NO2EU is a temporary platform for the European elections, not a new party. Mistakes will be made, but lessons will also be learnt. But that is why we welcome this and support every step taken by the labour movement to find its own political voce again.

That is why in these elections we will be campaigning for No2EU.

To find what Southwark Respect will be doing to support NO2EU click here

To contact Southwark Respect click here

For the No2EU – Yes to Democracy website click here