Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 11:59 UK

Profile: Respect Party

George Galloway in front of Respect bus
Respect's one and only MP George Galloway will stand in 2010

The Respect coalition was formed in the aftermath of the biggest anti-war demonstration in British history.

Left wing groups who had been struggling for years to make an electoral impact were galvanised by the 2003 protest against the Iraq war, which saw about a million people take to the streets of London to demonstrate against the US-led invasion.

The event saw leftwing campaigners banding together with members of Muslim organisations, in many cases for the first time, under the Stop the War coalition banner.

They began to find common cause over other left wing issues, leading in 2004 to the formation of Respect - the Unity Coalition.

The party's name is an acronym, standing for respect, equality, socialism, peace, environment, community, trade unionism.

Respect says it stands for peace, publicly-owned services and a "decent future for all". It campaigns for the nationalisation of industry, high taxes on the rich, and greater opportunities for Muslims to become more involved in mainstream politics.

The party is often assumed to have been founded by maverick former Labour MP George Galloway, but it was actually formed in early 2004 by Guardian journalist George Monbiot and chair of the Birmingham Stop the War coalition Salma Yaqoob.

Monbiot, a leading environmental campaigner, left shortly afterwards, after a row over standing candidates against the Green Party.

At its first electoral foray in 2004, Respect came third, polling 15% of the vote in the London Assembly constituency of City and East London. Its mayoral candidate, Lindsey German came fifth that year and the party achieved 1.5% of the national vote in the European Parliamentary elections.

A few weeks later, the party won its first seat in a Tower Hamlets council by-election.

'This defeat is for Iraq'

The night of 5 May 2005 thrust Respect into the national spotlight.

Although it fielded 30 candidates in England and Wales, concentrating on seats where the incumbent Labour MPs had voted for the war, it was one single seat that stole the show on election night. That was Bethnal Green and Bow, east London, where George Galloway took the previously safe Labour seat with a 26.2% swing in his favour.

Respect Party rosette
The party's name has been at the heart of internal disputes

The current MP, Oona King, was a loyal supporter of Tony Blair and the Iraq war.

A former Labour MP himself Mr Galloway had been expelled from that party in 2003 for comments he made about the war in Iraq.

The Respect coalition was popular with the large Muslim community around east London's Brick Lane where Mr Galloway directed his campaign.

In his acceptance speech on the night of the election, Mr Galloway vented his anger on to the prime minister, saying: "Mr Blair, this defeat is for Iraq and the other defeats that New Labour has received this evening are for Iraq."

As the most recognised member of the Respect coalition, it is often assumed that Mr Galloway is its leader. But in fact, it is an elected council of members rather than one individual who is in charge.

Divided

In 2007 Respect split into two with Mr Galloway and his supporters on one side and members of the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) on the other. The fall-out was over candidate selection and internal democracy.

Mr Galloway's decision to appear on TV reality show Celebrity Big Brother, which he claimed would raise the party's profile but which saw him taking splashed across the newspapers dressed in a leotard as he took part in various bizarre games - also sharply divided opinion.

The two groups spent months arguing over who got to keep the name Respect, with the SWP faction choosing to be known as Left List (later Left Alternative).

After an agreement was reached, George Galloway's group kept hold of the Respect name.

Both took part in the London Assembly elections of 2008 and in the London-wide top-up lists, Respect won 2.48% of the vote and Left List 0.94%. Neither won any assembly seats.

By 2009 most Left List councillors had defected to other parties.

The Respect party currently has nine councillors in the areas of Birmingham, Newham and Tower Hamlets.

George Galloway has said that he will not stand again in his current constituency but will instead fight the neighbouring, newly-created, seat of Poplar and Limehouse.



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