The Coming Battle for Croydon North

On this day in 1983 the Reverend Jesse Jackson embarked on his first attempt to win the presidency of the United States of America. Before then, it was an impossible dream. Twenty years before, black people in America had to sit at the back of the bus, piss in a separate pot – indeed a separate washroom – eat at a different lunch counter, go to a separate school, almost never go to university.

Black people in America scarcely ever voted, found it hard to get registered to vote. Outright racists, segregationists, like Governor George Wallace were pillars of the Democratic Party. Places like Mississippi were still burning with Ku Klux Klan fiery crosses, strange fruit – lynched black men – still twisted and turned whilst hanging from southern trees.

The Reverend Jackson’s electrifying run for president that year began to change all that for good. His three million votes in that campaign and his six million votes in 1988 directly paved the way to the presidency of Barak Obama. After Jesse Jackson – who would have made a better president than Obama – there was no turning back, for African-Americans, for the Democrats, for the United States of America.

Thus his endorsement this very day of Lee Jasper our Respect candidate for the forthcoming Croydon West by-election in South-West London is worth his weight in gold for us. That Jesse Jackson is following our democratic rising against the politics of austerity, neo-liberal economics, imperialism, occupation and war is a compliment in itself. That he rates our candidate Lee Jasper so highly is not only a vindication of our choice but might be worth serious numbers of votes too.

We have been attacked, as always, this time for “targeting” black voters (24% of the total electorate), making a change from the usual charge that we are “targeting” Muslim voters – there are 10,000 of those in the constituency. Except we are being attacked for “targeting” those voters too.

Of course the only sense in which we are “targeting” either is that we are asking them to vote for us.

Sinister, huh?

Every party “targets” the voters they think most likely to respond to their policies, don’t they?

So what are our policies, and why would black (Christian, Hindu, Sikh) and Muslim voters be most likely to respond to what we stand for?

Well, Respect is the anti-racist party in Britain. New Labour (renamed by the criminal Tony Blair) the right-wing Conservatives and their peculiar bed-fellows the Liberal-Democrats have all played the racist card in recent years, issuing forth their “dog-whistle” pitch in an attempt to attract the “Little Englander”, “hunt the immigrant”,” scapegoat the Muslim” section of the electorate and ahem, curry favour with the rabid yellow press which whips such sentiments up.

Respect is the anti-war party in Britain. It emerged out of the great movement against the Afghan and Iraq wars, when millions marched against these catastrophes and were betrayed by their parliamentarians. Respect opposes all British imperial wars. New Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats continue to support what they have now re-named the “mission” in Afghanistan, even though the public in overwhelming number oppose it. Britain has neither the blood or the treasure to waste on the plains of Afghanistan where so many other occupation armies have bled and suffered only later, too much later, been forced to withdraw in ignominy.

Respect is the anti-austerity party in Britain. We reject the idea that the working people and the poor, the unemployed, the pensioners, the young people, should pay the price of capitalist failure and bankers’ greed. All the other parties support the savage cuts in public spending and the services the money funds. We say, reverse these cuts; the working people have already paid. Many are suffering from the freezing blasts of austerity. Black and minority ethnic communities are suffering the most.

My victory in the Bradford West by-election six months ago – the biggest swing in British post-war history – when Respect won a landslide victory with a majority in the “safe” Labour seat of over ten thousand votes showed that nowhere is “safe” any more for the parties of austerity and war. That a politics of democratic insurgency has been born, and that Britain is not immune from the radicalisation sweeping mainland Europe, Latin America, the Arab world and beyond.

The attacks upon us – and the campaign hasn’t even officially started – are a clear sign that the lamestream political class and their mouthpieces in the media are running scared. As well they might be. When all they have to offer is more blood, more pain, more poverty, why shouldn’t they be scared that the people, if offered a better way, might just choose it.

[George Galloway MP]

If you can help Respect’s Croydon campaign, with financial donations or in any other way, please contact us at

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Michael Marra RIP. A rolling stone comes to rest.

Michael Marra the singer-songwriter and gentle musical genius who died this week at the tender age of 60 was largely unsung outside of Scotland and Ireland. Which is a pity. The rest of the world lost out on that. As a chronicler of our times, ordinary peoples’ times he was up there with the best. He ‘coulda’ bin a contender’. Perhaps if he’d been born in New Orleans instead of Lochee, the Irish quarter of the industrial Scots’ city of Dundee, he might have really made the big time. Perhaps he never wanted to.

Michael Marra came from a prominent Roman Catholic and Labour family in Dundee, a family full of schoolteachers and educationalists, music, culture and grace. Which is how he came to be, maybe the most musical, cultured and graceful Dundonian of them all. I first saw him play in Laings Hotel in Dundee’s Roseangle back in the mid 1970s. The hotel wasn’t really a hotel, more a dive for students from the university across the road, and the city’s prestigious Art school just a hundred yards up the road.

His band – Skeets Boliver – were really something and hoped, with some expectation, to be another far from Average White Band which originated largely from Jute City like Mick Marra, and indeed myself. They were a loud explosive rock formation as I recall – does anyone have any footage of them I wonder? Or audio? But they were capable – under the influence of Mick – of dropping way down low, quiet like, reflective. Just like him. They were totally original, performing their own material at a time at least in venues like these where the pay must have been peanuts, or more likely in liquid form and i don’t mean “readies”. Most of that material, and virtually all of the arrangements were the first craft of this master-craftsman, Michael Marra.

If Skeets weren’t original enough for you – they had an alter-ego: Mort Wriggle and the Panthers! You could book the band in either ego, or even both with the guys changing gear and playlist at half-time. The Panthers were a pure rock and roll show, mainly covers, early Elvis, Chuck Berry, all leather bikers jackets and Brylcreamed quiffs and DA’s. I must tell you that in both of these guises, they were really amazing, and I remember those performances 35 years on.

The lead singer Stuart Ivens was a real star, and the sax player Peter McGlone who was at school with and played in the same orchestra as me – though no friend, he once doorstepped my mother on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper – was a terrific and terrifically cool saxophonist. I apologise to the rest of the guys whose names I’ve now forgotten, but I’ve never forgotten Michael Marra who was truly the heart and soul of both incarnations.

In fact just a few weeks ago I was teaching my half-Dundonian son Zein to sing his peaen to another of the city’s proud products – the Bridie. A kind of pastie, unique not just to the city but to one bakery in the city – Wallace’s Pie Shop – it can be enjoyed plain, or with an onion in it. Or in my native language, to enjoy both you’d just ask, like in the Michael Marra song, for a “plen ane en an inging ane an a’ ” Only Mick could make magical music out of a Dundee pie.

Ditto his hymn to “Hamish the Goalie”, the evervescent hero of the Tannadice goal mouth, Dundee United’s evergreen keeper Hamish Macalpine. Everybody loved Hamish, a sometimes crazy often-times brilliant goalkeeper who seemed to have kept the United goal for the best part of twenty years – and their best years at that. Everybody loved Hamish, but not everybody could save him for ever in a song. But Michael Marra did.

He wrote musicals, experimental stuff in foreign genre, and played the smallest of places, even bars! The sort of thing you don’t do if you’re in it for fame and fortune. Fortunately or unfortunately, Michael Marra wasn’t in it for either. If he had been, far more of you would have known who I was talking about. I’m hoping now, you’re going to try and find out why. Take a walk down ‘Pity Street’, the only album of his I still have, somewhere, for starters.

May God have mercy on you, Lochee Mick. Though come to think about it, you’re probably playing the piano and crooning at His right hand already.

[George Galloway MP]

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