Labour in third place as Respect wins council seat

The Anti-War Respect Coalition was yesterday celebrating an electoral breakthrough in the East End of London after winning its first council seat.

The Anti-War Respect Coalition was yesterday celebrating an electoral breakthrough in the East End of London after winning its first council seat.

The area could become a crucial battleground in the general election, expected next spring, as the far-left group attempts to break Labour's stranglehold on east London.

Respect, founded by the former Labour MP George Galloway six months ago, is now planning a concerted effort to pick up parliamentary seats in the East End in the election.

It won its first councillor when Oliur Rahman, 23, captured a seat on Tower Hamlets council in a by-election on Thursday night, with Labour falling from first to third place.

Mr Rahman, a civil servant, said: "People don't see Labour any more as a working-class party that represents them."

He said anger with the war was just one of several issues in the by-election.

Respect is an alliance of far-Left groups, Muslim groups and peace organisations. It outpolled the other parties in Tower Hamlets last month in the European elections and is understood to be planning to move headquarters to the area. It will target resources next year on the parliamentary constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, where Mr Galloway may be considering standing, as well as Poplar and Canning Town, West Ham and East Ham.

Its potential to damage the larger parties was illustrated in this month's by-elections where it picked up enough of the vote to lose Leicester South for Labour and to stop the Liberal Democrats from winning Birmingham Hodge Hill.

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