Saturday, March 08, 2008

Why I fear the BNP

The British National Party could easily win seats in the London Assembly elections - unless voters wake up the threat

This is a superb post (see below) by London Labour Assembly member Jennette Arnold in “Comment is free”. BTW - On Sunday London TULO are encouraging people to go and help out at the Goodshays by-Election (BNP councillor resigned) Meet 10.30am 9 March outside the Harold Hill Community Centre, Gooshays Drive, Romford, Essex RM3 9LB

Like a dangerous dog, the threat from the British National Party in the London Assembly elections has been allowed to lie. But the realisation that they need just 5% of the capital's vote to win seats in May is now slowly dawning. The shock that this awakening has taken so long alarmed me almost as much as the threat itself.

The facts are stark. For one seat on the assembly, the BNP need just 5% of the vote. For two seats they need 8% and for three seats 11%. For anyone doubting how achievable these targets are, at the last GLA elections in 2004 they got 4.8% - just 5,000 votes away from credibility and a stepping stone to further power.

Though the BNP is currently wracked by internal wrangling and financial turmoil, any success in London would galvanise its supporters, give the party UK-wide credence as an electable force and set in motion worrying momentum heading into next year's European elections. Or, as they put it: "If we are successful it will send shockwaves through the media and the establishment and will really propel the BNP into the political premier league."

As someone who adores multi-cultural, multi-coloured and multi-racial London, it's a terrifying thought.

The BNP terrify me not because they are a racist, thuggish bunch who thrive on hate and fear - though of course they are - but because they represent the polar opposite of my political beliefs. For me, politics is about the power of collective action, in all its forms, as the driver for achieving change. This was my philosophy as a member of the church, then a nursing trade union official and finally as a Labour politician.

I have always believed in the power of the collective will of the majority to improve lives and communities. In contrast, the BNP are a fascist minority who manipulate grievances to divide the communities they infect. It is their pernicious scape-goating, based on racism but thriving on fear of 'the other', that I so despise.

There is a danger - and I have seen it here at City Hall - that progressive-minded people will shrug their shoulders. The pervasive attitude that says: "It won't happen here. The BNP blights Oldham and Burnley but not our great multi-cultural capital. We're above all that."

But the far right's recent successes should serve as a wake-up call. In Barking and Dagenham two years ago they won 11 out of 35 council seats with 8,000 votes (remember they only need 5,000 more across the whole of London for an assembly seat). They have polled 10% in wards in Havering, Sutton, Croydon, Lewisham, Hillingdon and Enfield - all areas where
UKIP have previously done well.

Why do I talk about UKIP? In 2004, when the BNP were in touching distance of an assembly seat, the GLA and European elections were held on the same day. UKIP punched above their weight by exploiting the shared date and won two seats. Excellent work by the anti-fascist group Searchlight and the Joseph Rowntree Trust has found that, with UKIP (now called One London) all but finished as an electoral force and with no European elections this year, as many as 20% of their supporters could switch to the BNP. This would give the racist party 6.5% even before their growth in the capital since 2004 is taken into account. More than enough to get them elected.

It is far from a forgone conclusion, though. The BNP are the most despised political party in Britain and London's diverse population means that 35% of voters should automatically oppose them. The problem comes with the word "automatically".

It is not enough to be automatically or naturally opposed to the hideous ideology of the far-right. What matters is getting out and voting. And, because of the electoral system, it is not enough to say it won't happen in, say, Hackney or Hampstead. It is the party's share of the vote across the whole of London that counts. So the more votes that are cast the higher the bar will be that the BNP have to reach.

An increased turnout is the only way to stop the BNP gaining a foothold in London. If 45% of Londoners turn out to vote, the BNP would need 120,000 votes for one seat and almost 200,000 for two. In 2004 they got 90,000 votes.

One upshot of the high profile fight for the mayoralty is that the increased media attention should encourage people to get out and vote. Let's hope so. With the nation's eyes on the capital, the British far right have their best chance in recent years of gaining respectability and - as the BNP see it - a springboard to further political power. But if London's mainstream majority are alive to the threat and get out to vote, the capital and the country will have a lot to be thankful for.


Anonymous said...

Now what did Boris say about Nelson Mandelda being a terrorist ???

what did he say about black peoples smiles ????

can someone remind us

Yesterday is the New Tomorrow said...

I fear that in May London is going to reap what it has been sowing over the last 40 years.

Anonymous said...

..actually its "let sleeping dogs lie"..not dangerous dogs? Try to get it right.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon
Yes, well I think we all know that? Your point is?

Anonymous said...

If you can't get the small things right how do you expect to get the big things right?

John Gray said...

Hi anon

Not sure if you have got anything right to be honest?

Anonymous said...

I've had enough of the cranky Labour spin machine, I will be voting BNP they tell it as it really is, what is wrong with polictical honesty for a very rare change

John Gray said...

Oh well anon, if you have want to vote Nazi then that ironically is your democratic right.

It is really strange “voting” in democratic elections for a party that would abolish free elections if they elected?

There’s Nowt as queer as folk ...

Anonymous said...

Its not BNP policy to ban free elections? anymore than it is laboutr policy to ban protests around parliament,...oh hang on a minute they did intoduce a ban?
When are we going to get a debate on Iraq? Or a referendum on the EU?
Wake up and smell the coffee comrade.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon
Come off it – if the BNP ever got power (which I’m pretty sure will never happen in this country) then you know they will ban elections. Pick up a history book or have a look at the Searchlight sites of all the senior BNP members in their brown shirt uniforms.

Mind you I never realised that there had been a Labour Government in power in 19th century? When protest and marches were first banned from 1 mile of parliament? There was actually a parliamentary vote before war in Iraq and why have a referendum on the EU when we recently had a British General election which returned a majority of MPs in all parties in favour of remaining in the EU?

After all that I think I will now go and make myself a nice cup of tea.

Anonymous said...

Reference to vote on going to war, exert from BBC news "Mr Blair suffered the greatest parliamentary revolt of his premiership when 139 of his party colleagues voted for an amendment saying the case for war was not yet proven." so yes there was a vote, but majority ruled in numbers thats all. Also anyone remember this "Iraq had no stockpiles of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons before last year's US-led invasion, the chief US weapons inspector has concluded" See we werent lied to at all. Vote BNP lets get our country back! Lets put the great back in Britain, lets fly the flag of our great Union. Get Red Ken out of London and in Jail!!!

John Gray said...

Quite right we were not lied to – no-one believed that Saddam was actually telling the truth for the first time in his life.

Don’t shame our dead forefathers by voting for Nazi fellow travellers that they had proudly died fighting in World War 2.

Be proud of your history, your country and your heritage and reject alien concepts of fascism, bigotry and extremism. Be a true Brit – Vote Ken, Vote Labour.

Frankly vote for anyone other than the evil ones. Even Boris – bless him (5th preference of course)

wilma said...

Most people in this blog are conveniently forgetting the obvious.The only people who benefit from mass immigration are the immigrants and the bosses
and NEWLABOUR and the whole trade union movement and all the so-called left wingers ie anti-facist league ect are 100% pro boss and 100% anti-British worker. British working people have no voice we're like catholics in lreland pre 1968,dont be surprised if the BNP win seats because we still have a right to vote ...

John Gray said...

We all benefit from immigration – the people who work hard to put the food in your supermarket, cook and serve for you at restaurants. The people who care for you if you are sick or old. The taxes they pay. Trade unions and the Labour Party have actually been slow to organise immigrants. I suspect that union density voting levels are actually very poor. But, don’t worry too much we are working on this.

I think that more does need to be done for all working people (back and white) but I refuse to believe that the voice of true working Brits are Nazi’s bigots and extremists.

Anonymous said...

I think that the Tories are up to no good. Publicly their leadership is condemning the BNP. Why then has the BNP urged its voters to give second preference votes to Boris Johnson. There is dirty scheming somewhere here. If Ken loses it may well be the racists who have ensured it.

When I asked a Tory I know about it he said he would be voting Barnbrook second preference just to anger 'Reds like you'!

Anonymous said...

So according to you John,its between voting BNP who you denounce as NAZI's.Or Mr Livingstone who is not known as Red Ken for nothing.
Still,with Kens grovelling to the Ethnic minority vote he should be OK (not).
I would sooner see Boris the Turk as mayor,He is so thick that he would only be a puppet any way.
What a choice.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon

Yes and No – there is a clear choice between voting for the BNP and any of the other democratic political Parties.

Ken has changed over the years. One of his many attributes is that he is willing to recognise that he has got things wrong in the past and move one. His significant and genuine support for London international financial services is an example.

Your choice Anon – after all we live in a democracy – please don’t vote for “Red Ken” or even “thicko Boris” if you don’t want to – but also please don’t moan and whine about the governace of London if you don’t.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how NewLabour still expects votes from the working class.A party that has just made 5.5 million of the poorest poorer.There's millions of people working in this country for the min wage because if they dont they dont get benefits and to make sure they continue getting the min wage NewLabour floods the country with millions of unskilled workers,(making the bosses richer)What with the active support of the trade unions and the so-called left for asylum seekers and immigrants, where do working class people stand ?.Do you think we're all stupid and unwashed and dont use our vote.I for one will vote and it wont be NewLabour Tory or Liberal.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon
You are just a bit out of date. Since New Labour will now make sure (better late than never) that those who lost out will be compensated (my own Mrs included!). The 22 million existing beneficiaries will obviously still retain their improvements.

You seem to forget that the minimum wage has led to huge benefits for millions of ordinary working people. It has nothing to do with migrant workers. Skilled workers in some areas may (I repeat may) be affected by migration but not the minimum wage.

The minimum wage, Living wage, tax credits, new deal etc has done more for working class British workers than the decades of Tory rule. More needs to be done and I look forward to future Labour councils and governments doing more for our people (Ordinary British working people, white and black).

Please don’t vote for Labour in the forth coming elections as I do not want you to contaminate our vote (my personal view only)

Anonymous said...

I have no intention of voting New Labour l would rather vote Robert Mugabe.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon
....and no doubt the BNP think like wise.

Anonymous said...

I never thought i'd see the day when working people despise NewLabour more than the Tories.To hear Tory leader David Cameron asking the poorest to vote for the Tories is a joke.It's the end for NewLabour and the end for Labour.Sorry but any working person voting for NewLabour is surely a chicken voting for Xmas.

John Gray said...

Hi anon
Think you need to read a bit of (non-trot) real history? There has always been a very significant working class Tory vote. Probably due in part to the extremists who discredit the progressive argument. O

ur biggest problem at the moment is that the Tories are ditching their right wing policies and going for the centre vote.

Turkey’s not chickens vote for Xmas? Mind you I have never known any of them to fill out a ballot paper?

Anonymous said...

I’ve noticed your good at insulting people who don’t like NewLabour, like calling them fascist racist even nazi’s even trots!!!! but the truth is under NewLabour the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer - how have "New" Labour managed this? .l say the only people who have done well under this horrible neo-liberal government is the system workers.Maybe the tax rise on the poor was to give the system workers a cut in tax'since there only getting a 2.5% wage increase’. Your also most likely to be a member of bupa, if you think the Nhs has improved.This government has been a total nightmare to millions of working people.You're living in Cloud-cuckoo-land you say your a union member ect ect but how many people working in the private sector are members ?.We'll see tomorrow who wins and it wont be Neofacist-Labour. So there bite that.

Anonymous said...

Your got a nerve why you fear the BNP. l wish this blog was called Why I Fear Newlabour.You can stuff Newlabour and stuff your phoney trade unions too.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon 1 and 2
Sorry I have been a late replying but as you can imagine I have been a bit busy lately. Doing things not pontificating.
I like to think that I am only “direct and robust” with commentators such as yourself who are stroppy in the first place. Some people however, feel so insecure about their views that they cannot accept any sort of criticism. I must admit that I have not a clue who “system workers” are? Under Labour my Mum is depends upon the state pension for income has seen her money go up significantly, I have family members who have had large pay rises due to National Minimum wage and friends on low wages and children who get vital help under credits. Things of course are not a bed of rose. But, I do think that this country is a much better, prosperous, safer and more equal society than before.

I am not of course a member of BUPA and remain a massive fan (and user) of the NHS. There are less unions members nowadays in public and private sectors. Partly, this is the fault of the government for allowing anti-trade unions legislation to remain, partly it is due to economic and structural changes (e.g. self employment) and partly it is the fault of the unions for not evolving and adapting to changes.

Ok, Labour did not win on Thursday. However, there is still plenty of time for the Party to get its act together in the next 2 years and win again. Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

Lets hope the party gets rid of Brown quick we need a real labour leader not this neoliberal ponce.We have 2 years to get our core vote back if we fail its tory rule for ever. ps sorry for ken he was about the only real labour member left.

John Gray said...

Okay, we were beaten last week. But we live in interesting times politically. It was only a few months ago that Labour was well ahead in the polls and Gordon Brown walked on water. While Cameron was the one facing plots to get rid of him.

Policies do need to change and providing the economy doesn’t go pear shaped and the Party shows some backbone - we will win.