Monday, June 21, 2010

UNISON NDC 2010: The Bard of Barking

 This was a great performance at Conference on Thursday by singer/campaigner, Billy Bragg. It started off with a video of Billy confronting the BNP/fascist Councillor and London Assembly member, Richard Barnbrook, on St Georges Day.

Every year Barnbrook dresses as in a suit of armour and pretends to be the patron saint of England, St George. Billy pointed out that in reality, St George had been born in Lebanon and would have not been able to even come to visit England if the BNP immigration polices were in force - never mind be its patron saint! This made Barnbrook look even more stupid than usual. The video also showed up imported BNP yobs accusing Billy of not being from Barking yet he was able to ask them the name of the historic building behind them (the remains of Barking Abbey) and none of them knew what is was called.

Billy pointed out that his home borough of Barking and Dagenham which returned 12 BNP Councillors in 2006 was no more or less racist than your home town. People knock on doors and stir up trouble. The BNP ship activists into the borough purely to cause hate. There use to be 40 000 people working in the Ford’s car factory in Dagenham - now there is only 3 000. This has led to pressures on services and social housing. Immigration is not the true problem - it’s the supply of housing and structures. His parents, like any other immigrants, came to Barking to seek a better life for their children.

He actually had 2 confrontations with Barnbrook. In the 2nd one, Barnbrook said that the ballot box who will show us who is right. The ballot box did. The BNP lost all their seats. Up to a 1000 people per day turned up to campaign against the BNP. The fight is not over. While the “Clash” fans generation know that fascists can be beaten - they will come back. Billy personally thanked everyone for their support in Barking and elsewhere (Stoke) and for working against the English defence League.

Billy lives in west Dorset. There a Tory usually gets elected. In 2005 he helped run a tactical voting campaign. Jim Knight was elected. He was the first Labour Party MP in Dorset since 1960s. In 69% of Consistencies Labour came second to the Tories. Billy voted Lib Dem in his consistency in last election. Tactically it worked well in past but now it has turned and bitten us and ended up with Libcons. Tactical voting is a symptom not a solution. The problem in Barking and Dagenham Labour Party was that they had been in control since 1931. They had been a fine council but under New Labour it was taken for granted. The same thing happened nationally. The Labour Party focused on the 20% of seats with swing voters and left their core vote behind.

Need to listen people and make sure their vote count. If we do have referendum on electoral change then we as a labour movement must embrace it. In West Dorset there are more than 7% labour voters. Fear of trusting the people just helps the BNP. The pluralism from such change would help Mr Angry voter to protest amongst progressive alternatives not the BNP. Look at what has happened in Scotland and Wales. Trust the people.

How do we hold those in economic power to account? In the USA he remembered President George Bush at a G20 meeting calling for everyone to come together and save “democratic capitalism”. Billy is baffled by two other such sets of words often found together. “Military intelligence” and “American football” It deeply annoys him - the idea of “self regulation”. The idea that capitalism is democratic and can be regulated by Bankers. He pointed out that the so-called new government regulatory committee being set up has loads of Bankers on it.

How do we hold those in power over us to account? The way to hold then to account is by organising. Unions need to organise. Bankers have already forgotten what had happened in 2007 and 2008. It is the unions who will have to fight to hold capitalism to account. Political parties change from time to time but organised labour remains solid. This is the modern red edge to the Green politics of Glastonbury.

The whole conference hall then all donned masks and sang along with Billy the Robin Hood anthem in support of a Tobin Tax (see next post). As you do.

1 comment:

John Gray said...

Hi Anon 12.39

Have a go at me by all means but don't have a go at those who won't be able to respond.

Middle class cowards like you don't have the guts to actually live on estates and publically stand up to the Nazi. Shame on you.