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BNP gains in North-East London… or ‘Barking goes barking’ 5 May 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Land of Hope and Glory....
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The UK had its local elections yesterday, and the early results that have come in so far indicate that Labour has taken a hammering in London and the South-East (I am often told there is a whole country to the north of this region, but somehow, I don't believe it – people living north of Watford? Surely you jest!). The BBC, the Torygraph and even the Guardian websites are leading with tales of huge Labour losses, and the 24 hour news channels have a similar take on this. However I don't see any of that as remarkable in the least – and as often, it takes Tim Hames of The Times to cut through the fog of obfuscation and offer some sensible analysis; he concludes thus:

…the trends that seemed to materialise in a complex series of ballots yesterday were not new nor do they herald a new political era.

Yes, Labour got thrashed in these elections, but that is primarily in London, where the last local (ie Borough) elections were in 2002 – that was when the Tories' fortunes had reached a nadir, and they had the brilliant generalship of IDS to contend with. In many other parts of the country, especially the Northern cities, Labour fared slightly worse today than it in 2004, and Cameron needs to do much better there if he wants to end up in #10 by 2009.

The main story for Muslims of course is the rise of the far-right; I wouldn't want to do a Margaret Hodge and give these attention-craving Neanderthals any more limelight (limelight? on my blog, with my 2.5 readers? I must be having a laugh!). The facts are these: the BNP are expected to have doubled their number of councillors once all the results are in. However, as they started off with around 20 councillors in the whole country (out of ..say..22,000!), this is not as strong a result as it may seem. More concerning is their remarkable showing in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham – an area of East and North-East London I am reasonably familiar with (in that I would drive very quickly through it on the A13 towards the City/Docklands – so quickly in fact, that I was once awarded three points on my driving licence for my troubles).

I don't profess any local insight – yes I did live for many years in the neighbouring Borough of Redbridge, but I always thought of Barking as a bit of a dump and Dagenham – well that's where the white trash lives darling – but these results do not surprise me. I am sure the real reasons for BNP's success are to do with various complex sociological and economic factors; yes, the number of non-White faces would have made a difference, but the bigger issue would be "poverty" (ie relative poverty*), as evidenced by the gradual scaling-down of operations and the closures at Ford's Dagenham operations.

So, Barking becomes the first council in the country where BNP is the second largest party – 13 seats, more than the Tories, the Lib Dems and other also-rans. Are there really that many fascists in Barking? I doubt it – though Dagenham is probably a different story altogether. In council estates across the country, there are countless 'white trash' neighbourhoods where a life on benefits and disability allowances represents the sum-total of anyone's ambition – its human nature to be lazy and blame one's own pathetic lives on others who are weaker and even lower down the food chain, ie the immigrants, the refugees, et al.

The bigger issue, which I will address another day, is the welfare culture of many modern-day Western societies – that culture of dependency and hopelessness is behind most of the problems around the inner cities of these countries; it is not poverty per se, or at least not poverty as we third-worlders define it; rather its a poverty of ambition, a poverty of imagination, which takes root when the All-Powerful and Paternalistic State performs every function for you, from cradle to grave.

So while the rest of the country has been indulging in a BNP-focused media frenzy these past few weeks, there have been a few of us who have refused to be drawn in – among them David Aaronovitch, whose comments in a column two weeks ago seem remarkably prescient for someone who can be somewhat obtuse at times:

I spent Sunday evening looking at the stats for Barking and Dagenham. It is less deprived than my own borough, Camden. It experiences less crime. Its housing stock is no worse. But its educational attainment is lower, its VAT registrations (a sign of small business activity) are much lower and its teen pregnancy rate is much, much higher.

If you had Barking on the couch, you’d make sure that you listened to it and took its complaints seriously; people go bonkers if they feel that no one cares. But you’d also tell it the truth, which is that there is no protection from change itself — no stopping the world, unless you are prepared to pay the heavy price of getting off.

Rachel Sylvester in the Torygraph made similar points, on the same day as Aaronovitch:

The truth is that support for the BNP is not really a protest vote against a racially mixed society: it is a cry of rage about the quality of life in some of the poorest areas in the country. There is not much cheerleading for the far Right in the streets of Chelsea. The BNP is exploiting a growing sense of frustration with genuine problems: the lack of affordable housing, the increase in low-level crime, the failure of inner-city schools, the loss of a sense of identity among white working-class men following the collapse of traditional industries. These failures are not really anything to do with race – although, of course, the more people come to live in an area, the more stretched local resources will be – but the BNP has diverted a general sense of grievance into a specific feeling of unfairness based on a perception that there is "us and them". It is true, for example, that asylum seekers in a way "jump the queue" for council houses because they are destitute when they arrive in an area, whereas those on a waiting list for a bigger home are not. The solution is not to try to recreate a homogeneous white population but to find more affordable housing, and speed up the way in which homes are allocated to local people. The Government, and the Opposition parties, should not try to ramp up the rhetoric on race, they need to deal with the often appalling way in which too many people have to live their lives.

So there we are – the abiding message of the day being something like "Don't panic"!

* relative poverty because there is very little 'absolute poverty' in the UK, despite what the likes of Polly Toynbee may say.

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Comments»

1. Shakeel - 6 May 2006

Unfortunately, one can see the same awuful developments accross europe; not just britain. far- right parties are increasing their seats after each elections.

” its human nature to be lazy and blame one’s own pathetic lives on others who are weaker and even lower down the food chain, ie the immigrants, the refugees, et al.”

Couldnt agree more with this comment. In holland, belgium for example, this is exactly what we see. Foreigners are being targeted because they are hard workers, because due to their hard work can afford a better life than the native people. This has resulted in hatred towards foreigners.

2. Abu Abdur Rahman - 6 May 2006

Shakeel, I completely agree that this is a Europe-wide phenomenon. In fact, in most European countries, the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant votes far exceed anything seen in the UK, even after yesterday's results. From Vlams Blok, to the Danish People's Party, and through Le Pen, Pim Fortyn & Jorg Haider, the far-Right seems to be making gains in all parts of Western Europe.

Things are particularly bad, for instance, across the border from you (ok, more than one border!) in Denmark, where the Far Right has subverted the political process to such an extent that the mainstream parties agree with many of its proposals, views and thoughts. In fact, there is broad consensus among the three main Danish parties on most issues to do with limiting immigration and the rights of the Muslims and other immigrants. For instance, the Danish government passed a law in September 2004 which severely curtails immigration into Denmark, and this law has been used to limit the number of Muslims coming into the country. We have the situation where mixed race couples are being discouraged from immigrating, primarily to keep Denmark 'white'.

The Danish cartoon fiasco needs to be viewed in this light – as part of a concerted effort to malign, degrade and humiliate Islam, and not merely as an isolated atrocity by one far-Right newspaper. In fact, the newspaper which carried out this atrocity (with the full support of the Danish politicians, government and society) describes itself as liberal!

3. Yusuf Smith - 7 May 2006

As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

Last time I was in Barking there were (at least) two mosques very near Barking town centre, which points to a substantial Asian community, similar to that of nearby Ilford. Which suggests that the BNP vote may not have come from Barking at all – more likely anywhere the “white trash” you referred to live. Bear in mind also the hostility is less towards Asians (despite the gang’s use of anti-Muslim rhetoric up north) as to so-called ABCs (Albanians, Bosnians and Kosovans). My mother works on a very deprived and largely white estate in south London and the story is pretty much the same there (although they didn’t vote BNP – they switched from solid Labour to Lib Dem in this election). Even Asian people are known to be hostile to some of the new immigrants (see this post for example.

4. orchid - 9 May 2006

I don’t know how relevant this is to the discussion here, but I’ve noted, (at least in the tiny Canadian province that I live in) that even economic prosperity is pushing people rightwards, both immigrants and non-immigrants.

Ofcourse, the right I’m talking about is a mainstream political party and probably isn’t even xenophobic but still, it wasn’t the party of choice for immigrants. All that is gradually changing now, with more and immigrants openly supporting it.

The rapid economic prosperity and next to nothing unemployement has meant that people don’t see the need for the social security promised by the parties to the left or centre and are more concerned about enjoying and preserving their new found wealth via promised lower taxes by the conservatives.

The other major issue that has driven a large number of immigrants away from their traditional party lines is the debate on redefining marriage to include non-traditional marriages. The parties to the left, due to their stance on equal rights to every type of minority were and are quite clear on their support for the non-traditional definition of marriage and that was enough to push away large chunks of religious immigrants to the party that opposed it.

So it’s quite a sticky situation, you have relative poverty and the right gains votes and you have relative prosperity and the right gains votes.

5. Moderate Enlightenment » Some more Barking - 4 June 2006

[…] My prolonged exile from blogosphere during mid-May meant that I was not able to contribute to the comments left by Yusuf and Orchid on the BNP Election victory post – probably a bit late to develop meaningful discussion, but I will give it a try! Yusuf had said: Last time I was in Barking there were (at least) two mosques very near Barking town centre, which points to a substantial Asian community, similar to that of nearby Ilford. Which suggests that the BNP vote may not have come from Barking at all – more likely anywhere the “white trash” you referred to live. Bear in mind also the hostility is less towards Asians (despite the gang’s use of anti-Muslim rhetoric up north) as to so-calledABCs (Albanians, Bosnians and Kosovans). […]


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