Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Independent community action is the key to freezing out the BNP - but don't tell the politicians!

Old mucker of mine though he may be, I can understand why there are people who would want to throw eggs at British National Party Chairman Nick Griffin. Denounced for years as the leader of a party which can trace its genealogy directly back - via the National Front, John Tyndall's Greater Britain Movement and Colin Jordan's National Socialist Movement - to Arnold Leese, the man who first conceived of gas chambers as the solution to the "problem" of Jewish people living in the world and who rejected Sir Oswald Mosley for his moderation, Griffin is now one of two men representing the BNP at the European Parliament.

The problem with Tuesday's egg-throwing protest of course, quite apart from the public order problem it presented, was not only that it allowed Griffin to emerge as the poor innocent victim making a stand for free speech against an intolerant political establishment, but also that he was granted airtime to talk about the egg throwing which he would otherwise have spent having to explain his confused and contradictory policies.

Rather than allowing him the opportunity to explain to the world why his "non-racist" party refuses to admit non-white members, or how it defines "Britishness" according to skin pigmentation rather than place of birth or length of residence, Nick Griffin was able not only
to present himself as the champion of democracy and free speech, but even to implicate the three major parties in the egg-throwing protest by virtue of the fact they have given in-principle support to the organisation he alleges to have been responsible for it.

As such there can be little doubt that this exhibition, provoked as it may have been by the powerful call of a justified indignation, came across to most as a display of petulance and an own-goal of not inconsiderable proportions.

But own-goals are what the thing once known as the "Labour movement" has become rather good at. Let us not forget that in both the North West and Yorkshire & Humber the number of votes received by the BNP actually decreased. In both cases the BNP was able to scrape home as a direct consequence of traditional Labour voters, embittered by the betrayal and arrogance of their elected representatives, staying away in protest.

As a result of Labour's failure the rest of us are compelled to share the humiliation of having sent two men to Europe to make common cause with all manner of madmen and lunatics, with all the taxpayer-funded financial benefits that will bring to themselves and their organisations.

But if the failure today is Labour's, then at other times and in other places it will be someone else's. The cyclical nature of British politics is such that the big parties take it for granted that they will have their years in the limelight and their periods in the wilderness. Who is to say that after a spell in governement it will not next time be Conservative voters who are sitting at home sulking, while the BNP sends its people to Brussels on the strength of the votes of three percent of those on the Register of Electors?

Allegiance to the big political parties, allegiances which once were handed down from father to son and which centred around whole communities, are breaking down. There is no longer any clear ideological water separating the main protagonists, and it is not today a contradiction in terms to speak of a working-class Conservative or a "socialist" millionaire. With the advance of internet technology which creates a more level playing field between those with the resources to print and distribute millions of leaflets and those without, smaller parties are becoming less small. At last Thursday's Euro elections nearly 43% of those who voted in the United Kingdom placed their cross next to the name of a party outside of the big three.

In consideration of all this, those who would have us believe that the big established parties are our only defence against the relentless onward march of fascism are short changing us. A few more votes for UKIP or the Green Party in the North West and Yorkshire & Humber would have kept both successful BNP candidates out of Europe. Big party politics didn't protect us, it failed us.

In the London Borough of Hounslow we have six political groups on the local authority where once there were two. Our own, the Independent Community Group (ICG), holds six seats and with it the balance of power on the council. In the community we talk about the issues that local people want to talk about. We get things done. With 1,500 members spread out largely over two wards signed up to a program of positive community action, radical but outspokenly anti-racist, imaginative, unconventional and people-centred there is no space in which the BNP or any other racist party could successfully operate.

And yet this is the Politics That Dare Not Speak Its Name. A popular anti-fascist blog on which I frequently post only ever blocks my contributions when I dare to suggest that it is the community itself, not the Labour Party, to which we should be looking in the fight against fascism.

The concept is not restricted to my own neighbourhood. There are residents' groups and action parties springing up all around the place which strike the same chord as we do with voters who are fed up the mainstream politicians and their parties. They are organic, supported and often joined by those whom conventional politics could never reach, and are fairly much insulated against the ebb and flow of political trends. There is not the slightest shadow of a doubt in my mind that they are, by some considerable margin, the most effective defence against organised fascism taking hold in our communities.

The problem for us for the moment is that, anti-fascism nothwithstanding, we still have more eggs thrown at us than the leader of the BNP does.


boxthejack said...

Fascinating stuff. Thanks for this.

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

Thanks for the contribution Boxthejack, and also for the short item on your site.

I've included a link to your blog. Keep up the good work.

vox populi said...

A seemingly trivial matter perhaps, but any comments on the assertion by P.Haling (HB Times 8 May) that the "I" in ICG is in fact interchangeable, depending on which part of the borough you live in !
A letter, by the way, remarkably similar to some of Mr Taylor's recent internet postings.

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

@ Vox populi

It's not really much of a big deal. We began as the Isleworth Community Group, then when we expanded beyond Isleworth we changed our title to Independent Community Group. We did this because we wanted to keep the acronym ICG.

Some people in Isleworth still like to think of us as the Isleworth Community Group and we're cool with that. It's each to their own really, there's nothing at all sinister about it as Taylor/Haling likes to imply.

Philip Booth said...

I agree with lots of what you say - the BNP gaining two MEPs is being viewed as the ultimate protest vote against the 3 main parties. However the simple fact is that this Labour government has done more to create inequality, entrench poverty, and not provide poor communities with a positive vision for the future. That has been a major contributory factor in the increase of the BNP vote.

Indeed this is sadly the biggest step forward for the far right in British history. The BNP achieved what Oswald Mosley's fascists failed to achieve in the 1930s - success in national elections. Media coverage during the campaign has pointed to BNP members' links with neo-Nazi parties in other European countries, holocaust denial, criminal convictions and so on, but there has been little scrutiny of their most outrageous policies - that includes for example its flagship policies of 'voluntary repatriation' and the dismantling of racial discrimination laws.

Communities acting - great but these BNP wins signal the even more urgent need for a complete reform of British democracy in ways that will involve and engage people far more, and make sure parliament really reflects the views of society as a whole, not just those of the biggest two parties.

There is already a petition in response to the BNP gaining the seats:

Now more than ever we need a real Green New Deal to tackle the recession and lay the basis for an economic system that's fairer as well as sustainable for future generations.

John Pendle said...

Good to speak to you about this today Phil. Things were so close in the North West and could so easily have been different. Labour has so much to answer for when it comes to their part in sending Brons and Griffin to Strasbourg and I it is incumbent on all of us nationwide to ensure that their role is fully understood in the coming months.

Charles Crawford said...


Not sure I get your core point.

You say that in pretty favourable conditions the BNP vote went down. Yet you warn of the "relentless onward march of fascism". How relentless and effective is it in fact? Not very, by the sound of things.

Which is not to say that local organisations are irrelevant. Such extremism may be failing to get far precisely because (in part) of such activity.

And is not leftist extremism and militancy no less dangerous?

My own take on the BNP is on my site: http://charlescrawford.biz/blog.php?single=1023



Anonymous said...

This is all very well but how many of the people reading this will be aware that you were once an associate of Griffin's and a leading Nazi thug in the National Front? You don't tell them that do you?

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

Presumably anybody who managed to get past the first half of the first sentence!

You guys never give up, do you Dan?

Outraged local said...

O Phil, how cruelly you've misled us !
We've been harbouring a hideous ogre all these years and just couldn't see it.
Thank goodness two public-spirited non residents of LBH have chosen to act so selflessly and expose you for the good of the whole community.
No ulterior motive, just a Samaritan-like desire to promote honesty and integrity.
True heroes - OBE material surely ?

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

I'm thinking of recommending Robin for an OBE, and Dan for an earldom.

Then, if they turn out to be the same person, he can be an Earlobe.