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The BNP & the effects of their election result in Barking and Dagenham
As has been widely covered in the media, the BNP lost 27 councillors in the 2010 local elections, only retaining two that were up for re-election. Although they still have 19 councillors nationally.
Their biggest drubbing came in Barking and Dagenham where they lost all 12 seats after it had been widely reported that they could take control of the council.
On the surface it would appear the BNP have been beaten, or even at least severely wounded but this is the easy way to look at it.
Whilst anti-racist campaigners did have an effect in mobilising the anti BNP vote in Barking and Dagenham, the biggest factor in determining their council loss was the effect of the general election and the squeeze on all smaller parties as the election drew nearer and the threat of the Tories drew out the Labour vote. This effect was seen across the majority of London council elections.
As well as this although turnout was over 62%, a massive increase on 2006, and the focus of campaigns including Unite against Fascism (UAF) and Hope Not Hate (HNH) did bring out an anti BNP vote, on the whole the BNP’s vote stayed strong. In the council elections in Barking and Dagenham 21 of 33 candidates got over 900 votes. Across the council they took nearly 29,000 votes.
Despite Griffin’s 6,600 vote being significantly lower than they expected it was still their highest ever general election result. The 526,000 they got nationally was an increase from 192,000 in 2005.
It’s clear from these figures that the BNPs core base has not been dramatically affected in these elections and the fact that they have claimed 8,000 enquiries about joining in the 6 weeks of their election campaign shows the BNP have not gone away.
What seems to be the biggest stumbling block for the BNP is their lack of ability to understand or see the broader processes that are taking place in society around these elections. They don’t look at the national trend of an increased Labour vote brought out by the threat of a Tory government, the increased turnout that the tight election provoked or the vacuum they are able to exploit at the expense of the lack of a real alternative for working class people to look towards.
"We’re finished in Barking and Dagenham"
Instead Griffin speaking after the result effectively said ‘we’re finished in Barking and Dagenham, it’s over’.
In the BNP’s post election analysis he says “the most sobering reality we must now face is the demographic disaster unfolding all over the country, but especially in Barking and Dagenham and London… The simple fact is this: we have been swamped by immigrants”.
He says the loss is “not an indictment of our councillors or our own leadership but simply the result of a paradigm shift in the quality of Labours election winning machine”.
“By the next general election London will be completely unassailable, colonised and in truth no longer part of Britain… We need to develop a new strategy to protect our dispossessed and marginalised people in these ‘occupied territories’”.
This extremely confused perspective coupled with their internal wrangling, the fact that they are incapable of using their elected positions in a credible way to build their bases, for example 8 of their 12 councillors elected in Barking and Dagenham in 2006 didn’t stand for re-election in 2010, shows they are in crisis of where to go next now that, on the surface, they have taken an electoral mauling.
HNH and UAF seem to be incapable of putting forward a viable strategy of how to fight the BNP or analysis of the future developments of the far-right in Britain.
UAF attribute some of the BNP’s defeat to the increased turnout and general election alongside their campaign to bring out the anti-BNP majority. At the same time however, they have large quotes from Margaret Hodge (voted for the war, top-up fees, ID cards, foundation hospitals) and other Labour MPs congratulating them on their campaign plastered all over their election analysis with no criticism of their policies and the ground they laid for the BNP in the first place.
HNH resort to the supernatural to explain the result; “Twelve elected in 2006. Twelve thrown out in 2010. A ruthless purge, more shocking because they didn’t see it coming. Neither, for that matter, did their opponents. It was the miracle of Barking”. They then go on to say that the next step, rather than building a viable alternative that can fight back against the huge attacks on public services, is a turn to Labour- “A widely shared thought is that the BNP was overwhelmed by the sort of grassroots activism that must now become a template if there is to be resurgence for the Labour Party”.
This is the same hated Labour Party that has presided over the most brutal attacks on jobs and services in Barking and Dagenham where 39.5 per cent of Barking residents aged 16 to 74 have no qualifications, and NHS cuts go alongside almost a fifth of the borough's population having a limiting long-term illness. It is the result of Labour’s failure that gave room for the BNP to be an alternative and pose as the party for white workers.
If anything the Labour Party and Hodge recognise the gulf they have created for the BNP to exploit when Hodge says to a voter; “because it’s just such a battle between us the BNP, if you would just hold your nose and vote for us we could then get rid of the BNP out of the borough and then we could have normal politics back again”.
What are ‘normal politics’? For Hodge and Labour it is a continuation of anti-working class policies like the scaling back of the Ford plant that led to a reduction from 40,000 skill workers to 4,000 or the number of council house being cut from 40,000 to 20,000 over the past 20 years despite massive waiting lists.
The Labour Party run council and Hodge over the next 4 years will be put to the test as they come under pressure from the working class that came out and voted for them in order to stop the Tories and BNP. They will also face pressure from the ConDem government that will be forcing through massive cuts including over 30% council cuts over the next 3-5years.
YRE call on the Labour Council to take the ‘Liverpool road’ and refuse to implement the cuts of the ConDem budget like the Militant led Liverpool City Council in 1984-86, instead demanding money from the government to fund their council house building project amongst others.
Barking Council should call a conference of council trade unions, service users, Tenants Associations and community groups to draw up a budget based on the need for local services. This should be the start of organising a mass campaign in support of the council's demands for the government to fund this needs budget. If Labour councillors in Barking - and other areas - don’t take this stand and continue to implement cuts, working-class people will still look for an alternative.
There is a desperate need for a new party to unite working-class people in the huge battles to come. Without a genuine political alternative to channel and organise people's anger and frustration into united action, the door will be open even wider for the growth of far-right groups like the BNP, English Defence League and others.