The BNP, Labour and the left: to egg or not to egg?

Yesterday I met someone who helped organise the protest at Nick Griffin’s open-air news conference next to Parliament on Tuesday, which culminated in Griffin being pelted with eggs and fleeing to his car.

Except that they didn’t pelt Griffin, or kick his car as it sped away. In fact, they were disgusted at the activists from Unite Against Fascism who indulged in such behaviour. Beside the egg-throwers on College Green were a group of trade union members from the Public and Commercial Services Union. Their plan was to shout Griffin down, using their own right to free speech to nullify his.

You may not think there’s much difference, but the differing tactics point up a divergence on the left and in Labour about how to deal with the BNP. Nowhere is this divergence clearer than in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, where the BNP are the official opposition on the council with 12 seats.

Supporters of Barking MP Margaret Hodge, who famously alienatedanti-BNP campaigners three years ago, say the best way to deal with them is to ignore the actual party while addressing the sensitive issues the BNP  uses to inflame popular opinion, like housing and other services. Meanwhile supporters of Jon Cruddas next door in Dagenham believe in the ‘Hope not Hate’ campaign run by Searchlight and heavily supported by unions. They prefer to target the BNP explicitly, refer to it by name and highlight what they see as their bonkers record in elected office. Even Searchlight and UAF, who broadly go for the same explicit approach, don’t get on.

The question of what to do with the BNP is an old one for Labour and the left. Labour’s disastrous showing in last week’s elections has brought it forward. But if Labour doesn’t come up with a coherent approach that its MPs and activists all agree on, they will suffer for it, just like they already have. More council elections are coming up next May, including… Barking and Dagenham.

P.S. Just found an interesting postfrom a Councillor Phil Andrews in Isleworth, an ex-National Front supporter and former friend of Griffin. A bit long, but it has some revealing details about the BNP’s workings (around the middle). He writes: 

“The BNP’s concerns… are not about numbers, nor for that matter about jobs, housing, education nor anything else of that kind. They are about race. Just as they were when I was involved with the far right. All that has changed, essentially, is the packaging.”

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One Response to “The BNP, Labour and the left: to egg or not to egg?”

  1. PhilC Says:

    At the local election count in Wiltshire the BNP told me: “Our aim is to beat Labour. We don’t mind being beaten by you [Green Party], we just want to beat Labour.”
    They didn’t, although Labour polled terribly (quelle surprise).

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