Posted Under: Elections,Green Party,Labour,Racism/Fascism
As a lefty and an ethnic minority who has always campaigned for the rights of immigrants and against the division of racial hatred, I think it’s fair to say that I have a little bit of a vested interest in Nick Griffin failing to oust Margaret Hodge in Barking to become the BNP’s first MP. I respect the need to build as broad an anti-fascist vote as possible, and recognise that splitting it presents dangers. However, in this instance, I believe Barking Green Party are absolutely right to stand a candidate in the forthcoming general election.
Green Left has always argued against standing in Barking. In response to the decision, Derek Wall posted the following statement:
Green Left regrets the decision of Barking Green Party to stand a candidate in the forthcoming general election in the constituency of Barking against the wishes of the London Federation of Green Parties. While recognising the right of local parties to take their own decision based on local knowledge, factors etc, we regard this as a political mistake and a retrograde step under the circumstances where a high profile BNP candidate (Nick Griffin) is standing. While the actions of New Labour have been largely instrumental in leading to the rise of the BNP, we consider any split in the anti-Fascist vote in Barking extremely dangerous and it opens up the possibility of a BNP breakthrough.
A breakthrough by the BNP would silence any victory Greens will make in Brighton Pavilion and will act as a recruiting sergeant to the politics of hatred espoused by the BNP. The BNP is a fascist, racist and homophobic organization that stands for an all-white Britain , the destruction of trade unions and deny the holocaust happened.. Where the BNP have elected representatives that crimes against black and minority ethnic and hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people mushroom. The primary aim of the Barking Green Party should be avoiding the election of the BNP’s first MP. We agree to campaign with other organisations to maximise the anti-Fascist vote in Barking.
Green Left are right to say that a BNP victory will cast a very long and very black media shadow over Caroline Lucas’s potential win in Brighton. They are also correct that a seat in the House of Commons for Nick Griffin will be a clarion call for the far-right and place discriminatory policies at the heart of British politics. However, in their condemnation of Barking Green Party’s decision to stand a candidate, I believe they have somewhat missed the mark. The reason for this is two-fold.
1) ‘I’m not racist, but…’ It’s a common caveat in the media that not everyone who votes for the BNP is a racist. Whilst it is plain to all but the insane and the idiotic that the BNP’s core members and leadership remain little more than neo-Nazis who’ve learned how to tie a half-Windsor, it would be fair to say that the majority of the party’s near one million voters would not describe themselves as Nazis, fascists or racists. Many cite their reason for voting BNP as disenchantment with mainstream politics, they see little difference between the three main parties, they feel their votes do not count for anything and so they cast a protest vote for a radical party making a lot of noise. Insofar as this is true, the Greens pulling out of Barking would only further entrench the feeling that none of the parties are speaking to voters. More than removing a key second protest choice in the Green candidate, it would send the message that voters must back Labour and re-elect Margaret Hodge. And angry voters do not like being told what to do!
2) ‘Actually I am a bit racist…’ It would be difficult to deny that the BNP have successfuly capitalised on media moral panic and in doing so have placed issues of race and immigration squarely at the heart of the political agenda. Rather than act to stem the rise of the far-right by promoting tolerance and diversity, Labour has played to people’s fears, trying to undermine the BNP’s support by proposing inadvisable policies that promote discrimination and division. Only last week, in a desparate bid to hold onto her seat, Margaret Hodge proposed that migrants must earn the rights people born in this country take for granted, such as social housing and benefits, in a new points-based system determined by length of residence or national insurance contributions. Instead of tackling head-on the lies and obfuscations of the BNP and the right-wing tabloids that have done more than anyone to lift them onto the national stage, Hodge has bought straight into the racist agenda by proposing legitimate immigrants become second-class citizens. Can we, should we, really be asking anti-racist campaigners to vote for that?
In my opinion, the Green Party are absolutely correct to stand in Barking, to give voters a real choice and to make a real anti-racist challenge. No one wants to see Nick Griffin beat Margaret Hodge, as wholly unpalatable as her proposals are, but in calling for their party to step aside, Green Left are barking up the wrong tree.