Barking Green Party Are Right to Make a Stand

This post was written by Salman Shaheen on February 9, 2010
Posted Under: Elections,Green Party,Labour,Racism/Fascism

Image: Daily Mail

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.

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Reader Comments


If anything I think this will actually reduce the chances of BNP getting in. People wanting to protest against the big three will have another option

Written By Greg on February 9th, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

I think you are irrelevant to the whole subject. The only people that vote Green are vegetarians and animal lovers.

Oh, I’m both and a BNP member. Ooops!

Written By Simon Bennett on February 10th, 2010 @ 12:14 am

Salman, I have to say I think you’re completely wrong on this one. Of course voters in general should be able to choose a party that represents their ideas, of course their votes should mean something, but the fact is that with the current voting system you do sometimes have to play the game negatively. The fact is that if you vote for a party that doesn’t get in your vote is essentially wasted. We have no transference and no proportional representation, so a vote for the greens in Barking, where they obviously won’t get in will actually not mean a whole lot. More broadly this isn’t a problem – it is good that the greens stand across the country as their votes are a proper protest vote, but they need to give this up when margins are tight. If Green Left’s analysis is that if they don’t stand, enough of their votes will go to Labour to make a difference (and I assume they have done this sort of research), then that is what they need to do.

Written By Jacob on February 10th, 2010 @ 9:53 am

The point is, though, doing so will only compound the sense of powerlessness voters feel which plays right into the BNP’s hands. It should be down to them whether they vote Green or Labour or even BNP. If people are voting BNP in sufficient numbers for the party to return an MP, something is going wrong in society at a much deeper level than whether one minor party chooses to stand, or even with the democratic system itself. These feelings of alienation need to be addressed, not ignored, and done so in a positive and anti-racist way. ie. exactly the way Margaet Hodge is not doing it.

Written By Salman Shaheen on February 10th, 2010 @ 10:24 am
Roland M

It is often said that George W Bush only beat Al Gore in 2000 because Ralph Nader ran….

Written By Roland M on February 11th, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

Griffin’s profile was significantly lifted by just about winning his Euro seat – an event that happened because the no2eu candidate got got more than enough votes (many of which might have gone Labour or Green otherwise)to deny the best placed left candidate (the Green Candidate in this case)getting the place instead of Griffin. It was a disaster which could surely have been foreseen. Apparently no2EU were told privately and publicly about what effect their standing in this constituency was likely to have – but to no avail.

Having been the victims of this in that election the Greens are about to make the same mistake which risks increasing Griffin’s chances.

Margaret Hodge is a shit who has done much to boost the credibility of the BNP but she is the only person now definitely able to prevent the BNP from winning the seat. There is no prospect of deselecting her and electing an alternative labour candidate at this stage. I’ve voted Green in every election for about the last 15 years but if I was living in Barking I would have no hesitation in voting for the shit Margaret Hodge – as any chance of a Griffin victory is too terrible to contemplate. And the nasty aftermath of any BNP victory there will not especially be felt by the Greens – it will by vulnerable minorities.Green Left and the London Federation of Green Parties know the score – it’s a pity their local activists in B&D don’t.

Written By DavidR on February 12th, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

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