A councillor’s view on tackling the BNP


by Sunny
30th April, 2007 at 9:24 am    

PP reader and occasional commenter ‘A Councillor Writes…’ wrote an interesting post a few days ago on a previous thread which I believes deserves proper reading and discussing. I hope he or she does not mind me highlighting it, particularly since it covers some efforts by councillors to neautralise the BNP.

*****

Five years ago, in 2002, the BNP first stood in the precursor seat to my ward, they attracted a meagre 2% of the vote. In 2003, they didn’t bother. In 2004, when the boundaries changed they got 15% of the vote with one candidate in an “all-up” contest (i.e. all three councillors for re-election) – this usually enhances the vote of the smaller parties. In 2006, with a traditional one on one election, they got under 20% of the vote. All of this was done with very little campaigning, the odd bit of door to door work and the odd (very odd in one case) leaflet, but no concerted campaign.

Where did this increase come from? Well, a common comment is that it came out of the votes of the main parties by voters disenchanted with their similarity and that has a share in the truth, but I suspect that many of their voters actually hadn’t voted for some time.

Why this increase? My ward is a mainly white working class ward, it has some middle-class pockets, less than one-fifth of the electorate are from a BME (Black Minority Ethnic) background. It has high residual unemployment where there used to be well-paid skilled jobs and high levels of perceived anti-social behaviour and crime (neither are as high as they are perceived to be). There are considerable housing pressures within the ward, with a high number of “hidden households” and average houseprices well above the required sums for a couple to buy a house.

Over the last ten years, there has been a considerable increase in the BME population – many of which have moved into social housing properties because of the higher levels of multiple housing need amongst some of the BME communities. Over the last three years a considerable number of Eastern Europeans have come to live in the ward, the latter has increased private rental prices considerable whilst competing for the pool of jobs available in the area.

The downtown area has been extensively and expensively regenerated, what was a declining shopping area and nighttime crime area is now a bustling area with excellent shops, good nightlife and lots of apartments with ‘City Living’. Many inner city areas have also received extensive and much needed funding to deal with the many problems in those areas.

Very little has been spent on the outer former council estate areas which now have identikit shopping parades with two takeaways, a newsagents/offie/general store, a hairdressers/tanning salon/nail salon and an estate agents . We have poor facilities available to the public (a common problem of mainly social housing areas of the interwar and postwar periods).

I have no doubt that the BNP and it’s ilk have a small core vote of stone racists and nazi worshippers.

I have very little doubt that there are other people who happily vote for them knowing full well what they are like because what they say echoes with what they are feeling about unemployment, housing and the decline and lack of investment in the area. They may not be the most politically correct people in the world, but they aren’t hardcore haters and they are voting as a message to the political establishment.

They have an increasing number of older people supporting them because they are more comfortable with the social message of the BNP than that of the main parties.

In trying to combat this – they have three councillors who try to keep them informed (regular newsletters every couple of months) and take action on local problems and help them with casework. We are elected with around 50% of the vote. One of the other mainstream parties is also active and does some good work and keeps us on our toes, we have some very good community organisations and residents associations – although they tend to dip from the same pool of people, many of whom are retired.

The schools are at worst above average and the best of them are excellent. Our local police are friendly, approachable, have increased their visibilty and taken on more resident-centric methods of policing. We have attempted to wisely spent our small amounts of regeneration funding. All this helps to keep the wolf from the door.

“Hope not Hate” and other associated campaigns may keep areas from electing BNP members and that’s good (although some of their literature is rather “preachy”), but it only offers a short-term solution. There are fundamental problems that need to be sorted out before things will improve that the 57 varieties of Britism proto-facism return to the insignificance they once held.

We need to smarten up even further, as elected members and as active citizens. We need work as catalysts for community interaction to bring people together. We need to work harder not just on the day to day issues, nut on capacity building in community organisations and on gaining inward funding. Most of all we need confidence in ourselves and our community to do these tasks.

As a final comment, more picklers in electoral politics, yes please. You’ll be younger than the average, I suspect better educated than the average and will come from different socio-economic backgrounds to many of us. Of course, you may not like the hours or the wages, but the rewards are different to what you’ll get in any other “job”.

But the one thing you can do, if you have local elections this year is vote.

I’m not going to ask you to vote for my party, I’ll ask you to vote for the person who you feel will do the best job for all the people in your area. But please vote, it’s important and if the BNP are standing in your area, remember, every vote in the box that isn’t for them, is against them.

*****
This was slightly edited down. It was first posted here.


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  1. ChrisC — on 30th April, 2007 at 10:38 am  

    This acknowledges the issues but says nothing concrete about tackling them or the BNP, does it?

    “We need work as catalysts for community interaction to bring people together.”

    Erm, OK…

  2. Kismet Hardy — on 30th April, 2007 at 10:44 am  

    Pass me the piss pipe

  3. sonia — on 30th April, 2007 at 10:58 am  

    taking an interest in local government and what’s actually going on in terms of regeneration – yep these are definitely positive things.

  4. Refresh — on 30th April, 2007 at 11:56 am  

    “We need work as catalysts for community interaction to bring people together.”

    Erm, OK…

    Actually Chris this is a fundamental point. The breakdown of our communities and the lack of pride in people supposedly doing menial jobs, the onslaught faced by the Unions in the 80s all contributed to where we are today.

  5. ally — on 30th April, 2007 at 11:57 am  

    This is an interesting and, I think, very convincing post.

    One element I think it misses is a resentment against so-called political correctness. There is currently a disconnect between what people feel they would like to say and do, and what people feel they are allowed to say and do.

    On the one hand, that makes me think, well tough. I’ve got no time for the attitude that says ‘you can’t even call someone a Paki these days without being accused of being a racist’ or ‘I’m not even allowed to beat my own kids in the privacy of my own home without some PC Social Worker interfering.’

    On the other hand, there are plenty of people who genuinely hold little or no malice towards ethnic minorities who nevertheless wouldn’t think twice about referring to ‘the Paki shop.’ Likewise there are good people who discipline their children with a slap. They don’t want to think of themselves as racist or as violent bullies and they resent the implication that they are. This resentment is of course stoked up massively by the tabloids (& the Mail & Express in particular) with their ‘political correctness gone mad’ and ‘Christmas is cancelled’ bollocks. But people are genuinely fed up of being patronised and lectured at by the political & media establishment.

    Now personally, as a lefty/progressive/PC/Guardian reading community media worker, I’m at the forefront of this – more to blame than anyone. I’m not apologising because I think it is right to purge racism from language where possible and right to purge violence from childhood where possible, but I have to acknowledge that there is a significant minority of society that ‘we’ haven’t brought with us on this. We’ve tended to lecture, patronise and abuse people rather than persuade them of the merits of our case (see the Jade Goody media witch-burning for example) I think voting BNP for many people is a way of sticking up two fingers to the new liberal-progressive consensus. It’s actually an expression of conservatism (very small ‘c’) rather than of ultra-right radicalism.

    Whether that makes it any less dangerous or not I’m not sure.

  6. sonia — on 30th April, 2007 at 12:08 pm  

    i think ally makes some good points in her post.

  7. sonia — on 30th April, 2007 at 12:10 pm  

    4. refresh – yes but noone ever says what they think will ‘bring people together’ –> or yeah, everyone thinks that’s what should be done – but there are very divergent views on how to achieve *that*. i thought that this was Chris’s point. yes it’s nice ‘bring people together’ but isn’t this what we’ve all been grappling with for centuries?

  8. sonia — on 30th April, 2007 at 12:11 pm  

    i don’t mean me personally of course ! ( ha ha vampire alert..) but that if we look in the layers of history – that’s pretty much a theme that runs through different time periods and conflicts.

  9. sonia — on 30th April, 2007 at 12:12 pm  

    referring to something as the ‘paki shop’ i can’t see as problematic if people are okay referring to someone as ‘that white person’ – where’s the difference – if we are using ‘race’ as a descriptive marker?

  10. Refresh — on 30th April, 2007 at 12:13 pm  

    Sonia – fair point.

    Perhaps I might get some time to put up a post on that.

  11. ally — on 30th April, 2007 at 12:25 pm  

    sonia “referring to something as the ‘paki shop’ i can’t see as problematic if people are okay referring to someone as ‘that white person’ – where’s the difference – if we are using ‘race’ as a descriptive marker?”

    The difference is that ‘that white person’ is not pejorative. Nobody has ever chased me down the street with a baseball bat shouting ‘f’cking white person!’

  12. Kismet Hardy — on 30th April, 2007 at 12:33 pm  

    Because most paki shops are owned by patels who are of Indian origin

  13. lithcol — on 30th April, 2007 at 12:51 pm  

    My local shops, just four, are run by Turkish Cypriots, Shri Lankan, Ugandan Asian, Greek Cypriot. The Italian fish and chip shop owner returned to Italy last year to retire.

    We all get on fine, but there is a lot of discussion about the recent influx of Eastern Europeans and their effects on local flat rents and availability. Plus a certain amount of rudeness and drunkenness associated with aforementioned using these shops. They are mainly young men.

    I have heard the term dumb Pollack used which as you are all aware is very insulting and similar to the use of the term Paki.

  14. Anas — on 30th April, 2007 at 12:57 pm  

    I saw some graffiti on the wall of my local off-license. At first I looked and I thought it said “fuck the polish”, and I thought, wow, looks like the next generation of racist slurs and abuse is upon us. But when I looked again it turned out it just said “fuck the polis”.

  15. sonia — on 30th April, 2007 at 1:38 pm  

    “The difference is that ‘that white person’ is not pejorative.”

    :-) clearly you’ve not heard a lot of the stuff from ‘inside’ the asian community : ‘what you’re hanging out with the goras? why are you going to the pub> do you think you’re a white person..’

    kismet- i suppose white can be a similar ‘blanket’ reference in the way ‘paki’ is used..that was my point i guess.

  16. ChrisC — on 30th April, 2007 at 1:40 pm  

    Sonia – precisely.
    What *exactly* is meant by “catalysts for interaction” etc.??

    Sounds like one of those dreadful public sector job ads.

  17. sonia — on 30th April, 2007 at 1:54 pm  

    my point isn’t to say that what you’re saying Ally is invalid: simply that there are multiple levels of the pejorative use of terms – let’s not see this all as ‘one-sided’. believe me when i tell you there is plenty of use of ‘white person’ type terms which reflect the same sort of thinking , stereotypes, generalisations behind usage of terms like ‘paki’. generally what they have in common ( in my opinion) is a reflection of feelings of alienation of some sort from this ‘Other’.

    infact the reason why the situation is so complicated now is there is a lot of this happening on many levels and it is feeding off each other. so you have a lot of people dissatisfied and seeing each other as the ‘other/enemy’ etc.

  18. sonia — on 30th April, 2007 at 1:55 pm  

    “Sounds like one of those dreadful public sector job ads.”

    heh that’s true Chris – ..in attempts to try and recruit people who can then write Community Cohesion strategies!

  19. ally — on 30th April, 2007 at 1:58 pm  

    sonia – there are loads of pejorative terms used against white people by different communities… from the linguistically interesting (‘goras’) to the predictable (‘whitey’) to the imaginative (‘ghosts’) to the comical (‘honkies’).

    All of those are equivalent (without getting into the old debates about whether black/Asian on white racism is as damaging as white on black/Asian racism)

    I’d say ‘white person’ is roughly equivalent to ‘Asian person’ or ‘black person’ – ie it can be used pejoratively if you want it to (‘have you been hanging out with the Asians again?’) but the word itself is neutral and inoffensive. You can’t say that about the more aggressively insulting racial epithets, can you?

    Anas – brilliant story. Love it.

  20. Kismet Hardy — on 30th April, 2007 at 2:04 pm  

    “I saw some graffiti on the wall of my local off-license. At first I looked and I thought it said “fuck the polish”, and I thought, wow, looks like the next generation of racist slurs and abuse is upon us. But when I looked again it turned out it just said “fuck the polis”.”

    Do you think it was a polish grafitti artist?

  21. Soso — on 30th April, 2007 at 4:12 pm  

    Can some of the unemployment be explained by visible minorities not appplying for jobs out of fear of encountering racism?

    Is race-hysteria…the threat of encountering racism even where that possibility doesn’t exist demoralise, undermine and attentuate the enthusiaism, stamina and efforts demonstrated by ethnic minorities when seeking employment?

    On other words is too much talk of racism by white progressives creating an atmosphere of defeatism among certain minorities?

  22. Brian — on 30th April, 2007 at 9:18 pm  

    It says a lot for the state of local and national politics that it needs the BNP standing in your area to make you buck your ideas up.

  23. Bijna — on 3rd May, 2007 at 8:33 pm  

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