The evening rush outside the Vicarage Fields shopping centre in Barking has the skin tones of many of our major cities. A white English woman in a shiny black raincoat hurries to a cash machine. Another woman of Chinese extraction walks by, her neck protected by a fake-fur lining. Two Asian men in jogging gear chat behind her. A black man folds his newspaper and hurries home.Oh, what a wonderful multicultural Garden of Eden (despite the hideous carbuncle that is Barking Train Station), eh, Hugh? How pleased you must be to see this, in the, ooh, let’s be generous and say three hours, four tops, you might have spent in Barking before fleeing back to the safety of Grauniad HQ.
Did you think to enquire if the ‘white English woman’ was happy with the way Barking has changed? Or didn’t it occur to you?
But it seems there’s a serpent whispering to the inhabitants of Barking, and Hugh cannot let that go without challenge:
Many people from different parts of the world have alighted here in Barking and this week Nick Griffin of the British National party announced that, come the next election, he plans to be their MP.Which is unlikely, as it’s a Labour stronghold, though admittedly the BNP have done well there in the past.
The far right already forms the official opposition to Labour in Barking and Griffin sees easy pickings from the corpse of an old Labour fiefdom. He might be right. But Darren Rodwell tells me he may have to think again.Oh, really? And what does Darren Rodwell (who he? We’ll find out) plan to do about it?
For things have been happening on the ground, things that might help Labour make up years of neglect that left estates vulnerable to the appeal of the BNP. It's not based on morality or political philosophy, he tells me. Those aren't the key drivers of opinion. It's practical. It has to be.So, what’s the magic formula that will turn the Barking voter away from the BNP?
Please tell me it isn't the useless UAF, who decided to support the RMT in a demo against the BNP on Thursday, and all assembled outside Upney Tube Station, with a BBC reporter filming them...while Griffin went to Barking Town Hall!
The response, says Rodwell, born and bred in the area, must also be about the nuts and bolts, reconnecting with erstwhile supporters, showing empathy.And they plan to do this by resolving the pressing issues with immigration, lack of housing and crime?
That is why this year, Rodwell, 39, a tenants association leader and a Labour agent, has helped Margaret Hodge, his much-maligned MP, and other volunteers, deliver more than 150,000 letters and leaflets. They have knocked on 22,000 doors; made around 9,000 contacts; delivered 20,000 questionnaires. The politics of shoe leather.They knocked on 22,000 doors and made 9,000 ‘contacts’. That’s just half.
And how many of those 9,000 told them they’d happily vote Labour as a result? How many told them something else?
Griffin will inevitably work hard – unlike some of his councillors in the town hall – for he sees the opportunity of a lifetime here. But Rodwell tells me that Labour, having realised where it went so wrong in its heartland, is ready to work harder.Yeah. It’s ready to…well, spin. And avoid the issues. And send out leaflets.
That’ll do the trick, I’m sure.
And I can’t leave this post without uploading a screengrab of this article this morning, showing that the Grauniad’s reputation for poor editing is still intact:
They've fixed it now, sadly...