Friday, 30 April 2010

On The Campaign Trail In Deepest East London….

Although I don’t normally link to (or read) the ‘New Statesman’, there’s an article on the rise of the BNP and the local election campaign in Barking and Dagenham that’s very illuminating.

Though possibly not for the reasons that they might have supposed:
There was a time when Labour was so dominant in the area that it barely needed to canvass. When the Barking MP Margaret Hodge was first elected in 1994, she won with 72 per cent of the vote; in last year's European elections, Labour's share across Barking and Dagenham was 31 per cent.
Ouch! That's one hell of a drop. It also rather gives the lie to the allegation that Labour are using minorities to buy votes, though, doesn't it?

Because it certainly seems as though the people moving into B&D aren't voting Labour...
In an attempt to regain support, Hodge is hosting a question-and-answer session in a school hall with the former EastEnders actor Ross Kemp. But despite the star guest, there is little enthusiasm for Labour in the audience. Ann Steward, a member of a Becontree tenants' association, tells Hodge: "The only politician who attends our meetings is Richard Barnbrook [a BNP councillor] and that's why the BNP do so well. They come round and trim our hedges. Now the elections are looming we see Labour, but where have you been? We need your presence."
That's rather telling. Has Labour been neglecting this area because they've taken it for granted, or because they are aware that their polling is dropping and they can't find an answer?

Naturally, the Right to Buy policy of the previous Conservative government comes in for criticism, while neatly avoiding the fact that Labour have done nothing in the last 13 years to resolve that ‘problem’:
Yet it is also one of the most deprived places in the country, and the growing population puts an extra strain on public services. The problem is compounded by other London councils being allowed to place their own tenants and homeless people in private rented accommodation in the area. Even Tory-controlled Westminster - located on the other side of London and with some of Britain's most expensive streets - has placed 56 families here.
Ah. It's been used as a dumping ground then. No wonder the Labour candidate hasn't shown her face there...
There are 11,695 families on Barking and Dagenham's housing list and local anger has been directed at the new faces they see down the street. As I follow Hodge canvassing, complaints about housing crop up again and again. We hear tales of families that have had to wait three, five or even more years to get a home. One man has spent eight years living in a one-bedroom flat with his wife and four children. Hodge and her team patiently explain that this is because of the Right to Buy
While neatly avoiding the fact that they've done nothing to resolve that...
A young mother says she's considering voting BNP because she likes the party's insistence that "local people get local housing". She adds hurriedly: "I'm not racist, though - half my family are black."

Hodge, who has been dashing between doorstep conversations with a bright "Hello, I'm your MP", turns to me and grimaces, as if to say: "You see what we're up against?"
Yes. Yes, we do, Hodge. People with reasonable concerns, whom you patronise and sneer at though only ever behind their back, to the 'safe' personage of your tame left-wing journalist...
Hodge has made an effort to turn around Labour's fortunes in the borough. She has moved her office here from Westminster and last year oversaw moves to rejuvenate the local party and boost recruitment. Several councillors were deselected and the party has taken on a wave of younger, ethnically diverse members.
Ah. Well, that's a winning strategy with those white, working class voters, eh, Hodge?

Good lord, talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of...well, defeat.
“The left don't like what I've been saying," she concedes. "But I think you can puncture racism by dealing with the feeling of unfairness that people have."
Good luck with that. Since a lot of those candidates are now standing as independents, you've managed to triple the feeling of unfairness...
Under pressure from figures on the left of the party, including the Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas, Labour has in recent months begun to address the lack of affordable housing. But is it too little too late? "Both main political parties should have invested far more in affordable social housing much sooner," Hodge admits. "But social housing is not universal, it is something that has to be rationed, and socialism has always been about the language of priorities."
And if it's going to be decided on 'priorities', then immigrants and asylum seekers, with larger families and complex 'needs', are always going to score higher on that list...
Her team knocks at another door. The white-haired man in his fifties who answers says he'll vote "for whoever is going to stop all this immigration. I drive a bus, and no one on it speaks English any more."

Well, they all should speak English," Hodge replies.
And we laughed at Brown over #bigotgate...!?

Here's a woman who earlier sneered at the lady concerned over immigration despite being part of a mixed race family herself, yet happy to agree with a bus driver that the people on his bus should 'speak English'!

To whom? Each other? Would Margaret like to see official Labour Language Police walking the streets, ensuring no private conversations are ever carried out in foreign tongues??

And that's despite the fact that the government prints official documentation in all the languages under the sun!
Josephine Channer, a 31-year-old small business owner, is one of the Londoners who have been attracted to Barking by its cheap property prices. She is also a Labour council candidate, but sees things differently to Hodge. "With a lot of the white community, I think support for the BNP is just plain racism," she says.
That must go down well with your constituents, Josephine...
In the five years she has lived in Barking, Channer has seen her estate change from being largely white to a more typical urban mix.
'More typical'..? That's telling, isn't it...?
She claims to have encountered prejudice within the Labour Party. "One councillor who was deselected said that they would run as an independent if they were going to be replaced by a black candidate."
Is that so surprising? Can you now see the appeal of the BNP? Because I can...

But Josephine's fellows aren't voting for the Labour Party as a result:
Pastors in Barking's Pentecostal churches have been urging their congregations to vote for the fundamentalist Christian Party, whose leader, George Hargreaves, is also standing for parliament.

Hodge acknowledges this may split the anti-BNP vote, but plays down the threat. "I'm getting a mixed response. But I think the Christian Party is not about what I've done locally, it's about my attitude to abortion and stem-cell research."
Channer takes a bleaker view: "We've pissed off the white community, the black community, the Asian community, and now we've got to try and mend it in four weeks."
Good luck with that....


Dippyness. said...

About to make a racist remark. Did you know you can take your driving test, including the written part in Urdu?
Little wonder the BNP is gaining popularity. :(

Sue said...

Many of these people are the original inhabitants of the East End. Places like the Isle of Dogs, Stepney, Bow, Hackney, Plaistow, Canning Town, East Ham, West Ham, Silvertown, infact all around that area.

Forty years ago, these areas were white. (I know, I lived there). Now they're 98% immigrant.

Essex and the surrounding counties are where the white families escaped to.

Now they're being driven out again but this time, there's nowhere to go that they can afford.

What do politicians expect? It's going to get much worse. Just wait until people actually get angry.

Multiculturalism does not work unless newcomers integrate and are made to wait their turn with housing and other essential services.

Chuckles said...

'the Barking MP Margaret Hodge'

The phrase does have a certain ring to it doesn't it, on so many levels?

The Great Simpleton said...

I can't decide if the instant gratification of of seeing Hodge doing a Portillo is going to be greater than the long term dismay at seeing Nick Griffin's smirking mug in Parliament for up to 5 years.

Didn't Hodge become a PPC when Parliament was dissolved?

Mark Wadsworth said...

I still say that the BNP are f***ing mentally ill.

For sure, there are foreigners in this country not conducive to the common good - whether that's a hundred or hundreds of thousands is a moot point - but their idea of paying 'foreigners' (as defined) £50,000 each to bugger off will simply not work on a practical or administrative level (what about coloured British people? What about mixed race? What about the people who take the £50,000 and then just sneak back in and claim it again? What about those who take the money and just go undergound? Fake identities?), let alone being ruinously expensive.

So why not take that £50,000 and just build a new home for a 'white British' family on the (criminally long) waiting list?

If the BNP say they will prioritise 'white British' families in allocating the housing then how is that in any way worse than prioritising 'single mothers' or Afghan or Somali refugees? The simple fact is, it's not worse, and all things considered, slightly better (although not perfect either).

Foxy Brown said...


ditto Enfield, and adjoining areas, in north London. Those who can, i.e the young and solvent, are rapidly decamping.

@The Great Simpleton,

smirking mug (with a dodgy glass eye) versus condescending Lady Bountiful. They're both as bad as each other. Having said that I really want the BNP to take this seat. It'll shock the political establishment and force its hand to tackle the immigration mess.

Resources are finite and this country cannot house, educate and provide free healthcare for half the world.

JuliaM said...

"Did you know you can take your driving test, including the written part in Urdu?"


Mind you, how long before some of the roadsigns are too?!

"What do politicians expect? It's going to get much worse. Just wait until people actually get angry."

Will they, though? As long as 'X Factor' and 'Britain's Got Talent' are on...

"The phrase does have a certain ring to it doesn't it, on so many levels?"

Indeed! :)

"What about the people who take the £50,000 and then just sneak back in and claim it again? "

They have already done that with the government's bribes...

JuliaM said...

"Having said that I really want the BNP to take this seat. It'll shock the political establishment and force its hand to tackle the immigration mess. "

I'm in two minds. Like Sue, I know the aerea well, and have friends and family there.

It'll certainly be one to watch on May 6th!

Anonymous said...

"Ouch! That's one hell of a drop."

Not really, not if you look at the actual number of votes for Labour:-

European Election - 11,236

1994 by-election - 13,704

And only two years previously Labour had won with 18,224 - 51% of the vote...