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BNP and Local Elections


John Simkin
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The BNP won 11 seats in Dagenham & Barking on Thursday. I lived in the area when I was a child and it was always solid Labour. In fact, because of the Ford car factory, it was always a left-wing community and rarely returned any Tory councillors. According to reports, the party had only 11 people to put up as candidates. If they had more active members, they would have won more seats. I am sure they will have more candidates next time. I also expect the BNP to do well in other councils after this experience.

I am not surprised. In fact, the amazing thing is that it has taken so long in happening. I still have friends and relatives who live on the council estates of Essex. This includes former activists in the Labour Party. They are very angry and comments made to me over the last few months have suggested that this was on the cards. They see Tony Blair’s New Labour as being a middle-class party that is not interested in their problems. Interestingly, these are people who could never vote Tory, but could give their support to the BNP.

I, like other middle class professionals, am appalled by this result. I was hoping that they would switch to Respect or Green. I was talking to one woman who said she was going to vote for BNP. I asked her if she realized that the BNP was a fascist party. Yes, she said, but I am a fascist now. She had always voted Labour in the past but over the last few years has read the Daily Mail. Like in the 1930s, the right-wing press is making fascism respectable.

I don’t think this is mainly about race. However, it is about immigration. The main concern is about white immigration. Over the last few months I have had conversations with plumbers, electricians, plasters and bricklayers. They are all suffering. An electrician friend, aged 59, is currently out of work for the first time in his life. He occasionally gets the odd short-term contract but the pay is much lower than he has had in the past and barely covers his mortgage repayments. The others have all seen a decline in their wages. The reason for their plight is the importation of cheap labour from Eastern Europe.

Another friend who is in the building trade, now employs teams of workers from Eastern Europe. As he points out, they are cheaper but more importantly, they work harder. Interestingly, he used to employ labourers who were former miners from South Wales. Now he prefers workers from Poland.

Voting BNP will not change this situation but it might well change the political landscape. I cannot see the BNP winning seats in a general election. However, I can see them winning enough votes to cause Labour serious problems. The Tories are unlikely to gain from these events. They won virtually no seats in working class areas in the local elections. Who knows, the vote might be so split that Respect or the Greens might take seats as a result of the BNP intervention.

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