Of all the disappointed of this election, Nick Griffin’s party were the biggest losers. How Barking and Dagenham saw off the BNP.
by Billy Bragg
Well, what an incredible 24 hours. Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru … none lived up to their aspirations on the night.
But if this was an election in which everybody lost, what has become clear is that no party lost as badly as the British National party. This was going to be their big breakthrough – the perfect storm in which anger about immigration gave them control of a London borough council and a seat at Westminster.
Now that the votes have been counted, the people of Barking and Dagenham, the town that the press dubbed the “race hate capital of Britain”, have spoken: the BNP have been wiped out in the borough. Not only did Nick Griffin fail in the parliamentary election, but the BNP lost its entire slate of 12 council seats, including senior official Richard Barnbrook.
And right across the country, BNP candidates have gone down to heavy defeat.
This is a huge victory for the antifascist movement. Hundreds of activists have made the trip up the District Line to Barking and Dagenham in the past few weeks. Hope Not Hate, a non-partisan organisation led by Searchlight magazine and supported by trade unions, organised a forensic campaign that identified and then got out the anti-BNP vote.
Almost 1,000 volunteers came through the doors of the Hope Not Hate HQ, distributing 130,000 leaflets aimed at pensioners, black and Asian voters, young voters, women voters and male voters who had been identified as opposing the BNP. The results of this massive effort were visible when Barking’s Labour MP, Margaret Hodge, defied all the night’s trends and the laws of gravity by increasing her majority.
The people of Barking and Dagenham have resoundingly rejected the fascism of the BNP. Now the Labour party needs to begin to address the genuine concerns of the local population, white and black, about jobs, housing, education and health care. It was these issues – and the pressure put on them by incomers looking for the cheapest housing in London – that allowed the BNP to gain a foothold in the borough.
That is for the future. For now, while the rest of the country wonders what happened yesterday, those of us who have campaigned hard against the BNP and what it stands for can begin to believe that, with the loss of their stronghold in east London, we have passed the postwar high water mark of the racist right.
For this generation of antifascist activists, Barking and Dagenham is our Cable Street. No Pasaran!
Video: Billy Bragg and BNP official Richard Barnbrook clash on streets of Dagenham. Barnbrook is one of 12 BNP councillors who lost their seats on 7 May