June 30, 2009
The Rev Robert West is at the centre of a row over his ministerial moniker, which he claimed was genuine - even though he admitted he had no current connection to any Christian denomination.
When questioned, Mr West, who lives in Holbeach in Lincolnshire, said: “It's been dealt with once and I don't have to justify myself.”
He said he had explained himself and shown his ordination certificate on a TV show in recent months, and said he had been advised “not to go through it all again”.
He said he had been “ordained as an elder” of the Apostolic Church of Wales some years ago. He claimed the word “elder” in the New Testament came from a Greek word meaning “priest”.
Mr West, who will be bidding to win the vacant Norwich North seat once the by-election date has been announced, said: “Ordination means recognition. It's simply recognition of what you are. It recognises your gifts.”
Meanwhile, UKIP leader Nigel Farrage was in Norwich yesterday outlining how his party planned to reach out to traditional Labour voters and Tories disenchanted with David Cameron's Conservative Party.
Norwich Evening News
June 29, 2009
There are three clear facts that need to be remembered at the outset of this article. The first is that the British National Party has won two seats in the European Parliament. This provides it with the platform, financial clout and semi-respectability from which it hopes to build future success at a local and even parliamentary level over the coming year. Secondly, their election is a game changer. Debates around no platform, access to the media and political representation will change whether we like it or not and we will need to adapt accordingly. Finally, and in terms of this article probably most importantly, anti-fascism can be successful particularly if it becomes more organised. While I will argue that only by addressing the public policy issues that give rise to the BNP and challenging the racism at the core of its support can the far right be properly defeated, anti-fascism, particularly at a local level, can halt and even reverse its growth.
It is also important to dispel two widely (though separately) held assumptions. Firstly, this is not the protest vote against mainstream parties and useless locally elected representatives that many politicians would like us to believe. It is an increasingly hard and loyal vote which is based on political and economic insecurities and moulded by deep-rooted racial prejudice. This in turn is linked with a second myth, that the way to beat the BNP is simply to tack left and offer more socialistic policies. While this might peel off some BNP supporters who feel economically marginalised, it will not in itself address the strongly held racist views of many BNP voters.
As the YouGov poll (see below) clearly shows, the racism of many BNP voters goes well beyond simple opposition to current immigration and eastern European migrant workers which one might expect if their support for the BNP was prompted simply by economic insecurity. Belief in the intellectual superiority of white people over non-whites, the view of nearly half of BNP voters that black and Asian people can never be British, the almost universal dislike of even moderate Islam and the contempt and suspicion many of their voters have towards a liberal and multicultural society show how hardline much of the BNP support is and how it will take more than a more progressive economic policy to win them back fully.
More importantly, and regularly overlooked by politicians, activists and commentators alike, are issues around identity. As I have discussed before, the BNP is emerging as the voice of a forgotten working class, which increasingly feels left behind and ignored by mainstream society. As the YouGov research confirms, the majority of BNP voters feel that the Labour Party, for many their traditional political home, has moved away from them and is now dominated by a middle-class London elite who care more for Middle England and the interests of minority groups than for them.
Class politics exists but not as we once knew it. The Labour Party, in line with many other centre-left parties across western European and Scandinavia, draws the bulk of its support from the middle class, public sector workers and minority communities, especially in the big cities. The BNP, on the other hand, is the voice of a section of the white working class, particularly in those areas of traditional industry that have experienced the greatest economic and social upheaval over the past twenty years.
Most of the local authorities with the biggest BNP vote are in areas once dominated by the car, steel, coal or ceramic industries. All have gone, and those people able to leave have left. While some new jobs have replaced those lost, the work is generally lower skilled, short-term and further away from their home. In addition to economic difficulties the identity of the areas has collapsed, leaving behind a confused, resentful and alienated minority. This is the cultural war that the BNP has cleverly exploited, particularly by tapping in to people’s paranoia that outside forces are deliberately conspiring against them and giving preferential treatment to others (viewed by most BNP voters as undeserving).
However, all is not lost. While the BNP vote edged up it did not make the sweeping gains it and others predicted. The vast majority of voters still reject the BNP and many of those equally disillusioned with the political process did not vote BNP but stayed at home.
Addressing the widespread economic insecurities, solving the democratic deficit and forging new progressive identities requires public policy changes that are beyond the remit of the HOPE not hate campaign and anti-fascism generally. We can mobilise the anti-BNP vote and even sometimes suppress the pro-BNP vote but we cannot build houses and reduce waiting lists; we cannot prevent undercutting of wages and the abuse of migrant workers. Local anti-fascist movements cannot get resources into communities, often the poorest, dealing with extraordinary levels of migration.
That is the job of politicians and political parties. It is their failure currently to do so that is resulting in the increasing tribalism of local politics along racial and religious lines.
Making a difference
What we can do, however, is make a difference on the ground. And we do. Results in several local authority areas in the European elections showed the BNP vote (both actual and share of the vote) down compared to 2004. Among these areas were Burnley, Pendle and Oldham in the North West, Bradford and Kirklees in West Yorkshire, and Sandwell and Dudley in the West Midlands.
A common factor in all these areas has been the intensity of local anti-BNP campaigns, which has been all year round and not just a leaflet at an election.
And this sets the model for the year ahead. We will go into the 2010 local elections with an emboldened and financially secure BNP and we believe the number of council wards at risk is now over 150 across the country. The BNP’s main target will be Barking and Dagenham where it will be looking to take control of the council.
To fight the BNP effectively we must move away from city and town centre events to focusing on the very communities where the BNP is drawing its support. We need to return to localised leaflets and newsletters, tapping into the local identities of neighbourhoods and addressing local issues to undermine the BNP’s message of hate.
Smaller, local events are more important than one-off larger ones. The recent anti-racist carnival in Stoke-on-Trent might have been attended by 15,000 people but was it really the best use of £300,000? Even the carnival the year before, in Hackney, might have been attracted 60,000, but what impact does it have on the London hotspots such as Barking and Dagenham and Havering?
The effort required to put on and build such an event drains and diverts activism away from local campaigning, which will be the priority in 2010. Of course in the ideal world we would like both big national events and smaller local events, but where funds and activism are limited this is not possible.
A proper local strategy requires us to localise our campaigning. What works in one area will not work in another. Talking to principally Conservative voters requires a quite different leaflet to what would be put out in a traditionally Labour area. Localising our approach allows us to deal with local issues and also to target our message depending on what we are trying to achieve. And mobilising the anti-BNP vote is sometimes quite different from trying to suppress the BNP vote.
That is why the HOPE not hate campaign will be encouraging and supporting local groups to begin their own local anti-BNP newsletters. We hope that by starting this summer and focusing on the key wards for 2010 the newsletters will become a crucial tool to defeating the BNP at the ballot box.
To begin to undermine local BNP support we also have to build alliances within the community. Local anti-BNP groups need to be accepted and even respected. Every community has key movers and shakers and spending a bit of time cultivating relationships with these people will open new opportunities, allow our message to be widened considerably, potentially increase our activist base and give us a regular flow of information to rebut BNP myths and lies.
We also need to be cleverer in how we present our arguments. The YouGov survey shows the complete lack of respect BNP voters have towards authority – way beyond those of other parties. That means dogmatic or one dimensional arguments on anti-fascist leaflets are likely to fail.
We have to recognise that we might not always be the best messenger to get over an argument. One of the most successful leaflets we have ever produced was in Halifax where we got quotes from local doctors and pensioners to dismiss BNP claims that asylum seekers were forcing old people off GP lists and causing hospital operations to be cancelled. The strength of getting other people to speak up for us, particularly those respected by local people, is also evident from the survey. Local GPs, at 82%, came out as the most trusted professionals among BNP voters.
A new reality
We also have to accept that the political landscape has shifted. Searchlight comes from a proud tradition of No Platform, a belief that fascism should not be allowed to air its politics of hate publicly. We have always opposed legitimising fascism through public debate and where fascists try to incite hatred within communities through provocative marches and actions, we have backed mobilisations against them.
While I still adhere to this in principle I also believe that we have to accept a new reality. Firstly the BNP has MEPs and whether we like it or not Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons will appear more regularly on television. No platform agreements between political parties were already breaking down before the election, with only Labour holding to them, and this process is likely to quicken now.
Likewise, we also have to change our tactics on the streets. The hammer attack on a BNP activist in Leigh, Greater Manchester, in March was an unmitigated disaster. When we learnt about the BNP’s intention to hold a fundraising event in a local nightclub we got almost 5,000 people, including 400 from the local area, to sign an open letter from a local vicar calling for the event to be cancelled. Our pressure proved successful but what should have been a great media story, showing the strength of people power against the BNP, became three days of appallingly negative local headlines after an anti-fascist struck a BNP member in the head with a hammer.
Our response to any BNP activity is a tactical issue. Just as we always consider what is possible, so we have to think about the possible outcomes. With large chunks of local people supporting the BNP something that gives the party media sympathy is often counter-productive. In a 24-hour-communica-tions world every small event that in the past would have gone unreported can be headline news on television, the radio and on the internet within minutes.
With the BNP leaders far more politically savvy than in the past it is not difficult for them to spin a story to their advantage.
There is also a need for an honest debate about the use of rallies, marches and pickets. While one could argue that it is important continually to oppose the BNP gaining any legitimacy, such protests are increasingly ineffective and, probably more importantly, a distraction from the real work required in the communities.
The reality is that most people other than a few highly motivated activists will not come out on a regular basis. Continually chasing the BNP uses up their time when there is more serious but perhaps less glamorous work to be done in local communities. Again, people might say that we should do both. That may be the ideal but it is not the reality and choices have to be made. We have to prioritise our agenda rather than continually react to the BNP’s. Obviously there will be times when mobilisations are important but this cannot be a distraction from the real work at hand.
Over the next few months our priority is to build anti-fascist groups in every community in the country. Over 115,000 people have engaged in some activity for the HOPE not hate campaign. That’s an incredible one in 470 adults in Britain. Over 80,000 people have signed our “Not in my name” petition since the election, of which over 60,000 were completely new to us.
This shows the level of anger at the BNP success, but now we need to harness it in a positive and constructive way that helps us build the necessary networks that can defeat the BNP in the community.
Our initial job is to turn our online supporters into activists on the ground. Hopefully some will emerge as local organisers, committed to the localised strategy ahead. Old hands must be encouraged to support new organisers and we will be providing an organising and leadership programme in every region of the country.
A series of one-day training events will be held to give key activists from local groups the basics in running a local campaign group, working in a target ward and building alliances within the community.
From there a handful of the most enthusiastic local organisers will be invited to a three-day residential programme, to be held in the late autumn, where they will develop leadership and organisational skills.
Developing a pool of local organisers is the way to ensure good quality campaigns. Whatever the enthusiasm of local activists a lack of organising skills and the ability to localise campaigns effectively will result in continued reliance on national help, which in turn reduces the effectiveness of a local campaign.
To support local groups, particularly in the run-up to next year’s local and probable general election, the HOPE not hate campaign will be seeking to put trained organisers on the ground in each region of the country.
The work of local groups will be further supported by an even bigger online effort than we achieved this year. Through online telephone canvassing, supporters across the country will be able to help in our key battlegrounds from their front rooms. Matching groups and activists in one part of country where there is no BNP threat to an area where there is one can help us raise money for local material.
The BNP success has led some to argue that we need to politicise anti-fascism, even to offer a political alternative to the BNP. While there are clearly public policy failings and a democratic deficit, it is not our job to fill this void. We must leave that to the political parties, old or new.
We are about defeating the BNP, both by turning out those voters totally opposed to their racist politics and by dispelling myths and challenging the assumptions and ignorance that give rise to BNP support.
We have a big job to do but it can be done. The work on anti-BNP campaigns in East Lancashire, Oldham, the Black Country and West Yorkshire is testament to that.
However, for us to defeat the BNP over the coming year requires hard work, building local broad-based coalitions, adapting to the new realities and being a little bit smarter than we have been before. Get these components right and we can hold the BNP at bay.
A hard and alienated vote
Who votes BNP and why
A new survey into the attitudes of BNP voters has produced some startling revelations. Unsurprisingly BNP voters are overwhelmingly opposed to immigration and asylum seekers but a sizeable number also share the BNP’s hardline attitudes about citizenship and racial superiority.
It shows that BNP voters are predominantly working class, drawn from former Labour-voting households and feel more insecure about their economic prospects.
Conducted by YouGov from 29 May to 4 June, the survey questioned 985 BNP voters as part of a much bigger study of the political views of 32,268 people.
The study tells us that men are twice as likely to support the BNP as women, 44% of BNP voters are aged 35 to 54 and 61% are drawn from the social groups C2DE. One third of BNP voters read The Sun or the Daily Star, whereas only 13% read the Daily Mirror and those reading The Guardian and The Independent are statistically insignificant. One fifth claim to be members of trade unions or trade associations and 36% identify themselves as skilled or semi-skilled manual workers.
On one level the report tells us little new. More BNP supporters regard immigration as one of the key issues facing the country at the moment – 87% compared to 49% among all voters. Again unsurprisingly, 94% of BNP supporters believed that all further immigration should be halted. This compares with 87% of UK Independence Party voters, 68% of Conservative voters, 46% of Labour voters, 43% of Lib Dem voters and even 37% of Green voters.
Only 4% of BNP voters believed that recent immigration had benefited the country.
What is more startling is the strength of the racial attitudes of many BNP voters. In a result that gives the lie to the BNP vote simply being a protest, 44% (compared to 12% of all voters) disagreed with the statement: “non-white British citizens who were born in this country are just as ‘British’ as white citizens born in this country”.
Among BNP voters 21% strongly disagreed with the statement compared to just 1% of Greens and Lib Dems and 2% of Labour and 3% of Conservative voters.
More disturbingly, 31% of BNP voters believed there was a difference in intelligence between the average black Briton and the average white Briton.
Although only 2% of BNP voters deny that six million Jews, Gypsies and others died in the Holocaust, a further 18% accept that the Holocaust occurred but believe it has been exaggerated.
It is clear that the BNP receives support primarily on issues of race, immigration and identity but there is also a clear link with economic insecurity. Several of the questions probed respondents’ views on their current and future economic prospects. BNP voters repeatedly had the most gloomy outlook.
When asked whether they were satisfied that they had enough money to live on comfortably, 74% of BNP voters said no, compared to just 43% of Labour and 50% of Conservative voters.
On whether they were confident that their family would have the opportunities to prosper in the years ahead, 75% of BNP voters said no compared to just 35% of Labour voters.
Over half of BNP voters felt the financial situation of their house- hold would worsen over the next 12 months. In contrast only 29% of Labour voters agreed and 27% thought it would get better.
Again, more BNP voters thought someone in their family would lose their job in the current recession than supporters of other parties.
One of the most startling results was the response to the statement that “there is a major international conspiracy led by Jews and Communists to undermine traditional Christian values in Britain and other western countries”. Amazingly one third of BNP voters completely or partially agreed.
However, the significance of this response actually lies in the feeling of victimisation felt by many BNP supporters and cleverly exploited by the BNP itself. The view that they are losing out because of the conscious action of others is widespread among BNP supporters and it comes out clearly in this survey. Over three quarters of BNP voters believed that white people suffered unfair discrimination whereas only 3% thought Muslims did. Nine out of ten BNP supporters felt that councils allowed immigrant families to jump housing queues.
This feeling of victimisation coupled with a widespread belief that the Labour Party, which most once supported, at best no longer cares about them and at worst conspires against them makes these voters susceptible to the BNP’s big lie. It is hardly a surprise then that so many people in Barking and Dagenham were happy to believe the Africans for Essex myth.
Think of the balance of forces. On one side you have the Labour Party (which 57% of BNP voters think no longer cares about them), politicians (who 78% of BNP voters think are corrupt), senior officers in the council (who only 1% of BNP voters trust a great deal) and immigrants (who 87% of BNP supporters think are a problem and only 4% believe contribute anything positive). Then you have the BNP, the anti-establishment party speaking up for the forgotten white working class.
This survey is both predictable and disturbing. While immigration remains the dominant issue for BNP voters it is clear that they more than any other group feel economically insecure and politically abandoned. What is shocking is the depth of their racism and the alienation from mainstream politics. Support for the BNP goes far beyond being a protest, as some politicians would have us believe, and the racist attitudes will not disappear simply by improving economic conditions.
We should be under no illusion that a long and hard struggle lies ahead.
What do you think?
We are opening up the August issue of Searchlight to find out your views on the way forward. Please restrict articles to 500 words and get them to me email@example.com by 10 July. (Please note that space is limited and we cannot guarantee to publish every article.)
Nick Lowles, Searchlight
A racist arrested by chance at a railway station was "on the cusp" of waging a terror campaign using tennis balls and weedkiller, a jury has heard.
Neil Lewington, 43, had a bomb factory at his parents' home in Reading, Berks, and wanted to target those he thought "non-British", prosecutors alleged.
The Old Bailey heard he was carrying bomb parts when arrested at Lowestoft, Suffolk, for abusing a train conductor.
He denies eight charges related to terrorism or explosives.
Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said Mr Lewington was found to be carrying the component parts of two "viable, improvised incendiary devices".
His holdall had been searched after his arrest, when he was also held for drinking and smoking on the train and urinating in public, the court heard.
This man who had strong if not fanatical right-wing leanings and opinions was on the cusp of embarking on a campaign of terrorism
Brian Altman QC, prosecuting
Later searches of Mr Lewington's home revealed a notebook entitled "Waffen SS UK members' handbook" which contained drawings of electronics and chemical mixtures, jurors were told.
"In addition to all of that, the police discovered evidence that the defendant sympathised with and quite clearly adhered to white supremacist and racist views," said Mr Altman.
Mr Lewington had an "unhealthy interest" in the London nail bomber David Copeland, America's Unabomber and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the court heard.
Mr Altman said: "The effect of these finds is to prove that this man, who had strong if not fanatical right-wing leanings and opinions, was on the cusp of embarking on a campaign of terrorism against those he considered non-British."
He said Mr Lewington had two video compilations of news and documentary footage about bombers and bombings both in Britain and the US.
This interest had gone "far beyond the mere intellectual or academic levels", Mr Altman said.
"In the privacy of his own bedroom and far from the gaze of his parents with whom he lived, this defendant had amassed the component parts of and had begun the manufacture of improvised explosive or incendiary devices," he said.
Mr Altman said Mr Lewington left school at 16 without qualifications but had worked in a number of electronics jobs.
He had been unemployed for 10 years after being sacked from his last job for being drunk and, though he lived with his parents, had not spoken to his father for 10 years.
His mother said he had placed Plasticine in the keyhole of his bedroom door so no-one could see inside, the court heard.
It was alleged that Mr Lewington, described as "a loner", had met a number of girlfriends through mobile phone chatlines.
One said she was put off when he made racist remarks, while another - an army cadet sergeant - said he asked if she had dealings with the Nazi group Combat 18, the court heard.
Mr Lewington had taken some weedkiller from her and later told her he had bought a child's chemistry set to use for making explosives, Mr Altman said.
Mr Lewington is accused of preparing for terrorism by having the bomb parts in a public place.
He also faces two charges of having articles for terrorism - including the weedkiller, firelighters and three tennis balls - two of having documents for terrorism and another of collecting information for terrorism.
Two further counts allege he possessed an explosive device "with intent to endanger life" and that he had explosives, namely weedkiller.
The trial continues.
• CPS powerless to pursue complaints made by police
Senior prosecutors are calling for the laws on race hate crimes to be strengthened to counter the threat posed by the British National party.
The threshold for securing a conviction is so high that far-right activists are able to evade prosecution for material that many people would consider to be threatening and racist, according to sources at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Prosecutors blame the lack of convictions on the strict legal test, which requires showing an intention to "stir up racial hatred" or a likelihood that racial tension would be stirred up.
The offence, which was created under the Public Order Act, only applies to acts that take place or are witnessed in public so it does not cover leaflets that are pushed through people's letter boxes. It also offers no protection against the publication of inaccurate or false information.
Several BNP leaflets have been referred to the CPS over the last five years – some by senior police officers and one by a judge – but no further action has been taken.
Peter Herbert, the chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers and a part-time judge, submitted a complaint last year over a leaflet called The Changing Face of London that had two pictures, one depicting an all-white street party from the 1950s, the other showing three Muslim women wearing a niqab, one of whom is making a V-sign towards the camera.
"Under the law, it has been extremely difficult to mount a prosecution against extremism and hate speech," said Herbert. "But with the rise of the BNP, and the subsequent rise in racist attacks and the fear the party's leaflets can provoke, it is essential we are given the tools to deal effectively with this threat."
Herbert said the law should protect people from material that creates a fear of racist attacks as well as those that are deemed to incite racial hatred. "All the evidence suggests that it is people from minority communities and the faith communities that are put in fear of violence when racist leaflets are delivered in town centres or on estates. If someone handed out the same thing in the workplace, most employers would consider that gross misconduct; if someone does the same thing in the street, there is very little we can do."
Another complaint was submitted to the CPS by Lancashire police who expressed concern about a BNP leaflet which blamed Muslims for the heroin trade. Four people were arrested and released on police bail last year but detectives are still waiting to hear from the CPS about whether they have grounds to prosecute for "incitement to stir up racial hatred".
In another incident, Derbyshire police alerted the CPS about a BNP election leaflet claiming three asylum seekers had raped a woman. The police said the rape claims were "unfounded", but the CPS said there were no grounds to prosecute under existing law. "Whilst those details in the leaflet regarding the alleged rape are factually incorrect, this in itself does not constitute a criminal offence," said a CPS spokesman at the time.
A senior prosecutor told the Guardian: "There are numerous problems. The test to show incitement is very high and the material has to be distributed in public rather than put through people's doors. This makes it really difficult to get convictions for material which many people consider racist."
A CPS source confirmed that the organisation would review its policies on prosecuting race hate crimes following the election of two BNP candidates, including the party's leader, Nick Griffin, to the European parliament.
"We will need to look again at the situation with prosecuting incidences of this material," the source said.
Last week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the official watchdog on race and equality, wrote a formal letter to the BNP giving them one month to remedy three alleged breaches of the Race Relations Act, including the party's whites-only membership policy.
That announcement increased the likelihood of legal action against the BNP in the civil courts, but critics say there have been too few criminal proceedings, despite material distributed by the party which many regard as inflammatory.
Herbert, the former chair of the Metropolitan police race hate crime forum, said a number of anti-racism and human rights bodies would back a change in the law.
"I expect a strong coalition will form around this idea and put pressure on the government to instigate a change in primary legislation as soon as possible," he said.
Anti-racism campaigners welcomed the crackdown on inflammatory or racist leaflets but warned more was needed to effectively counter the threat posed by the BNP.
"Where the BNP has been distributing racially offensive material, it is right that they should be prosecuted with the full force of the law," said a spokesman for the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight. "However, the way we will defeat Nick Griffin and his party is street by street and estate by estate, not lawyer by lawyer and courtroom by courtroom."
There should be little doubt about whether they are a far-right party – the British National Party (BNP) is, regardless of how it has tried to redesign itself, a party with radical racist and xenophobic views. Had this party come of age in the 1930s, their main target would have been Jews. Now a different group is being targeted: Muslims.
This follows a trend that exists all across Europe: the “new Jews” (ie, those who are now being discriminated against, as Jews were in the 1920s and 1930s) are invariably Muslims. A number of interesting studies have compared the public discourse around Jews in the 1920s with Islamophobic material in the mainstream press in Europe today – the results are not encouraging. It seems Europeans may not forget the Holocaust, but may forget what happened right before it.
What I was interested in after the elections, however, was not the similarities between how Jews were once perceived, and how Muslims are now perceived, but something else. The worry of Muslims overrunning Europe (essentially, the BNP’s fear) is shared by a growing proportion of people across the continent – to the point where one could begin to describe it as “a movement”. This movement that would be united by a fear, which they call “Eurarabia” (an amalgamation of “Europe” and “Arabia”). Many who share this fear are on the left, as well as in the centre – so, it cannot be said to be solely a “right wing” obsession. Indeed, this is something quite worrying – it is a xenophobia that can find sympathisers across many different sections of European society.
Nevertheless, the core of this group is on the right, and that raises interesting questions. Why the right? And what sort of repercussions does that imply for the future in terms of Muslim-non Muslim relations within the UK, and beyond?
In the UK, as well as across Europe, the left was the party of those who felt disenfranchised. The overwhelming majority of Muslims in the UK today are not descendants of indigenous Britons who converted to Islam, but the descendants of recent migrants to the UK who generally came from very modest backgrounds. Naturally, it was the left (particularly the Labour Party) which endeared itself to the Muslim community, from which it received overwhelming support. The right had the opposite experience – historically, rarely appealing to the disenfranchised, and more given to conservative views as to how the “nation” was constituted.
Such was the state of play in the 1970s until the 1990s. One of the ironies of this situation was that when it came to values, Muslims often shared the right’s focus on family and tradition. For more pragmatic reasons, they affiliated with the left.
The last decade has changed a lot of that. Labour went to war in Iraq – a war that turned out to be baseless, in a country that happened to be a predominantly Muslim country. Many in the Muslim community have become more enfranchised, and historically when migrant communities progress economically, they often become more interested in participation in centre or centre-right positions on the political spectrum. The left’s hold on the Muslim community has been broken.
But, coming back to the BNP’s wins, what do these political histories mean now for Muslims in the UK? While most Muslims are expressing fears about the intensifying discourse (which frankly borders on hate-speech), some are calling for their community to engage with the right wing with more seriousness. It’s a sign of maturity that rather than simply describe the BNP as being far-right extremists, some Muslims are asking: why is there support for the BNP in the first place? What have Muslims done, or not done, to create the conditions for that support to emerge?
All strata of British society are trying to analyse what has happened, and certain trends are emerging. Some want to deny any responsibility for themselves by condemning every voter for the BNP as a repentant racist, who simply cannot be helped or (worse) understood. But others are trying to understand why so many have now turned to the BNP, and where their resentment comes from, in an effort to remove those conditions for the future.
Both of these trends are also represented within the Muslim community. In their reaction to the BNP victories, Muslims have actually been shown to be more British than they might have been years ago. That’s a far cry from the common media perception of Muslims as unintegrated (and, often, incapable of being integrated) but it is borne out by the limited polling data we have on the attitudes of Muslims in the UK. More than the average non-Muslim, Muslim Britons are hopeful for the future of their country.
Matters are likely to get worse before they get better – this shift to the right has taken years and it will probably take a long time to settle in a more stable position. In the meantime, we may see Muslims joining centre-right parties, and drifting away from left wing politics.
That is surely good news for democracy in general – no part of the political spectrum should have a monopoly on a particular ethnic community. But matters will continue to deteriorate unless British and European society as a whole faces up to those who fear “Eurarabia” – not simply to shout them down, but to deconstruct their arguments with facts and examples of people who prove their fears unwarranted.
The BNP might not realise it, but they could turn out to be a good catalyst for the integration of the Muslim community: by reminding non-Muslims in Europe how ugly the far-right can get, and encouraging Muslims not to have their vote monopolised by a single part of the political spectrum.
The National (UAE)
Hisham Hellyer is a fellow at the University of Warwick in England and director of the Visionary Consultants Group
June 28, 2009
From some of our Welsh friends.
Ever wonder why the intellectual dwarf that is Green Arrow, is so extremely vile, more so than most BNP bloggers?
Well, it could be that Paul Morris, who is the “man” behind the Green Arrow blog site thought he lived in such an impenetrable community and a remote village that nobody would bother come looking for him.
Unfortunately for Morris, having broken every boundary of good taste, including suggesting that young gay people were not trying hard enough to commit suicide, we thought we’d remind Mr Morris that there ain’t no mountain high enough and ain’t no valley low enough to expose Morris, the man who begs £35 per month to write his shite blog insulting and telling lies about decent people.
June 27, 2009
Even on a first reading this seems improbable, and on a second impossible. If this had actually happened there would have been a clear breach of the law on the part of Greater Manchester Fire And Rescue Service, which covers Oldham, and GMFRS's representatives would have been reduced to making snap judgements on the ethnicity of the attendees, as well as improperly inquiring after their sexual orientation.
Can you imagine the justifiable uproar, the outraged Daily Mail headlines?
So far the outrage seems confined to Griffin's office manager, Tina Wingfield, who fulminates: “This is a worrying case of positive discrimination gone mad. Here we have an ideal applicant for the job of firefighter but he was barred from even applying because he is a white hetrosexual. This is a shocking state of affairs and that needs to be addressed.”
What needs to be addressed is the BNP's relationship with the truth.
An amused GMFRS spokesperson told us there was not the remotest possibility of any person being "sent away and dismissed from the recruitment process" because they happened to be white heterosexuals. He agreed that not only would such a move be negative and counter-productive, it would be a public relations disaster. The idea that this happened to 22 white heterosexuals at an informal open evening in Oldham was "ridiculous".
Nick's first Euro lie nailed?
Coun John Gamble, who has represented Catcliffe and Brinsworth since last May when he defeated the then Mayor, Labour Coun Allan Jackson, had been a member of the BNP for about 10 years. His move has halved the party's representation on Rotherham Council to one seat.
Coun Gamble was unavailable for comment but, in a statement, the England First Party said: "In recent months he had become increasingly disillusioned with the BNP's national and local leadership, and has now decided to join a party that offers a serious, radical challenge to the corrupt political establishment."
June 26, 2009
Charlotte Lewis, who earlier this year stood as a candidate in the Waddon by-election, told a meeting of British National Party members she played loud music late into the night - which may have contributed to the Afghan family moving out. The comments were made at a meeting in east London to celebrate the party's showing in the recent European elections.
Addressing party members at a pub in Dagenham, she said: "I don't think they could take any more of my penchant for playing heavy metal at 1am."
When the Advertiser asked the 36-year-old, who lives in Bensham Lane, Thornton Heath, to explain the comments, Ms Lewis said she had "embellished" the story for the sake of her audience. But she added: "I'm of the opinion that none of them should be in this country anyway. It would be in the best interests of this country if they moved back to Afghanistan. If British people were to move in upstairs I would keep the noise down."
Asked if she had made any efforts to get to know her neighbours, Ms Lewis added: "That would be hypocritical, and I'm not hypocritical. What on earth would we speak about, even if they could speak English? They're immigrants in my country and I'm a member of the BNP."
Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks - a patron of the West Croydon Refugee Centre - said he was appalled at her remarks. He said: "If she admits that she made the comments, it's a really extraordinary thing. It's clearly anti-social behaviour and the idea that someone could be considered for elected public service after admitting this kind of anti-social behaviour is bizarre. It shows the good sense of the people of Waddon for not voting for her."
Councillor Alison Butler, who represents the Bensham Manor ward where Ms Lewis lives, was equally disgusted by her bragging. She said: "I'm going to see if there's any action we (Croydon Council) can take. I'm just horrified at her despicable remarks, I just wish we'd heard about it sooner."
Gavin Barwell, the council's cabinet member for safety and cohesion, has asked officers to investigate what steps they can take against her under anti-social behaviour laws. He said: "I share Councillor Butler's concerns and will be looking into it. I view it very seriously, and I'm taking advice from officers about whether there is any legal action we can take."
This is Croydon
June 25, 2009
Stunned Lancashire County Councillors looked on as the group, who were sitting in the public gallery, shouted “BNP out! Fascists out!” before being ushered out of the chamber. Earlier, police had been on duty as about 60 protestors demonstrated ahead of the full council meeting.
It was the first since the June 4 election, which saw the BNP’s Sharon Wilkinson become the first county councillor in the party’s history. Coun Wilkinson told the Lancashire Telegraph she had brought her own “security” and was not worried about the protests, organised by Unite Against Fascism.
A handful of BNP supporters sat alongside the demonstrators in the upstairs gallery.
It was expected to be a routine meeting, the first under the new Tory administration, with councillors appointed to the key positions on the council. The chants began as members of Lancashire Police Authority were being appointed. The council’s new deputy chairman, Ribble Valley’s Chris Holtom, struggled to make himself heard above the din. Coun Wilkinson, who sat two rows back from the other members, sat motionless as the protestors were evicted.
New Tory council leader Geoff Driver vowed she would not be put forward to serve on any committees, and added: “Protests like that can only help the BNP because people sympathise with them.”
In the rest of the meeting the parties clashed over plans to reform councillors are paid, with Coun Driver accused by Labour and the Lib Dems of “running a coach and horses” through the recommendations of an independent remuneration panel on members’ allowances.
He said: “They are an independent body, but they got their maths wrong.”
A spokesperson for Lancashire Police said: "Around 60 protesters have taken part in a demonstration outside County Hall in Preston ahead of Lancashire County Council’s first full meeting of the new cabinet. A relatively small policing operation was carried out, which was pre-planned in conjunction with the Council and the demonstrators themselves, Unite Against Fascism.
"The demonstration passed off peacefully without incident."
In the case of the BNP's Norwich North by-election candidate this was a jug of iced water expertly flung at pretend prelate the "Reverend" Robert West by an irate housewife in North Hykeham, Lincs, when West - sporting his trademark dog-collar - came calling on behalf of the racist party.
The incident happened in 2006, soon after West resigned from a Conservative Party about to expel him for speaking at BNP meetings and for his role in setting up the BNP's bogus "Christian Council of Britain".
The unnamed housewife later told the Lincolnshire Echo: "He was wearing a dog collar so I asked him whether he was a real reverend. He refused to enter into a debate about it. I had the jug of iced water because I was preparing for friends who were visiting that day. I refuse to apologise. I have no remorse. If he comes here again I will empty a whole jug over his head."
The matter of whether West is a "real reverend" or not has exercised quite a number of people for quite some time, not least those who take a closer interest in religious affairs than the "Rev." West finds comfortable.
In the past West has refused to discuss the validity of his orders - that is, who ordained him, into which church, when and where? Without valid orders, West has no more right to call himself "Reverend" or to pass himself off as a clergyman than you or I.
There have been unsourced reports that West was ordained as an "Elder" into something calling itself the Apostolic Church, but the only legitimate existing British church of that name denied all knowledge of him, telling a researcher for the Love @nd Rage website:
First of all may I confirm that The Apostolic Church does not support the views or the activities of the British National Party. The Church has no political association whatsoever.West operates - if that is the word - the Grace Covenant Fellowship from his Holbeach home, the "Fellowship" strongly suspected, like the "Christian Council of Britain", of having a membership of one.
On the second matter I am uncertain about who is the Mr Robert West mentioned in the article. One thing is certain: he does not speak on behalf of The Apostolic Church. If this person lives in Lincolnshire he does not attend The Apostolic Church. In fact as a denomination we have no churches in Lincolnshire.
I note that he is quoted as being ‘ordained as an elder’ within the Church. If this person has had any association with The Apostolic Church in the past the only means by which he can maintain either his membership or office is by attending one of our churches. If he were an active member of the Church his views would not be accepted by the Church and disciplinary action would be undertaken by the Church which strongly distances itself from views such as these.
Following the European elections West appeared on BBC television's "The Big Question", in company of ex-Nazi and ex-National Front leader, Andrew Brons. At the beginning of the show West was explictly challenged by Ekklesia director Jonathan Bartley to say how many members the CCB had, and not for the first time shied away from answering. Bartley told West in no uncertain terms that it had one, namely himself, to which West could only grimace lamely.
Back in April, however, on the East Midlands version of The Politics Show, West produced what he claimed to be a diploma from the Apostolic Church Bible College, located in Pen-y-groes, south Wales. An Apostolic college certainly exists in Pen-y-groes, and is indeed run by the Apostolic Church, a Pentecostal Christian denomination founded in the early 20th century. Its title, however, is Apostolic Church School of Ministry (ACSOM), previously the Apostolic Church International Bible School.
What is immediately apparent from its website is that ACSOM and the church to which it is attached are multi-cultural, multi-racial, and inclusive. Its members do not wear dog-collars, nor do they use the title "Reverend". And the last thing they will preach about is the "sin" of race-mixing.
Little wonder, then, that the church is keen to distance itself from the claims of the "Reverend" West.
As Jonathan Bartley asks of the well-watered "cleric": "Will any church come forward to claim him? Or is this another example of BNP deception?"
Well, the voters of Norwich North and Norfolk journalists are going to have every opportunity to find out the answer to Jonathan's question when West and his cohorts of decidedly unsaintly BNP hatemongers descend upon the Fine City in the near future.
Don't forget to ask: who ordained Robert West? Into which church? When? Where? And let's see his written orders, please.
Up to 150 people have been picketing outside the Preston-based county council headquarters. Eyewitnesses said the group were trying to push back police who were guarding the entrance. They have been shouting: "Nazi scum off our streets". Many held banners which read 'BNP is a Nazi Party' and 'Smash the BNP'.
Geoff Driver was officially being named as the new leader of Lancashire County Council at the first full meeting of the new council and its cabinet, due to start at 1-30 p.m. Sharon Wilkinson, who represents Padiham and Burnley West for the BNP, was elected to the council at the elections earlier this month.
It comes after four people were arrested at a protest oustide a BNP 'victory' rally at a hotel in Blackpool on Saturday.
The newly elected far-right MEP sparked anger after saying: “There is no such thing as a black Welshman. You can have a black Briton; you can’t have a black Welshman. Welsh is about people who live in Wales since the end of the last ice age.”
Vaughan Gething, the first black President of Wales TUC, hit back last night and said: “This exposes the lies behind the new suited image of the BNP. Nick Griffin is wrong, plain and simple. I am proud to be Welsh. Proud to be British. Proud to be black. There are tens of thousands of people like me across Wales. We have been here for centuries. This is our country.”
Mr Gething, 34, a partner at Thompson’s Solicitors in Cardiff, said he warned of the BNP’s growth during his address to the Wales TUC last year. He said: “This is not a group of fringe activists to be ignored. This is a group to be taken on and beaten. I know that I exist. I know that I’m proud of who and what I am. I know this is my country – our country.”
He told the Western Mail last night: “As someone who is black and Welsh, I find Nick Griffin’s comments not just offensive but pretty amazing. He’s still peddling the same lies and, as a matter of fact, he’s wrong. It’s ridiculous.”
Mr Gething added: “I get offended every time I hear Nick Griffin speak. His view of the world is deliberately divisive and unpleasant. I wouldn’t share a platform with him, but we’ve got to challenge the BNP. Lots and lots of what he’s saying simply isn’t true.”
Black Welshman Wayne Lee, of the Valleys Race Equality Council, dubbed Mr Griffin’s Tuesday night remarks “bizarre” and “offensive”. Mr Lee said: “I think being Welsh is something that’s self-defining. You decide for yourself and nobody can tell you what you are or you’re not. How do you define any ethnicity? Imagine your parents are Welsh, you were conceived and born in another country and then came back to Wales. Would you still be Welsh?”
Mr Lee, whose parents are from Jamaica, said when he goes to the Caribbean local people realise straight away he is British. But he added: “I would describe myself as being a black Welsh person. I was born in Wales, received my education in Wales, work in Wales, pay my taxes in Wales, I have voting rights – I am a Welsh person. I support Cardiff City, I’ve got a broad Cardiff accent and I’ve got Welsh friends who speak the language fluently. I think what Nick Griffin said is an odd thing to say. I find it comical but offensive at the same time. It’s bizarre.”
Cardiff South and Penarth AM Lorraine Barrett said: “I think Nick Griffin’s comments are absolutely disgusting. This is just more hate-filled rhetoric from the BNP. This kind of talk will only create or exacerbate racial tensions. It’s an absurd statement and has no place in Welsh society. I am lucky enough to represent a very multicultural constituency in Cardiff and I know this will cause offence there. I think he should apologise immediately.”
South Wales East Plaid Cymru AM Mohammad Asghar, the Assembly’s only ethnic minority member, said: “Wales has a proud record of welcoming people from many different countries over the years. There are many black and Asian Welsh people, some of whom come from families who have lived here for several generations. I come originally from Pakistan. I have lived in Newport for nearly 40 years and I am a proud Welshman and a proud member of Plaid Cymru.”
As reported yesterday, Mr Griffin, who lives in a village outside Welshpool, Powys, sparked outrage while speaking on Channel 4 about the threat of a legal injunction against the BNP which could lead to fines or even imprisonment over a potential breach of race discrimination law relating to its membership policies. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has given the BNP until July 20 to amend its constitution to make sure it did not discriminate against members on grounds of race.
Mr Griffin said: “Our legal counsel says that it is very clear that we are a Section 25/ Section 26 exempted organisation because we are here for specific ethnic groups. It is nothing to do with ‘white’. We are really talking here about the English, the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh, collectively the people who are ethnically British.”
It was when the interviewer asked Mr Griffin if that meant a black Welshman would be welcome in the party that he made his remarks.
June 24, 2009
I phone the EHRC determined to discover whether the BNP has inadvertently - some might say ironically - fallen victim to some piece of European legislation or other, following its recent success in the European parliamentary elections?
“No, it’s all British law as far as I’m aware,” a charming woman called Krista from the press office tells me. So far, so “Indigenously Caucasian” as the BNP’s constitution would have it. I’m not exactly sure who was involved in creating the 1976 Race Relations Act, on which the EHRC is relying, but my colleague Philip Johnston tells me that it was very likely to have been drafted entirely by a bunch of white people in the government and civil service of the time. So, with any luck, no problem there for Mr Griffin and his cohorts.
The question arises, then, where exactly does the EHRC’s problem lie and what kind of teeth would this injunction have? “It’s the BNP’s constitution,” Krista tells me, drawing my attention to section two on page four, which refers to membership and, interestingly, eleven alleged racial groupings from which it would specifically welcome members. I note that there are plenty of Celts in there, remember being told once that the Irish language had more in common with Sanskrit than anything else, then also remember that I received this information in a pub and file it mentally under “to do”.
“You have to be a member of the BNP to be an employee of the party and membership is restricted to these ethnic groups,” Krista explains. “We think that’s illegal.” A vague memory also wafts back at this point that there is no scientific way of distinguishing the DNA of one ethnic group from any other and I wonder how the BNP would ultimately support its “ethnicity” rules in court.
But even if its constitution is changed, I ask Krista, what’s to stop the BNP doing what everybody else does - employing whomsoever they want and then claiming that they were the best person for the job when challenged? And anyway, what kind of a black or Asian person would want to go and work for the BNP? There was a pause. “Yes, that’s a good point,” Krista admits.
“Something else that has been raised is that it’s possible that the BNP would claim that it is exempt from this legislation because it’s an association and section 26 of the act exempts associations. But we’ve already taken legal advice on this and have been told that a political party cannot qualify as an association, since instead of acting on behalf of its members, a political party is supposed to act on behalf of the community at large.”
The spectre of a million claims that the BNP turned anti-fascists down for jobs heaves into view and I’m reminded at this point of what happened to the Daily Mail’s poll about gipsies last week.
Still, it should be a go-er.
June 23, 2009
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today written to the British National Party over possible breaches of anti-discrimination law. The Commission has demanded that the party address potential breaches related to its constitution and membership criteria, employment practices and provision of services to the public and constituents.
The letter, sent to the party chairman Nick Griffin, outlines the Commission’s concerns about the BNP’s compliance with the Race Relations Act. The letter asks the BNP to provide written undertakings by 20th July that it will make the changes required by the Commission. Failure to do so may result in the Commission issuing an application for a legal injunction against the BNP.
The Commission has a statutory duty, under the Equality Act 2006, to enforce the provisions of the Act and to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination. This duty includes preventing discrimination by political parties.
The Commission thinks that the BNP’s constitution and membership criteria may discriminate on the grounds of race and colour, contrary to the Race Relations Act. The party’s membership criteria appear to restrict membership to those within what the BNP regards as particular “ethnic groups” and those whose skin colour is white. This exclusion is contrary to the Race Relations Act which the party is legally obliged to comply with. The Commission therefore thinks that the BNP may have acted, and be acting, illegally.
The Commission has required the BNP to provide a written undertaking that it will not discriminate contrary to the Race Relations Act in its employment and recruitment policies, procedures and practices.
The BNP’s website states that the party is looking to recruit people and states that any applicants should supply a membership number. The Commission thinks that this requirement is contrary to the Race Relations Act, which outlaws the refusal or deliberate omission to offer employment on the basis of non-membership of an organisation. The Commission is therefore concerned that the BNP may have acted, and be acting, illegally.
The letter asks the BNP to provide a written undertaking that it will amend its policy on recruitment accordingly so that it complies with the Race Relations Act.
The Commission is also concerned that the BNP’s elected representatives may not intend to offer or provide services on an equal basis to all their constituents and members of the public irrespective of race or colour. The Commission thinks that this contravenes the Race Relations Act and the Local Authority Model Code of Conduct and that the BNP may have acted illegally and may act illegally in the future.
The Commission’s letter asks the BNP to provide a written undertaking that its elected representatives or those working for them will not discriminate on grounds of race or colour in the provision of services to members of the public or constituents.
John Wadham, Group Director Legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:
“The Commission’s statutory role includes a duty to investigate possible breaches of discrimination law and take action where appropriate. The legal advice we have received indicates that the British National Party’s constitution and membership criteria, employment practices and provision of services to constituents and the public may breach discrimination laws which all political parties are legally obliged to uphold. We await a response from the BNP to our letter before deciding what further action we may take. Litigation or enforcement action can be avoided by the BNP giving a satisfactory response to our letter.”
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Robert West, founder of the Christian Council of Britain and who describes himself as a “reverend” on the BNP website, will officially stand to replace Ian Gibson.
He was the lead candidate for the BNP, which has been condemned for its extreme views, in the East Midlands but did not gain enough votes to win a seat in the European Parliament last month.
Today, MPs and councillors hit out at the party and said their extremism was not welcome.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “I want voters to reject extremism and if anyone stands for the BNP they should be rejected. They are a racist party and are preying on vulnerable people.
“I believe in treating people equally and this party does not share this view.”
Tim East, a South Norfolk councillor for Costessey, said: “Before anyone has a chance of being elected we need to know their full background. There should be complete transparency into people's pasts before the public can make a valued judgement.”
Mr West caused controversy on BBC1 in February when he said the answer to the recession was for women to “work at home” and he is against all forms of multi-culturalism.
And the 53-year-old, who lives near Spalding in south Lincolnshire, said today: “We are taking a strong anti-immigration line. And we are against the issue of sovereignty to the European community. I believe multi-culturalism is unnecessary and evil.
“I want the people of Norwich to follow this line and realise we have not been tough enough on immigration. I do not want anywhere in this country turning into the Middle East.
“This is Britain and I will fight to keep it that way.”
Mr West said although he does not live in the city he believes he can represent people here because he comes from a “rural community” which is similar to Norfolk and he has lectured for the University of East Anglia (UEA).
He admitted to possessing old fashioned views but said he wants to tell people in Norwich the truth about what he represents and “not a pack of lies”.
He said he believes the market has been flooded with women working and it would be “better if they stayed at home”.
“The domestic sphere is a natural place for a woman to be,” he said. “I honestly think it is woman's right to be at home. Women should get married and their first priority should be the home.
“Recently the home has been abandoned and this modern way does not work. I think many women agree with this, even though they are working themselves.
“This is my view and I hope to get the people of Norwich to listen to this.”
Mr West is one of several candidates poised to try and take the Norwich North seat, which belonged to Ian Gibson before he was forced to step down in the face of the Westminster expenses scandal.
Dr Gibson quit after he was deselected by the Labour Party for claiming for a flat which his daughter and her boyfriend lived in rent free before he sold it to them at a reduced rate.
The BNP failed to win seven Norfolk seats in the county council elections earlier this month, including Sprowston.
Norwich Evening News
In a move anti-fascist campaigners described as 'outrageous', council chiefs said they had awarded the family taxi firm run by Corsham town councillor Mick Simpkins a renewed school run contract, and said that they would not fund an alternative if a black or ethnic minority parent objected to their child being transported to school. Other white parents who have already objected to their children being transported to school by the firm were refused council funding for an alternative, and the council said it would be no different for an ethnic minority family.
Cllr Simpkins said he would treat all children transported by his firm, be they 'black, Asian or anything in between' exactly the same, and said parents who protested were attempting 'to put us out of business'.
The row blew up after the Simpkins family, who all work for the firm, stood as candidates for the British National Party in and around Corsham earlier this month. Cllr Simpkins is also standing as the party's parliamentary candidate at the next general election. The firm was awarded a council contract to ferry children with special needs to school in nearby Chippenham, often without chaperones. Some 18 months ago, one parent, Cheryl Walker, objected to her daughter, who has special needs, being taken to school by the firm.
"I was told that it was a BNP taxi or nothing, basically. I asked if they could just give me the money they would pay them but they said no to that, or to providing a different taxi firm. I'm not the only one who won't put their child in those taxis. There aren't any children from ethnic minorities that need this transport at the moment, but it could happen. I really don't think the council would say the same to a black parent as they said to me, but there's no way we'd know unless it happened," she added.
A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said there was no problem with the firm transporting children, and that their membership of the BNP was not an issue.
"We have a duty to the people of Wiltshire to get the best value services across the whole of the council. We have a rigorous process to ensure all drivers who transport children on behalf of Wiltshire council have satisfactorily completed all the relevant checks," he said. "Our strict, open tendering process allows all contracts to be carefully chosen based on a number of criteria. These criteria include value for money and quality, but take no account of race, religion, gender or political leaning. Should we have any complaints about the delivery of any of our services, we would of course investigate them fully."
Cllr Simpkins said his firm provided a valuable service to special needs children, and was a service provided regardless of ethnic background. He described the objections by Cheryl Walker and others last year as 'an attempt to put us out of business'.
"Well, mum now has to take her child to school herself while we still have our council contracts for the other school children," he said. "The fact is the council, the school and we are only concerned with getting the children to and from school safely and because they all have different special needs, each one is treated specially. There is no room for playing politics with the children. I'm surprised no one has asked the obvious. Yes, they are all white but would be treated exactly the same if they were black, Asian or anything in between."
A spokesman for Unite Against Fascism, which organised a demonstration after Cllr Simpkins was elected unopposed to Corsham Town Council two years ago, said the situation was 'outrageous'.
"This is quite shocking."
The Bath Chronicle
June 22, 2009
The meeting agreed to organise a protest again this year’s BNP festival on August 15th convening in Codnor Market Place. The protest will begin with as many local activists as possible assembling from 9 am. We expect contingents to arrive from elsewhere in the country leading up to a National Rally at 11 am with a demonstration to follow that.
The meeting agreed that the the objectives of the protest against the BNP’s RWB festival will be:
- to bring together those who oppose the BNP in a peaceful and unified show of mass opposition to this major national event of theirs;
- to make clear to participants in the BNP event that they are not welcome in attempting to use Amber Valley as a base for their activities;
- to attempt to make our protest seen by as many as possible of those thinking of attending the festival;
- to encourage opponents of the BNP in the Amber Valley district and wider area to continue to campaign against the divisive policies of the BNP and the violent activities of their members;
- to safeguard as much as possible the safety of those protesting.
This website will again be used to keep people informed of this protest as well as other campaigning activity in the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire area. For further information please contact the email address associated with this website nobnpfestival at riseup.net
Stop the BNP’s Red White and Blue Festival
A source close to the schools secretary, Ed Balls, said there had been several meetings on the issue with teaching unions which are lobbying for a change in teachers' contracts to prevent them from working if they are members of far-right groups including the BNP. The issue was being "actively looked at", the source said.
It comes after it emerged that the General Teaching Council for England (GTC), which registers teachers to work in state schools, had rejected appeals to ban BNP members. Lawyers warned the council it could be accused of discriminating against members of the far-right party if it refused to register them.
Five members of the council's own governing body wrote to the Guardian on Saturday to appeal for a national debate on the issue. They claimed the GTC was "hiding" behind legal advice to avoid banning the BNP from registering as teachers.
Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, confirmed she had held several discussions with Balls about the possibility of a ban and had called for a change to teachers' contracts to prevent BNP members from teaching.
The source close to Balls said the issue was being re-examined in the light of the election to the European parliament of two BNP members, including party leader Nick Griffin, who has been convicted of inciting racial hatred.
The GTC was advised by lawyers that it would be discriminatory to ban members of a lawful political party. It was also told that if it declared any views on the BNP, it could be accused of lacking impartiality in any subsequent disciplinary hearings involving teachers in the far-right party.
A BNP membership list leaked last year included the names of 15 teachers, four nurses and one prison officer as well as 17 former police officers and 16 members of the armed forces. Members of the BNP, National Front and Combat 18 are banned from joining the police or becoming prison officers.
In the letter to the Guardian, the five GTC members argued that legislation required everyone working in schools to "promote good race relations and community cohesion", which would be incompatible with some views held by the BNP. The party supports voluntary repatriation of non-white citizens.
June 21, 2009
A member of the crowd made the call after learning that Charlotte Lewis had travelled to Calais to lead a protest against the refugee camp there, taking placards reading "Britain's full up" and "Asylum seekers don't unpack, you're going back". The ex-jailbird was telling the meeting about her exploits when a supporter shouted she should be given an Iron Cross - strongly associated with the Nazis and an emblem of the German army during World War Two.
Undercover Sunday Mirror investigators infiltrated the event on Thursday night in the back room of a pub in Dagenham, East London.
London Assembly member and local councillor Richard Barnbrook appeared briefly at the event, billed as a celebration of the party's "success" in the Euro election where they won two seats. But the evening turned into nothing more than another opportunity for activists to express racist views. Bob Bailey, 43, a BNP councillor in Barking and Dagenham, gave two talks at the event, with Lewis - a candidate for Waddon, South London - giving a third.
Although the BNP, led by new Euro MP Nick Griffin, have tried to reinvent themselves as a serious political party, it soon became clear that many party members still harbour extremely offensive views. Lewis - who was jailed for six months in 2001 for making death threats against workers at a drugs company - made no effort to hide her contempt for immigrants.
Talking about her trip to Calais, she said: "The invaders are dangerous and they are not people we want in England or Europe or anywhere in the civilised world." She claimed they "swaggered" around Calais before recounting a story about her Afghan neighbour. She said: "The Afghan who lives in the flat above me... well, I say that, he hasn't been seen for two weeks, so I'm hoping him, Fatima and the brat have moved out." After a pause, and to raucous laughter, she added: "I don't think they could take any more of my penchant for playing heavy metal music at 1am. It's wishful thinking that they have gone back to Afghanistan, but it's more than likely they have been allocated one of numerous brand-new housing association flats in the area."
Lewis then described people who work in soup kitchens to provide food for refugees as "idiotic dim-witted liberals". It was after this that Bailey made his ridiculous pledge to give Lewis a medal if the BNP get into government.
Sipping a pint, he said: "Under the BNP people like Charlotte would get a medal... there is no doubt." Someone in the crowd then shouted out "the Iron Cross". The German medal is closely associated with the Nazis - Hitler reintroduced it and added a swastika.
Bailey then went into an antiMuslim rant. He said: "We do not need Islam in Europe and we do not need it in the UK. In London we know the stark realities of Islam more than anywhere else. They bomb buses, they bomb trains, they have created terror here."
Bnp spokesman Simon Darby said yesterday: "It was a joke. People in this country are famous for their sense of humour. We are quite open that we don't regard the mass importation of Afghans and replacement of the native population as a good thing."
Just over 100 people from around the region took part in the protest; which was great, given that there were only a few days in which to organise and publicise it. Banners included those from Blackpool Trades Council; Blackpool and Fylde College UCU; Greater Manchester UAF and the local PCS.
Several speakers addressed the crowd and onlookers on the promenade. Points made included: why we say 'no platform for Nazis'; the fact that they are virulently homophobic as well as racist; the level of misogyny within the party and ended with a promise to Griffin that wherever he tries to appear publicly in the North West, we will be there too. Speakers talked about the fact that anti-fascists represent the majority and that UAF will organise protests to outnumber and oppose the Nazi BNP wherever they try to organise.
Andrew Wheatley, from Blackpool Trades Council, emphasised that, despite Griffin winning the North West seat, the BNP do not represent the majority of people in the area. Pete Marsden, of Blackpool UNISON, speaking in a personal capacity, criticised the “British Jobs for British Workers” slogan which had benefited the BNP.
Jain Gawn, of Blackpool and Fleetwood Unite Against Fascism, talked of the legacy of fighting Fascism in Britain, including the Battle of Cable Street and the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. Jain also cited the recent attacks in Belfast as an example of where racism leads. Other speakers included Dione Bough of UNISON, Independent Socialist Councillor Michael Lavalette, and others.
Weyman Bennett, joint-national secretary of UAF, called for people to attend the demonstration against the Nazis’ “Red, White and Blue” event in August, while Dave Sewell of Manchester University Students Union spoke about the need to continue a No Platform position against the BNP.
A letter was read out from the two Blackpool MP’s, Joan Humble and Gordon Marsden, which had been sent to the New Kimberley Hotel, opposing the Hotel’s hosting of BNP events, stating “The Nazis too deceived, frightened and scapegoated people – just the same as the BNP try to do. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that many BNP activists try to deny the Holocaust.”
Unfortunately, the rally was not entirely free from Nazis. Several of them came out of the hotel to harass people. This is a new development for BNP gatherings in Blackpool and was obviously born out of a new confidence they've gained since the elections. We will have to make sure that that confidence is short lived. While many of their thugs lolling around in gangs were dressed in suits, a small group of skins sauntered over in ‘nationalist’ t-shirts and started sieg-heiling at the crowd (with a wall and cops in between, to protect themselves, obviously). Whilst this was met with fury and much shouting, no on attempted to physically attack them. Instead we slowly moved them on along the prom.
It was quite obvious that the episode was orchestrated purely to provoke us into a violent response. When the old Nazi salute didn't cause anyone to loose control and attack them, they started chanting the names of concentration camps, as a taunt. As they descended into a tirade of racial abuse the police intervened and four of them were arrested. It would be hard to find a clearer example of the fact that the BNP is a haven for hardcore, unreconstructed, Nazis.
While it was depressing to see them so confident and closer to our demo than in other years it is important to bear the following in mind: anti-fascists are by far the majority; it looks like we had far more people outside that hotel than they had inside it and while we can march through the streets, they can't. It is going to be a long, hard summer making sure that this remains the case. They've got their seats in Europe, but that does not mean we have to allow them the chance to take over our public places. As their 'Victory Rally' was such a flop, they’re likely to try again at the Red, White and Blue gathering. We need to make sure they have nothing to celebrate when they get there!
The controversial MEP’s great-grandfather George Griffin roamed from town to town in a horse-drawn caravan with his wife Esther and their children, selling china and crockery. Census reports show he spent years living the gypsy life, never settling in one place because as an impoverished traveller he was on the margins of society and never fully accepted anywhere.
Last week Griffin, 50, who condemned attacks on Romanian gypsies in Northern Ireland, said: “We have to bear in mind that the gypsy community is notorious for its extremely high rate of criminality and antisocial behaviour. Everyone in Romania and eastern Europe knows this and it is one reason why their governments are so keen to encourage them to come over here.”
Yet between 1868 and 1874 records show his great-grandfather represented just such a minority. He travelled in one caravan with his family while his business partner, Mary Ann Hollis, travelled in another.
George habitually lied about his age, describing himself as 25 in the 1871 Census, 41 a decade later, 47 in the 1891 Census and 58 in 1901. He plied his precarious trade in Devon and Cornwall and could often be found parked outside the London Inn pub in Liskeard. The 1871 Census shows the caravans were parked next to the Cornish pub, noting: “Six persons not in houses”. In the column marked “Houses” it reports them as living in vans.
While George lived with Esther, 22, and his 10-month-old son George Junior in one, Mary Ann Hollis, 37, was in the second with George’s three-year-old daughter Mary Ann Griffi n and a William Huxham, 16.
He is described as a servant but probably earned his keep selling wares. In the Census column marked “Rank, profession or occupation” George is a “licensed hawker dealing in china and crockery ware”. His lifestyle would not have fitted with the intolerant views of Mr Griffin and the British National Party which does not accept black people as members. Griffin has called for an immediate halt to immigration, and voluntary resettlement of immigrants legally living in Britain.
When told this week of Mr Griffin’s heritage, shocked BNP deputy leader Simon Darby said: “That will please him.”
Genealogy expert Nick Barratt added: “George Griffin travelled around, scratching a living. His group will have roamed from street to street like ragtag travellers trying to survive on their wits and selling their wares. And it is highly likely he spent many more years living the life of a traveller before he married. Today we would call his group travellers and just like today they would have been marginalised on the edge of society and seen as outsiders. They will have been treated with a degree of suspicion and as a minority.”
You always remember what you were doing when something wonderful happened.
Well, on the evening of August 28, 2004, I was standing on a track-side seat and screaming as a young woman drove herself through the last few strides of an Olympic final. When she crossed the line, adding the 1500metres title to her 800m victory, I apologised to an American colleague for my outburst.
'Don't worry,' he said. 'She's a great lady, Kelly Holmes. You Brits should be proud of her.'
He was right, of course. Kelly's double was a prodigious achievement. In the annals of British sport it takes its place alongside Roger Bannister's four-minute mile, Bobby Moore's World Cup winners of 1966 and the 2003 Rugby World Cup victory of Martin Johnson's men. I well recall her tears of pride as she climbed to the peak of the podium and she did not cry alone.
Since that glorious Athenian evening, Kelly has continued to bring honour and credit to her sport. She was appointed National School Sports Champion and has enjoyed real success in increasing the amount of PE and active sport in our schools. She has designed and promoted programmes to support the development of gifted young sportsmen and women.
And she carries the credibility of an athlete whose own career - despite being distorted by injury and plagued by ill fortune - represented the ultimate vindication of spirit, endurance and towering talent. She was created a Dame in 2005 and more recently was elected President of Commonwealth Games England. In short, she is something more than a mere heroine; she has attained the status of national treasure.
Which makes the intervention of one Andrew Brons even more offensive.
Mr Brons is a leading light in the British National Party. He recently polled 9.8 per cent of votes in the Yorkshire and Humber region, which won him a seat in the European Parliament. He is a former member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. And this odious fellow has just expressed a view about our Kelly.
Although she was born in Pembury, Kent, and served for several years in the British Army before embarking upon her stunningly successful career in the British vest, she is not, in Brons's considered opinion, a fully-fledged Briton. For Kelly is the daughter of an English mother and a Jamaican-born father and her mixed-race heritage means that she is 'only partially from this country'.
Or, as he puts it: 'I don't accept the term Black British or Asian British. Britons are the indigenous peoples of these isles.'
Now, normally I should not dream of publicising the pitiful fantasies of Brons and his fellow inadequates. But his idiocy gives us the chance to reflect upon just how far sport has come.
Football, the national sport, has played a major part in engaging the entire community. The briefest glance at the current England team tells us how handsomely the sport has embraced diversity. Track and field has always had an admirable record in this area while rugby and cricket can point to genuine progress.
In truth, most of our major sports - with tennis a faintly depressing exception - have made intelligent efforts to broaden their talent base and British sport has benefited greatly from such enhanced inclusiveness.
It is, therefore, appropriate that the country should take collective offence when a fascist like Brons dares to question their presence in the nation's sport by declaring: 'They are British citizens, which is a legal concept, but not British by identity.' It is a statement both baseless and insulting and it says more about the poisonous dullard who made it than the men and women who it seeks to belittle.
For they are considerable people who have achieved great things, people like Ugo Monye, Ravi Bopara, Emile Heskey, Theo Walcott, Monty Panesar and Rio Ferdinand, as well as the woman who brought us screaming to our feet at the Athens Olympics.
'She's a great lady, Kelly Holmes,' said the American journalist. 'You Brits should be proud of her.'
Indeed we are, because Dame Kelly is one of the finest athletes in Olympic history. And she is one of us.
Patrick Collins in the Mail on Sunday