May 02, 2007

The dark reality lying behind the new-model BNP

Cambridge University law graduate, father-of-four, and small scale organic farmer whose home-grown meat is humanely produced... Meet Nick Griffin, the public face of the British National Party – sharp-suited, articulate, and politically ambitious. It’s an image that has been carefully honed to give the BNP mass appeal, which party officials hope to translate into electoral success.

In tomorrow’s local elections, his party has fielded more local candidates than ever before – six in Carlisle, and eleven across Cumbria. The effort being ploughed into the county by the BNP is evidence of what Griffin said in a previous election – that they see Cumbria as fertile territory in their battle to win political power.

But what lies behind the slick media-savvy image of the modern day BNP?

Is the party really a natural home for those who want to foster racial division? Does the party really want to bring an abrupt end to Cumbria’s transformation into a multicultural society, paving the way for an all-white United Kingdom?

At least part of the answer can be found in the glossy election leaflet being distributed by the party’s candidate for Carlisle’s Harraby ward, a self-employed joiner called David Fraser. Setting out his personal manifesto, he writes: “I’m Carlisle born and bred. On leaving school, I served my apprenticeship as a joiner and have been self-employed in my chosen trade ever since. I’m passionate about Cumbria and am very concerned about the job losses in the area. On top of this, we have now had an influx of cheap migrant labour undercutting the wages of the local workforce and putting even more pressure on the job market. Something must be done about this, which is why I have joined the BNP.”

In an interview during a previous election, Griffin told the News & Star: “Cumbria is one of those areas which is like England used to be, and most of the people living there want to keep it that way.”

To the many foreign workers now living in the county, working for companies such as McVitie’s, Fraser’s manifesto and Griffin’s words must be deeply disturbing. The News & Star spoke to several people who say they have good reason to fear the BNP and its values.

Justyana Zmuda, a 25-year-old Polish woman working in Carlisle for Riverside Recruitment, is appalled by the prospect of a Cumbria turning its back on foreigners. She is among hundreds of eastern European workers who have made a home for themselves here. Bubbly, happy, and relaxed, she came to the UK three years ago after completing a finance degree in Gdansk. She has an English boyfriend, and has progressed from a job as a barmaid to become Riverside Recruitment’s European welfare consultant, helping migrant workers to work in Cumbria.

She said: “This is a democracy and people can say whatever they want, but Cumbrian people are intelligent enough to know that foreign workers are not taking their jobs. Without them, the economy of Cumbria would not be so good. The reason there are so many Polish people in Carlisle is that they are good workers. We’re not taking jobs from anybody else. It doesn’t matter whether a worker is English or Polish – they’re paid the same.

“What difference does it make if your nurse in hospital is Polish or English? I’m going to college as well and so many of my friends are of different nationalities – from Japan, Germany, Ireland and Iran. They’re lovely people.”

Some local BNP opponents say the party has a long association with people fond of intimidation – a claim vehemently denied by BNP officials in the county.

Racist Derek Potts was last year jailed after he admitted pushing 36 offensive letters through the letterbox of the Bangladeshi family who run the Lazeez takeaway on Blackwell Road, Currock. Some of the papers he posted bore the BNP logo – though the party insists Potts has never been one of their members.

Speaking this week, the takeaway’s owner Asma Khatun, a married mother of three who came to the UK when she was three, said: “I’m scared of the BNP. But Carlisle is my home and I’m not going to let anybody make us leave.”

Though the BNP and the National Front are separate parties, she has bitter memories of the latter’s attempts to foster racial tension in Bradford during her childhood. She fears tense ethnic divisions could be the result if the BNP were to see a surge in its grassroots support.

Mrs Khatun, who runs the restaurant with her husband Liakoth Ali Khandoker, said: “I remember the National Front marching through the streets, shouting words like ‘Paki’ at us. Elderly people stayed in their homes. I was only eight but I remember being really scared. The letters pushed through our door were really threatening, telling us to watch our backs, going on about Islam and calling us terrorists. This is a free country – why can’t people be civilised?”

Also afraid of the BNP is would-be Labour councillor Johanthan Wood, an 18-year-old sixth former who is studying at Workington’s Sixth Form College. A candidate for Silloth in the Allerdale elections, he recently launched an anti-BNP leaflet campaign with his pal 19-year-old Duncan Money.

Both subsequently saw their names and pictures posted on the white nationalist website Redwatch, which goes under the slogan: “Remember places, traitors’ faces. They will pay for their crimes.”

Jonathan said: “We construed that as a threat. We’ve also had trouble from Combat 18, who take their name from the initials of Adolf Hitler, the first and eighth letters of the alphabet being his initials. We’ve had death threats from them over the phone and the internet.”

The threats came within weeks of Jonathan and Duncan launching their anti-BNP campaign, though the BNP again insists they have no knowledge of and would not sanction that kind of behaviour. They have no links with the two organisations involved, they say. Jonathan added: “It’s just encouraged me to bring these people out into the open.”

The BNP’s campaign organiser in Cumbria is Clive Jefferson, a 40-year-old Cumbrian father of two from Cockermouth in west Cumbria. He argues that the BNP has been tarnished by but not dominated by its past association with undesirables, many with criminal convictions. “The BNP is not the National Front,” he declared.

He said: “We’re good, genuine people. The BNP nationally, and locally says categorically that we don’t hate or dislike anybody. We’re not against anybody. We’re for British people. We ‘re a legal, democratic party. We want to listen to and represent people – the other parties have forgotten their grass roots.”

Asked if the party is racist, he insists it is not, but admits the BNP want to see and end to what he calls the “multi-cultural experiment” which he regards as a disaster. Mr Jefferson speaks of Britain as a country with porous borders, flooded with illegal migrants. He expressed contrition when confronted by the criminal background of Nick Griffin, convicted in 1998 of distributing material likely to incite racial hatred. The offending material was his publication The Rune, which included anti-semitic material and even denied the Holocaust ever happened. He summed up the atrocity in a single word: “Holohoax”. He wrote: “I am well aware that orthodox opinion is that six million Jews were gassed and cremated or turned into soap and lampshades. Orthodox opinion also once held that the earth is flat … I have reached the conclusion that the ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter witch-hysteria.”

Again, Mr Jefferson springs to his leader’s defence, with the words: “It was a horrible conviction, a nasty thing. I know Nick Griffin personally, and I trust him. He’s been convicted of having a different view of history. He’d been given evidence which questioned the magnitude of the Holocaust. But he does accept the Holocaust as a fact and understands the evidence he was presented with was not correct.”

He said his party had been targeted by a misleading leaflet linking his party to Derek Potts, who he said had simply got hold of BNP literature for his personal hate campaign against the restaurant owners.

“I apologise if that woman feels uncomfortable with our presence here,” he said.

Commenting on Jonathan Wood, he said: “There is nobody from the BNP threatening anyone and if there is I will discipline them. They will be removed from the BNP – it will not be tolerated.”

Mr Jefferson, a former electrical engineer, said he was inspired to join his party after a near fatal accident which showed him just how uncaring Britain has become. But his defence of the BNP cut little ice with Paul Jenkins, spokesman for the Cumbria Unite Against Fascism pressure group.

He said: “The BNP definitely pose a danger because in every single area where they are active, and where they have won council seats, racist attacks increase massively: we’ve seen that in Burnley in Lancashire, in parts of Yorkshire and in Barking in Dagenham. They tend to sneak in where there is a low turnout at elections. In terms of the wider dangers they represent, the important thing is what their leaflets do not tell you. Their aim is an all-white society. Nick Griffin said that in 2002. Their publicity officer Mark Collett claimed that Hitler’s Germany was a better place in which to live than some parts of Britain. That’s the real politics of the BNP.”

One man who has seen for himself what right wing extremism can lead to is Holocaust survivor Arek Hersh, a concentration camp survivor liberated by the Russians on January 8, 1945 and then evacuated to Cumbria. Now aged 78, Mr Hersh feels that it is his duty to speak of the horrors he saw as a child in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald death camps.

He said: “I was eleven years old when I was taken from my home in Poland and put in the Otochono labour camp in the west of the country. I was there 18 months and out of the 2,500 people put in there, only eleven survived and I was one of them.”

In the months that followed, Mr Hersh was moved from one hellhole to another: from Otochno to Lodz ghetto, and then on to Auschwitz and Buchenwald death camps. He was liberated by Russian soldiers after he and fellow survivors – starving, terrified, and skeletal – spent a month living in open cattle trucks sent to Czechoslovakia. Of the 120 people in his wagon, only 40 survived. Of the 3,000 who made that same journey, only 600 lived to see freedom.

Mr Hersh said: “It was absolutely horrendous. Nothing I can say could describe the horrors which these people perpetrated against us. People died every day – beaten, starved to death. The gas chambers and crematorium were working day and night. I can’t get it out of my head, and I had nightmares for 30 years. I lost my entire family, except for my sister Mania, who died 18 months ago. I lost my mother Bluma 39, my father Szmuel, 42, my sisters Itka, 18, and Dvora, seven, and my brother Tovia, 16. If you forget history, it repeats itself. It was 62 years ago, but it’s very important to remember what happened.I’ve witnessed things that nobody should ever have to see.”

News and Star

1 comment:

Duncan said...

As always, the BNP have been talking crap about migrant workers in these elections.

In the last couple of weeks Maryport has seen the partial closing of the fish factory, the town's largest employer with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

As per usual the BNP had been blaming Polish and Lithuanian workers in the factory for taking the jobs of local people.

But why has the factory closed? Bosses have said that it was because there were not enough workers available locally for the factory to expand.

The BNP are worse than useless. There are not enough workers in Cumbria to justify industry staying here and they still want to kick people out!