Here we have three news stories that define for us The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
First the Good ;
The BNP rise is about identity
It's not, as we're told, about jobs or housing
Mainstream politicians used to dismiss BNP voters with clichéd name-calling. Not now. It has taken the election of two BNP MEPs for those in power actually to look at why so many people vote for the far Right. It was about MPs' expenses, they explain. Or jobs and housing.
But the politicians cowardly ignore the obvious - it's also about identity. The white working class feels disenfranchised; sidelined by talk of a mythic multiculturalism that dismisses or demonises them.
I was born and raised in the street opposite the old Labour HQ on Walworth Road - a neighbourhood once defined by a civic culture born of the municipal socialism of the early 20th century. In that inward-looking working-class world many worked locally, married “in” and often remained in the same postcode (evacuation and conscription permitting) from cradle to grave.
By the 1960s, those of us within its rising generation would have willingly escaped as soon as puberty kicked in. I once wrote: “We arrived after the bombs brought people together and before the bulldozers pushed them apart. And for us it was merely the backdrop to the beginning of our biographies, not the beginning, middle and end.” Then as now, these neighbourhoods included the good, the bad and the ugly -it was far from idyllic.
Labour rejoiced in the collectivism of the working class as long as it could define them as “the workers”. But with constant mass immigration it suddenly became apparent that the collectivism of the white working class was defined by ethnicity too. Fear of immigration turned some to the National Front - from then on many a Labour voter used the lines “Enoch is right” and “We're second-class citizens” until they fossilised into cliché.
Labour has failed to assuage those fears - and too many feel that those fears have become reality. Many of its long-term voters believed the party was responsible for eradicating anything that linked the white working class with an identity and a history, because it was at odds with the modern creed of multiculturalism.
But you can't talk up diversity and inclusiveness while ignoring white working-class culture, and not expect dissent. With multiculturalism came heavy-handed anti-discrimination laws and the McCarthyism of a race industry that appears to attach no value to a racist crime when the victim is white.
All this has played a huge part in pushing voters away from Labour. It will take more than new homes and jobs to bring them back.
Michael Collins is the author of The Likes of Us: A Biography of the White Working Class
Now The Bad ;
Civil servants in BNP must 'leave politics at home' or be sacked
Civil servants who are members of extremist groups such as the BNP will face the sack if they “bring their politics to work” and refuse to promote ethnic diversity under a revised code of conduct, The Times has learnt.
Senior officials at the Cabinet Office are now urgently drafting an amendment to the Civil Service code of conduct following the election of Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons to the European Parliament.
The amendment, which will be attached to the code and sent to all heads of department, will make clear that all civil servants will have to be fair, politically impartial and against discrimination.
They will also have to agree to promote ethnic minority groups. Anyone who breaches the new code, which is enshrined in terms and conditions of service, will be disciplined and possibly dismissed.
However the Government has refused to back calls for a blanket ban on allowing BNP members to join the civil service although the Public and Commercial Services Union passed a motion at its conference this year to ban BNP membership across Government departments. BNP members are already banned from the police and prison services.
In a separate development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has written to its office in Brussels as well as embassies worldwide to reiterate that officials should give MEPs from extremist organisations only “factual information in writing” and not liaise with them in any other way.
Officials already have to ask permission from the Permanent Secretary at the FCO or the Minister for Europe if they wish to meet an MEP from the BNP or speak to them by phone.
Now the Ugly ;
June 13, 2009
‘BNP should be confronted to prevent them gaining power’
Weyman Bennett: Commentary
The recent electoral gains by the British National Party have triggered debates over how best to oppose it. Unite Against Fascism (UAF) believes that the BNP is a fascist organisation, and as such it should not be treated with the respect one accords to democratic parties. The BNP should be physically confronted wherever it tries to organise. It should be not be accepted as a legitimate political organisation, or mollycoddled with interviews and airtime. It should driven out of our political life.
Some people say that these tactics are counterproductive and risk granting the BNP victim status. But we believe that the greater danger comes from letting the BNP pose as a legitimate and democratic political organisation. As with fascist parties in the past, the BNP stands in elections to secure a veneer of respectability. This acts as a cover for its real agenda: promoting vicious race hatred and thuggery on our streets.
It is therefore essential to deny the BNP the respectability it craves. That is why UAF supports the anti-fascists who successfully disrupted Nick Griffin’s press conference last week. Griffin chose to be filmed outside the Houses of Parliament to secure his credentials as part of the establishment. Instead he was humiliated and forced to deliver his “victory” speech the next day in a Manchester pub.
Politicians in Germany in the 1930s promised to oppose Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party, but went about it through peaceful and legal means. Far from preventing Hitler’s rise, the they ended up nurturing him and eventually handing power to him. Hitler used that power to smash every last vestige of democracy and to launch a disastrous and genocidal war.
In contrast, the militant tradition of anti-fascism has a track record of success. The National Front was defeated in the 1970s by a mass movement that rose up to confront it, led by the Anti-Nazi League.
Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists was defeated in a similar manner, most notably at the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.
This is the tradition that UAF stands in today. During the recent election campaign our activists distributed more than two million leaflets and newsheets urging people to vote against the BNP. We worked with our sister campaign Love Music Hate Racism to hold a 20,000-strong anti-racist music festival in Stoke-on-Trent. We need to combine all these tactics if we are serious about defeating the threat posed by the BNP.
Weyman Bennett is Joint Secretary of Unite Against Fascism