Labour Party activists and anti-fascist campaigners in Barking, east London, have reacted with fury to comments from their local MP Margaret Hodge that sought to blame the lack of council housing in the borough on immigrants.
Barking is a target area for the fascist British National Party (BNP), which has used the borough’s housing crisis to whip up racism.
The BNP gained 12 council seats in Barking & Dagenham at last year’s council elections after Hodge made lurid and exaggerated claims that eight out of ten white families were thinking of voting for them.
Now Hodge’s latest intervention – made in last Sunday’s Observer newspaper – has given the Nazis a further boost.
The BNP praises Hodge for raising “an issue which has been in our manifesto for years”. The fascists boast that Hodge has “legitimised” their position leading to a “win-win situation for the BNP”.
Hodge described social housing as a “limited resource” and called for it to be “rationed” to prioritise the “legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family” over “new migrants”.
Jon Cruddas, the MP for neighbouring Dagenham and a contender in Labour’s deputy leadership race, condemned Hodge’s comments as “inflammatory”.
“We’re in danger of racialising arguments over housing allocation rather than concentrating on the need for greater social housing provision,” he said.
But other senior Labour figures – including party chair Hazel Blears – have backed Hodge’s bigoted remarks. A Downing Street spokesperson said the government “recognised that there was an issue here”.