Socialist Worker

BNP backs Hodge over housing - but deputy race sees condemnation

by Anindya Bhattacharyya
Issue No. 2053

New Labour minister Margaret Hodge is facing a growing backlash against her call for council housing to be 'rationed' to prioritise 'indigenous families' over 'new migrants'.

Hodge's comments echoed the rhetoric of the fascist British National Party (BNP), which won 12 council seats last year in Barking & Dagenham, east London, by spreading racist lies blaming immigrants for the housing crisis.

While Hodge's remarks have led to condemnation from Labour activists, housing campaigners and anti-fascists, the mainstream media has used them as an excuse to indulge in their favourite game of giving free publicity to the BNP.

BBC2's Newsnight invited Nazi leader Nick Griffin on to the programme. He used the platform to boast about how Hodge 'has just said what we were saying five years ago'.

For all their fakery of standing up for working class interests, the row has revealed that the Nazis are adamantly opposed to increasing the amount of low cost housing. 'Building more homes is not the answer,' they say.

Spilled

The row over Hodge's comments spilled over into the Labour Party's deputy leadership contest last week. Five of the six contenders for deputy have either attacked Hodge or distanced themselves from her comments.

The exception was party chair Hazel Blears, who initially praised Hodge for 'tackling tough issues'.

Yet by last weekend even Blears was pathetically trying to backtrack, claiming at a Bristol hustings meeting that Hodge had 'got the issue a bit wrong'.

Education secretary Alan Johnson was most forthright in his condemnation of Hodge, bluntly accusing her of using 'the language of the BNP'.

Yet for all this, not one single senior Labour figure has called for Hodge to be sacked.

Johnson explicitly ruled out the idea that she should go, saying that 'ministers have to be able to discuss difficult subjects'.

One of the few New Labour figures to unequivocally back Hodge was Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham, the east London borough that lies next to Hodge's Barking constituency.

'People who have contributed to this society for years cannot have their needs relegated by the greater needs of new arrivals,' he declared. 'This country has porous borders and the needs of people who may arrive are infinite.'

Barking & Dagenham Unite Against Fascism is organising a leafleting drive against the BNP to rebut the fascists' lies over housing. Phone 020 7833 4916 or go to » www.uaf.org.uk for details.


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News
Tue 29 May 2007, 18:53 BST
Issue No. 2053
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