Socialist Worker

The warning from Downham

by Judy Cox analyses how the BNP Nazis got so many votes
Issue No. 1826

THE NAZI British National Party got 519 votes in the Downham ward by-election in Lewisham, south east London, on Thursday of last week. This alarming number of votes gave the BNP third place with 20 percent of the total vote in the ward. The Liberal Democrats won the council seat with 998 votes. Labour came second with 769. The BNP is cashing in on the atmosphere created by home secretary David Blunkett.

When Blunkett brags about his new powers to lock up asylum seekers in special camps, he gives legitimacy to the BNP's racist filth. When he blames racism on refugees who 'do not integrate' into British society, he reinforces the Nazis' message that blacks and Asians are responsible for the problems people face. And when New Labour politicians bang on about hooligans and anti-social behaviour on council estates, they feed into the Nazis' rhetoric about law and order.

There was widespread shock when the BNP got three councillors elected in Burnley last May. But the Nazis are not just a problem in the north west - they are a virus that can strike anywhere. Last month their candidate got 18.5 percent of the vote in the election for mayor of Stoke. The Nazis have targeted Downham and the surrounding area

The BNP had a base of support there in the past. Over the last six months it has issued a regular newsletter. During the election campaign the BNP bussed Nazis in from across London. Downham is also close to Eltham.

Stephen Lawrence was murdered in Eltham and there have been a string of racist attacks in the area over the last few months. The elections show that every time New Labour scapegoats refugees and wails about the breakdown of law and order, the Nazis become more confident to push their ideas.

The BNP attempted to pose as a respectable political party concerned over local issues like the closure of swimming pools. But this was blown out of the water by a TV documentary two weeks ago.

Leading young BNP member Mark Collett was secretly taped by a TV reporter. Collett said that AIDS is a 'friendly disease' because it kills blacks and gays. He used vile racist language about Jewish people and praised Adolf Hitler. The BNP leader, Griffin, has described how the BNP relies on violence and is 'a strong, disciplined organisation with the ability to back up its slogan 'Defend rights for whites' with well directed boots and fists'.

Blunkett argues that the best way to stop these people is to echo them, but such an approach just makes them stronger. In Lincoln last weekend a gang of 30 youths armed with knives and baseball bats rampaged through an Indian restaurant. One man was left seriously injured.

New Labour has helped to create a situation where black and Asian people are victimised and attacked. The Socialist Alliance stood a candidate in Downham who did stand up against racism. The Socialist Alliance had not stood in Downham before. It got 41 votes, 1.5 percent of the total.

Anti-racists and socialists in south east London are now discussing future activities to challenge the BNP in the area. Anger about poverty, cuts and neglect fuelled support for the BNP. We must show how unity against those holding the purse strings rather than scapegoating is the best way to fight back.

Realities of racism

SHOCKING NEW figures show that black people are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people. The police claimed they were intimidated out of using their powers effectively when the Stephen Lawrence inquiry accused them of being institutionally racist. Back then black people were five times more likely to be stopped by police than whites.

Now, disgracefully, the unequal treatment of black people has actually got worse. Asian people are three times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites. Black people are also four times more likely to be actually arrested than whites.

Only a tiny percentage of those searched are ever charged, and even less are convicted of any offence.

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Article information

Sat 16 Nov 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1826
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