The fascist British National Party (BNP) did not enter the general election expecting to win a parliamentary seat. But it did hope to increase its share of the vote in a number of areas, building a base for next year’s local elections.
Having failed to capitalise on initial gains in Lancashire, Nazi hopes switched to Yorkshire. The BNP vote in some areas of Yorkshire and in Stoke-on-Trent are a cause for concern. But BNP leader Nick Griffin failed to match his expectations in Keighley, nor did the BNP make its expected breakthrough in Dewsbury.
But a poor night overall for the BNP was offset by one result in Barking, outer east London, where they polled 16.9 percent.
Barking is an area where there is discontent with the Labour dominated council, with Labour MP Margaret Hodge and with Blair’s government. Issues like housing create discontent which is not expressed by the established parties.
The decline of the BNP vote in Oldham and Burnley, and its effective demise in London’s East End show how hard campaigning can drive back the Nazis.
The potential to repeat this in outer east London and Essex was shown by the 40,000-strong turnout at the Unite Against Fascism festival held in Trafalgar Square on the Sunday before polling day.
Huge numbers of young people attended. Many were turned off at simply being told to vote Labour. Instead they wanted an active and united response to the Nazi threat.
Unite can hopefully repeat the success of such events in Barking, using them as a springboard for the sort of mass campaigning that has knocked back the Nazis elsewhere.
While a united campaign against the Nazi threat remains imperative, it is also important that traditional Labour voters in Barking and elsewhere are offered a radical outlet for their frustration with Blair.
Otherwise it can be channelled further towards the BNP. Respect needs to advance eastwards to establish campaigning roots in Barking.
In cities like Stoke we desperately need to ensure that the left has an effective presence.