The fascist British National Party (BNP) suffered a major setback on Thursday night when it was comprehensively defeated in a council by-election in Barking, east London.
The by-election in the Becontree ward was won by Labour candidate Alok Agrawal with 1,171 votes. The BNP came a poor second on 378 votes. Turnout was just over 25 percent.
The Nazis scored their best general election result in Barking and have been targeting the area for months. But anti-fascist campaigners believe the BNPs overwhelming defeat in Becontree marks a turning point in the battle against them.
This is a really bad result for the BNP, said Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism. They went all out to win this seat and threw everything they had at it.
In particular, the Nazis tried to whip up hatred against Muslims in the wake of the London bombings. They put out a leaflet with a picture of the bombed Number 30 bus headlined Maybe Now Its Time to Listen to the BNP.
Unite Against Fascism responded rapidly by leafleting the entire ward with a statement that attacked the BNP for trying to exploit the bombings to spread its race hate agenda. It called on Barkings anti-Nazi majority to turn out in numbers and vote against the BNP.
The BNP thought they were going to benefit from the bombings, but if anything it went against them. People really didnt like their leaflet, said Weyman Bennett.
But Unites campaign against the BNP really struck a chord. People turned up at the polling stations carrying our leaflet many of them had never voted before.
The positive, non-partisan and focused nature of the Unite campaign led directly to a large and diverse anti-BNP turnout, he added. This sort of mobilisation can only be done on the basis of unity, with leaflets that are explicitly not in support of any particular party.
Unites approach contrasts with those of other sections of the left that have argued for a vote Labour to defeat the BNP campaign, or for leaflets that equate fascism and Islamic terrorism as twin evils.
The Becontree by-election result vindicates the Unite strategy and points the way forward for how to beat back the Nazis in other areas of the country.
For more information on Unite Against Fascism go to www.uaf.org.uk or call 020 7833 4916.