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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Tackling the BNP head on

The Observer reports this morning that Labour MP, Margaret Hodge, has called on the Prime Minister to take a 'moral lead' against anti-immigrant prejudice rather than try to outflank the Tories. This is a change in direction that is long overdue.

Mrs Hodge is absolutely right when she says that "Anger at the slow pace of change, fuelled by the unprincipled Tory campaign on immigration, has given a new legitimacy to intolerance. It's not simple racism that attracts them to the BNP. It's a more complex pattern of frustration and fear: it's about rundown housing, crime on estates, disorder in communities, The government can no longer respond by simply getting tough on immigration. Our multiracial communities are here to stay. Strong, bold leadership is essential to bring a halt to the exploitation of fear of change."

The growth in support for the BNP in certain areas is built on dissatisfaction with the political system and its failure to deal with issues such as poverty, poor housing, unemployment and anti-social behaviour. The BNP have focussed this disillusion onto the issue of asylum seekers and immigration by claiming that a particular group of people have privileges not available to those who were born and bred locally. They are wrong of course, but the failure to engage with their arguments directly and the simplistic way that we have opposed them thus far have allowed them to get away with it, whilst at the same time reinforcing their self-created image as the anti-establishment champions of the white underclasses.

It is for this reason that we must not be afraid of debating directly with the BNP so as to expose their fallacies, their lies and their racism. As Margaret Hodge says, we must take a moral lead, but above all we must focus the energies of Government on tackling the problems that fuel support for this odious party and which enables them to play on people's fears and anger.

As Mrs Hodge concludes: "if change does not come, people will continue to blame immigration - and politicians."
It is tricky. These sort of people 'do a daily mail' and take one incident, and hold it up as an example of the community/group as a whole. The one's I have tried speaking to seem rather ignorant, appart from an apparantly vast knowledge of quotes from the Qu'ran. When asked to prove that what they quote is in the text, they seem to get a bit sheepish. I presume they are given these small passages that can be interpreted in a negitive way by others, as I can't imagine them signing up to an Islamic studies course at a uni!
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