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Monday, April 17, 2006

Talking up the racists

I did not have much time for blogging yesterday due to family commitments so I put off writing about Margaret Hodge until today. In many ways that is fortunate as I am still having difficulty getting past my anger at her stupidity. I do not know if eight out of ten of voters in Barking and Dagenham were thinking of voting for the BNP before, but after this outburst it is almost certain that they are now.

It seems that Mrs Hodge has been talking to her electors but not listening. If many of them are considering voting for the BNP then it is because they are disillusioned with the Labour Government and the local Council. The BNP may be racists but it is not racists who they appeal to. Instead, they latch onto dissatisfaction and apply a simplistic and popularist solution to local problems. Often this can involve finding scapegoats, in all cases it involves casting themselves as an anti-establishment force who local people can identify with.

By placing them in the spotlight in this way, Margaret Hodge has given the BNP greater credibility and directed more people to a possible receptacle of their protest votes. She has also reinforced the voters' views of her party as one which is incapable of engaging with the issues. This is because she is talking about process rather than people's concerns and she is doing so in the BNP's language.

Those concerns are not necessarily about race. Immigration and asylum are convenient hooks on which to hang the blame for poor and unavailable housing, unemployment, lack of educational achievement, anti-social behaviour and a whole raft of other problems, but it is those issues that need to be tackled not the changing ethnic mix of our society. If the Minister is serious about combating the BNP then she needs to start listening properly and to help people to find solutions to the matters that are really riling them and which cause them to look for alternative politicians. All she is doing at the moment is causing more damage to the fragile fabric of our democracy and in that she is not alone.
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