Dead Men Left

Thursday, March 03, 2005

How not to defeat the fascists

Via Little Red Blogger, a sick joke from the Tories:

[Calderdale] council's race equality committee is facing collapse after Conservative leaders appointed a BNP member in a move denounced by opponents as "a joke"...

Mr Marsden, who was re-elected last month for the council's Town ward, behind two Labour councillors, said he had plenty to contribute and was being unfairly attacked. The BNP was keen to do its bit on the all-party race equality and community cohesion whose remit is to improve local race relations...

Mr Marsden was reprimanded in May for breaching Calderdale's code of conduct by threatening to "level" Labour's then deputy leader Helen Rivron, who had called him a Nazi during a debate.

Tensions have remained high on the council, which has been hung for most of the last 10 years - with 21 Tories now in minority control, facing 15 Liberal Democrats, nine Labour, three BNP and three independents.

The Tories evidently have no great qualms about working with the BNP. This might not be too surprising at present; what's more disturbing is the way those in other parties, with otherwise better "progressive" credentials, will do the same.

In Burnley, Lancashire, Liberal Democrats on the council have deliberately used the BNP to push a Labour minority administration out of office. After passing a motion of no confidence in the administration relying on BNP support, it was reported last summer that:

The Lib Dem leader, Gordon Birtwistle, angrily rejected all charges of deals.

"My involvement with the BNP was nil," he said. "I made one phone call to the leader of the BNP before the council meeting out of courtesy to tell him that we were putting a motion to the council.

Nil involvement, other than a courtesy call on the local Nazi leader.

Meanwhile, back in Yorkshire, Keighley's Labour MP, Anne Cryer, appears to believe that the best way to combat the far-right is parrot their propaganda. As Madeleine Bunting says:

The second narrative on the liberal left has the same conclusion [as that of the racist right] - and therein lies a big problem - but arrives by another route. Its concern is social cohesion and it points to the increasing segregation of education in Keighley which, as in the rest of Bradford district, is exceeding residential segregation. It points to the terrible educational under-achievement, particularly of Pakistani boys (22% get five GCSEs). It argues that the only way to tackle the chronic poverty of the Asian community is through education and suggests that the high rate of transcontinental marriages - it is traditional among the Pakistanis to marry a first cousin, usually from Pakistan - is holding back the community.

This is the narrative Cryer has adopted. With her Keighley directness, she has caused great offence within the Asian community by her pronouncements on issues such as Asian children speaking English in the home and her criticisms of transcontinental marriages.

If push comes to shove, the activities of broad-based, grass-roots campaigns like UAF make a difference; they are (rightly) credited with halting the BNP's advance in much of the north-west last year, preventing further breakthroughs on local councils. But this too often takes place despite the political leadership of the main parties. Twenty or more years of neo-liberal politics, Tory then New Labour, have produced an utterly spineless official left.