by Caroline Colebrook
THE BRITISH National Party spent four weeks delivering leaflets in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham in the run-up to their first public rally for years in December in a local park.
The BNP attracted around 60 – many of them regular BNP stalwarts from outside the borough.
Meanwhile an anti-fascist protest rally organised by Unite Against Fascism attracted around 500, who marched from the local civic centre and arrived in Central Park before the BNP were due to start.
The anti-fascists, separated from the BNP supporters by an iron fence and a large police presence, drowned out the BNP speeches with chants and jeers.
Slogans shouted included: “Nazi scum off our streets” and “Can you hear the fascists sing? We can’t hear a f***ing thing”
And the anti-fascists did succeed in calling out local supporters, including trade unionists, students and many others.
Unions represented and with banners included public sector union Unison, PCS civil service union, transport union RMT, the Transport and General Workers’ Union, the lecturers’ union UCU, the Communication Workers’ Union and the GMB general union.
Speakers at the anti-fascist rally included Steve Hart from the TGWU, Linda Perks from Unison, Paul Mackney from the union UCU and Michelle Emerson of the CWU. Also on the platform were Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and Lee Jasper, who represented London Mayor Ken Livingstone.
Local BNP leader Richard Barnbrook struggled to make himself heard, even with the help of a microphone, from the back of a Landrover in a small car park on the edge of Central Park.
When he asked for questions it emerged that not all of the small crowd in front of him were supporters of BNP policy.
After about 40 minutes he gave up and the BNP and hurried away from the park, surrounded by police vans for their own safety.
The event was such a flop the BNP did not even report it on their website, nor the Stormfront site.
But it would be a mistake to be complacent about the strength of the BNP. Their rally was supposed to be about housing, crime and local services. Since last May when they gained 12 councillors they have delivered three leaflets around the borough, moving into wards they had not previously targeted.
Some BNP councillors have been appalling – two have been arraigned for housing benefit fraud – but others have been working hard.
Meanwhile support for Labour – the only party with a realistic chance of keeping them out at the ballot box – has been falling.
Labour activists, many of whom are very disillusioned with their leaders, have done little since the election.
The BNP is targeting the two constituencies – Barking and Dagenham – for the next general election and hope that if they work solidly over the next three or four years they may win a parliamentary seat.
Currently the BNP has 12 councillors in Barking and Dagenham. In last May’s elections the BNP averaged 40 per cent of the vote in the wards it contested compared to a Labour vote of 34 per cent.
In the previous local elections in 2002 the Labour vote in many of these wards was around 60 per cent.
Last month the Guardian newspaper carried revelations from journalist Ian Cobain, who had infiltrated the BNP. He described the advice than BNP leader Nick Griffin gave to door-to-door canvassers.
Cobain wrote: “I should take a copy of the local electoral register, he says, to avoid wasting time knocking on the doors of black or minority ethnic people. ‘You want to have the register in front of you, and you say, “Oh we’ll skip this door, it’s Mr Omonga Bonga”, or whatever; it’s more efficient that way.’
“There is more advice to be found in the BNP Activists and Organiser’s Handbook, which informs me how to deliver leaflets without being attacked; how to deal with ‘screamers’ – people who object loudly to having BNP literature stuffed through their letterboxes – and what to do if arrested.”
Anyone interested in getting actively involved should contact the website www.stopthebnp.org.uk