Thursday, May 24, 2007

More racist nonsense from Hodge

THOUGH THE LOCAL elections were bad news for Labour we can console ourselves with the fact that the neo-nazis failed to make the breakthrough they had been predicting. The British National Party (BNP) had boasted that it would increase its number of councillors from 49 to 100. It ended up with no net gains at all. This was largely due to the consistent work of the broad anti-racist campaign in the working class estates targeted by the fascists in recent years.
But just when we thought the fascists had their backs against the wall, Margaret Hodge, the worthless Labour MP for Barking, has given them a new lease of life when she blamed immigrants for the housing crisis last Sunday. This isn’t the first time that this Blairite junior minister has played the racist card.
On the eve of the London borough elections in May 2006 Hodge claimed that eight out of ten white working class voters in her constituency would be tempted to vote for the BNP because “no one else is listening to them” about concerns over housing, asylum seekers and jobs in Barking and Dagenham. It was a publicity shot in the arm for the fascists who won 12 seats in the borough.
Britain once was proud of its great council estates and its policy of welcoming refugees seeking asylum. Hodge herself is the daughter of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who settled in London. Now she tells us that immigrants should go to the back of the queue in the allocation of council housing regardless of need.
To his credit, Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for neighbouring Dagenham has condemned Hodge’s comments as “inflammatory”.
“We’re in danger of racialising arguments over housing allocation rather than concentrating on the need for greater social housing provision,” he said. Cruddas, unlike Hodge, has thrown his weight behind the local anti-racist movement, and that alone makes him the most credible candidate in the race for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party.
Barking and Dagenham is not the capital of the Fourth Reich and the overwhelmingly working class population are not racists or admirers of Adolf Hitler.
In the 1920s the London County Council built the largest council estate in the world in Dagenham. It was a centre for the motor industry, chemicals and small arms. But, like many other traditional working class towns, it has suffered from decades of neglect under the Tory and New Labour governments. The factories have closed. The giant 300-acre Ford plant, that once employed tens of thousands making cars, has largely gone. What’s left just makes diesel engines and gear-boxes.
Barking and Dagenham has a relatively poor, ageing and elderly population and income levels are among the lowest in the capital. Last year Barking and Dagenham saw the largest rise in London for rates of unemployment. Employment rates overall are below the European Union threshold. Many residents are engaged in temporary, low-paid employment outside the borough. All of this makes it fertile ground for the racist lies peddled by the fascists who claim that immigrants and asylum seekers are given favoured treatment for homes and jobs.
There is a housing problem in the borough as most of the stock was sold-off during the “right to buy” frenzy of the Thatcher years, which also saw the imposition of rules that restricted councils’ investment in housing, preventing them from subsidising it from local taxes or reinvesting the money from sales into new housing.
The solution is to lift all the restrictions on councils and allow them to build new affordable and secure council homes for rent with life-long secure tenancy; to allow the right of anyone who needs or wants to rent public housing to do so without time limit or means testing.
photo: Dagenham against the fascists