THE LEADER of the fascist British National Party, Nick Griffin, failed dramatically in his bid to gain a Westminster seat last Thursday when he suffered a resounding defeat in the BNP’s east London stronghold.
Margaret Hodge, the Labour incumbent, won by a majority of more than 16,000 to deflect the BNP leader’s challenge in what she labelled the most important and moral fight of her life.
In a humiliating defeat, Griffin was relegated to third place in Barking, trailing behind Conservative candidate Simon Marcus. The BNP’s share of the vote dropped by two per cent – the result of an extensive campaign to mobilise voters against the threat of the far right.
Hodge, the former Culture Minister, achieved a seven per cent swing, winning more than 24,000 votes and 55 per cent of the vote.
She said: “The message of Barking to the BNP is clear: get out and stay out. You are not wanted here and your vile politics have no place in British democracy. Pack your bags and go.”
She said voters had chosen democratic politics built on fairness over “a fascist politics built on division, prejudice and hatred”.
“We have not just beaten but we have smashed the attempts of extremists.”
The BNP had considered Barking a stronghold after exploiting local concerns about immigration and housing to win twelve seats in the local council in 2006.
But following a disastrous election campaign, Griffin received 6,620 votes – one third as many as Hodge.
There were indications of a national collapse in the BNP vote after it failed to make headway in its other target seat, Stoke Central.
It lost its 12 seats on the Barking and Dagenham Council, despite beginning the campaign with hopes of gaining a majority.
Griffin blamed high voter turnout for his defeat and said that it was the “last chance for Barking”.
As his voice was drowned out by booing, he said: “This was the last of London. Within the next five years the indigenous people of London will be a minority in our own capital city. This is a wake up call, not just for London. This is a wake up call for the whole of Britain.”
Griffin said he would not resign, despite the crushing defeat, however elements in his party are certain to demand answers about the disastrous performance.
There was a heavy police presence at the count in Goresbrook Leisure Centre, in Dagenham, as large numbers of BNP supporters turned out to support their leader.
The BNP’s campaign has been was plagued with trouble and infighting. In the first week, Griffin faced an alleged plot by BNP officials to overthrow him.
He also told police that a colleague had threatened to kill him after an investigation into the political “conspiracy”.
Last Tuesday 4th May the head of the party’s online operation resigned and took the website down with him. Simon Bennett, 41, directed BNP traffic to his personal site, which contained a lengthy diatribe against Griffin and other senior figures.
The next day Robert Bailey, the party’s London organiser and Romford candidate, was videoed assaulting an Asian youth who had spat on him.
The civil service union PCS described Griffin’s defeat as “a victory for community organisation”.
Responding to the news that the BNP has been wiped out from Barking and Dagenham council, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We are absolutely delighted. This is a huge victory for grassroots community organisation and solidarity, and a tribute to all those who have spent weeks and months campaigning in the borough.
“It shows what can be achieved when people from all backgrounds, races and religions come together with a positive message of hope.
“This is not the end of the campaign, it’s the beginning. Wherever the far right tries to spread its hate and poison in our communities, we must be there to stop them, and we have shown that we can.”
Anti-fascist campaigning by PCS members in Barking and Dagenham during the election included:
• Distributing material as part of PCS’s Love Public Services Hate Fascism campaign, including leaflets, posters and Hope not Hate anti-fascist tabloid newspapers;
• Taking part in days of action in the borough, as well as in the BNP’s other main target area of Stoke.
For example, more than 20,000 people were canvassed or leafleted at a Unite Against Fascism and PCS day of action in Barking. A Hope not Hate joint-union day of action attracted 500 people delivering more than 82,000 tabloids.
PCS Midlands regional secretary Andrew Lloyd said: “The hard work in challenging the BNP and the far right in Stoke has paid off.
“Not only did Simon Darby, the BNP’s number two, fail to win the Stoke Central parliamentary seat, but far right candidates also lost seats in the city’s council election. Even the BNP’s own leader in the area described the elections as ‘a disaster’.
“During the campaign we sponsored events, sent an open top bus around the city to demonstrate our opposition to the BNP and funded an anti-fascist worker for Stoke who has linked up with local groups.
“We are proud to have contributed to the efforts in Stoke to ensure the BNP did not make any gains in these elections.”