By Dan Nichols
In Romford, where I live, it seems immigration has been the only issue in the election. The charge is led by the Tories, who have published adverts in local newspapers and distributed leaflets claiming that asylum seekers are responsible for increased council tax bills. But in their wake have come several fascist/far right parties, eager to join the racist feeding frenzy. The BNP, Third Way (an offshoot of the old National Front) and UKIP are all standing in my local area. Even the Residents' Association candidates are making a big play on the issue of immigration!
The BNP are the main threat. They recently held a meeting of over 60 people in a Romford pub (their first large meeting in the area since the 90s). They won a landslide victory in a council by-election in Dagenham last year.
But there is a much wider problem here. In other areas of the country, the focus on immigration seems to be switching voters off, but in outer-east London such issues are nothing short of an obsession.
The local Labour parties haven't been able to put up an effective opposition. Even John Cryer, the left wing MP for Hornchurch, was pictured campaigning with someone dressed up as St George. Labour tries to be better Tories than the Tories, so "local" issues and patriotism are to the fore. Working class issues do not get a look in.Â
The local anti-fascist campaign, led by Searchlight magazine, also has weaknesses. The fact that there is such a campaign, and that there is a high level of response to it, is very good. But their focus, again, is not on class politics. Searchlight does a great job exposing the foul politics of the BNP but doesn't do it on the basis of promoting a class-based alternative. This means that people are left with the choice to vote for any of the other foul right-wing parties (including the Tories) standing in the area. The symptoms of fascism are tackled, but the disease of parochial, race and nation based politics are ignored.
Despite all this, the anti-fascist campaign is well worth getting involved in (details at stopthebnp.com), as it is at least trying to halt the tsunami of racism in the area. John Cryer's campaign for re-election should also be supported by socialists in the area, as losing a decent MP such as John will weaken the class based opposition to Blair in Parliament and move the local political scene even further to the right. You can contact his campaign by ringing Linda Smith onÂ 01708 722618.