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Our intention is to inform people of racist, homophobic, religious extreme hate speech perpetrators across social networking internet sites. And we also aim to be a focal point for people to access information and resources to report such perpetrators to appropriate web sites, governmental departments and law enforcement agencies around the world.

We will also post relevant news worthy items and information on Human rights issues, racism, extremist individuals and groups and far right political parties from around the world although predominantly Britain.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The BNP are in trouble – but there’s no cause for complacency (UK)

It seems that there are increasingly strong indicators that the British National Party is falling apart. With mounting stories about infighting, growing debts and the ongoing court case over its constitution there is reason to imagine that in years or even months to come, the BNP will cease to be any kind of force in British politics. Yet that is no reason to be complacent.

Last week, I became vice-chair of Labour Friends of Searchlight, along with Liz Kendall and Shabana Mahmood – all three of us new MPs, determined to help Jon Cruddas and Searchlight who are leading the fight against racism. The inaugural meeting was packed with Labour MPs and all had noted the anti-Muslim feeling that appears to have largely replaced traditonal forms of racism in many communities up and down the country.

I have seen this  for myself in my constituency, where a small number of anonymous online bloggers tried to take over the local newspaper’s online comments forum with anti-Muslim attacks. When they were banned from it, they found other avenues – first mounting a campaign to persuade the public that I am a Muslim (I am not) and then attacking the council over the supply of halal meat in primary schools. It is interesting and worrying that they have latched onto Islam as their sole strategy to whip up fear and suspicion, regardless of how far-fetched the campaigns are.

Labour MPs have similar stories from their own constituencies. Currently, Members of Parliament are being targeted in a letter-writing campaign which focuses on whether halal meat should be banned in this country. The people who are sending these standard letters are not racist, but the people behind the campaign clearly are. All three of the main political parties are united in the belief that our response requires care and thought.

In truth, the BNP has always created the impression that it had more support than it did in reality. Fielding unprecedented numbers of candidates at the 2010 general election helped to fuel the fiction that the far right had a real presence in communities where in fact it had little support and no activists. And there are few people who haven’t realised that the BNP’s online presence is a result of the efforts of a handful of individuals posting under various pseudonyms.

There is an important role for Labour in this response. We are a party that believes in solidarity and yet many MPs – myself included – struggle to articulate on the doorstep proper responses to the myths that circulate about Islam. There are only eight Muslim members of Parliament, and the remainder of us do not (in the main) have the detailed knowledge about the Muslim faith to respond effectively. For political campaigners of all parties there is an urgent need to understand more about all faiths in order to meet this confusion head on.

Yet we are also acutely aware that our response has to go beyond explaining to sections of the public that Muslim extremists do not represent the whole story about Islam. Anti-Muslim sentiment, like traditional racism before it, gives voice to fear and insecurity that often has little to do with faith or race.

I have met thousands of constituents over the past year who are deeply concerned about housing, low pay, job insecurity and the environment in which they live. Too often, they have believed it was because of immigration, when factors such as Margaret Thatcher’s “right to buy” policy, which severely depleted social housing stock, and Labour’s poor record on house-building were much more salient.

Similarly, restrictions on trade unions, weak enforcement of employment law and an unbalanced economy that works for the rich and not for the rest have caused problems for people in the labour market that have traditionally been blamed on immigration. In responding to this threat Labour needs a policy programme that tackles the root cause of fear and insecurity – not focused on immigration but on living standards. It is why Ed Miliband’s flagship plank of his leadership campaign – the living wage – had such power. Labour will make a significant mistake if we do not recognise that the politics of fear will never match the politics of hope, provided we get the message right. As Jon Cruddas has argued, we must “make hope possible, rather than despair convincing”.

Perhaps even more importantly, politicians  must recognise the power of the language we use. In politics. it is easy to react. The challenge is for us to lead, too. There was much debate about Boris Johnson’s recent comments about “Kosovo-style social cleansing” in relation to housing benefit reform, but there has been much less debate about the emotive language used about immigration and race. It is important that we do not simply get the policy right, but the tone as well.

The fear that we are seeking to understand is not necessarily rational, but that is not to say it is not important. It is an emotional response to a complicated set of fears about identity and place in the world.  The overwhelming majority of people I meet in my constituency are not racist but they are worried – about their future, and about their children’s futures. We must seek to understand this and to respond to it on an emotional level as well as on a rational level, by lifting people up, not driving others down and by bonding together against the division that this programme of cuts is beginning to create.

At this year’s election, no one party commanded a clear majority because no party spoke convincingly to those fears. We must not allow a new, poisonous force to replace the BNP as the default place for people worried about the future – Labour must provide the positive alternative.

Lisa Nandy is Labour MP for Wigan

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