Friday, May 02, 2003


So how have we reached the stage where the racist British National Party are the main party of opposition in Burnley and seeing their vote rise across the north of England.

I don’t live in Burnley anymore but was born in the town and have spent most of my life in the area. My family and friends are still in the Burnley area and I return regularly. I was in the town when the race riots occurred that first brought the problems there to national attention. The local election results are depressingly predictable – when I was back home a month ago everyone was convinced there would be a BNP breakthrough.

Burnley has serious economic and social problems – unemployment, low pay, poor housing, crime and plenty of anti-social behaviour and it has a pretty poorly run council. But so do plenty of other towns and they don’t vote in eight BNP councillors – yet.

There has been so much spouted over the past few years about the reasons for the rise of the BNP in these areas. The consensus now appears to be that voting for the BNP is a ‘protest against the neglect of the mainstream parties’ – and there is some truth in this. It certainly helps the BNP that the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are in such a poor state of repair in the town that they didn’t even stand candidates in some wards.

We also hear the BNP ‘protest vote’ is result of New Labour abandoning their traditional working class support base. I don’t buy this one. I don't believe people who think Blair has moved Labour too far from Clause Four socialism are going to vote fascist as a protest. Come on, if it is the fault of a shift to the centre from Labour then why did the Socialist Alliance get such derisory results? Yes, Labour has let down these communities – that might explain the damagingly low turn outs but not the motives of the BNP voters.

This view also assumes that it is the white working class ‘natural Labour voter’ who are the exclusive supporters of the BNP, but there is plenty of evidence to show that is not the case. A large chunk of the BNP vote in Burnley comes from the relatively affluent semi-villages on the outskirts of the town. These areas, like Cliviger and Worsthorne have almost no Asian residents and much less of the social problems that afflict the centre of town. The BNP voters resent ‘their money’ being spent in the Asian ghettos (and yes they are ghettos). There are plenty of ex-Tory voters backing the BNP (there was always a racist vote for the Tories as Thatcher knew very well) but it is by no means only the disillusioned white working class opting for the BNP.

No, sorry to break it to you, but there is a harsh truth that people are going to have to face up to – the BNP vote is a racist vote, pure and simple. The BNP know that and they have devised their strategy around addressing the concerns of racists and making an appeal to them. Mainstream politicians insist on saying that not all BNP voters are racists. Perhaps, but the vast majority of them are.

The people who vote for the BNP do so for reasons of race and little else - because they believe the BNP will “sort out the Pakis” or “stick up for us” or because they have had enough of the “Paki lovers” on the council. The BNP’s ‘respectable turn’ in replacing bomber jackets with badly fitting suits hasn’t changed the message it has just made it easier for people to vote BNP.

The BNP know that many people think Asians get preferential treatment from the council, they believe there is discrimination against whites, they blame Pakistanis for the problems in the town and in short they don’t like Asians and would quite like it if they were no longer part of the town. These voters have not been brainwashed by the BNP – they have merely now found a party that echoes their views and is now capable of organising itself effectively. For the first time there is an uncomplicated simple way for people to politically express their racism.

Believe me people don’t vote BNP because of their policy on the NHS, education or the Euro – it’s about race, full stop, end of story.

This isn’t something that has just arrived in towns like Burnley – such views have been there for a long time. I grew up with people who hate Asians, thankfully a minority, but certainly not a tiny one.

The purely political problem is that the BNP have been helped by the declining turnout which exaggerates the support for extremists – after all 60 per cent of people in Burnley didn't bother to vote and hopefully most of them aren’t racists.

The BNP get the vote out because they excite their supporters. They are not getting a tactical protest vote – there is real enthusiasm among BNP voters and little in the way of active opposition to them. Indeed it is claimed that in some parts of Burnley, the BNP were the only party to bother with leafleting and canvassing – racists are passionate about their politics.

Containing the BNP means the mainstream parties have to get their vote out in the future. They need to win the enthusiasm of their supporters and it is about time the Labour Party started to work out why people stay at home.

But surely we would like to do more than contain the BNP? Surely we would like to defeat them and drive them back to the political fringe.

Well that means addressing racism head-on – not an easy task and not one that the left has been particularly good at dealing with so far. It is a big challenge and one that needs to be examined with some fresh thinking but the first basic step is accepting that BNP voters are racists.

Denial will get us nowhere.

posted by BA on 10:15 AM link
British Spin has the take on the local election results.But for me the whole thing is overshadowed though by the deeply depressing news from my hometown of Burnley where the racist British National Party is now the main party of opposition.

Spin's stuff is pretty comprehensive but I really can't generate much interest in the rest of the results after seeing a bunch of racist yobs leaping around in delight. Once Burnley was known for its fine football team and little else. Now it is becoming known as hotbed of racism.

Predictably the usual bollocks are being talked by people who know nothing about Burnley and its specific problems nor there own roles in creating this mess. I'll post my(hopefully) more considered thoughts on this later on.

posted by BA on 7:18 AM link

Wednesday, April 30, 2003


So the Middle East Roadmap to Peace has been handed over to the new Palestinian government and to the Israelis. It is a radical departure in that the new formula puts much stress on actions rather than Israeli-Palestinian face-to-face talks. Tasks should be verifiable and enforcable - it seems good sense to me, particularly given the failures of the two parties to get anywhere near a settlement since Oslo failed. The fact that Hamas and Sharonite hardliners, along with their international allies, are the only people to have come out against the plan should tell us something.

In many ways it is similar idea to the 'six tests for Saddam' that Jack Straw put together before the French decided they would block any attempt at a verifiable approach to disarming Saddam - and it has to be policed with as much vigour as that would have been. What it appears to lack though is what the French objected to the Saddam tests containing - a clear sanction for failing to keep to the course. Ultimately I think the democratic community has to be willing to enforce peace on Israel and Palestine. The idea of Iraq becoming a democratic 'beacon' in the region will count for nothing if the west and the US in particular continues to be perceived as a supporter of Israeli injustice.

posted by BA on 12:09 PM link

Stephen Pollard is celebrating 100,000 hits for his weblog and taking some time to explain his personal joy of blogging. I enjoy reading Stephen’s weblog, not because I find myself punching the air in agreement with him - I rarely do - but because he offers a guide to a political outlook that is rare to find in Britain ( a neo-con Labour Party member) and above all else because he is very provocative.

There are some people think being provocative, or or that matter running a weblog, is mere attention seeking. But I am of the view that provoking people is exactly what progressives should be doing. I don’t agree with many of Stephen’s conclusions but I do enjoy being made to think by his arguments.

We all need a bit of provocation – especially those of us on the left. After all we are living in an era of revolutionary change but so many people, above all it seems, on the left have yet to wake up to it.

In contrast to the many depressed voices on the left, for the first time since the days of perestroika and glasnost, I find politics not only interesting but exciting. That is why I started blogging and getting re-involved in political debate. Yet in such a stimulating era, so many are lazily and cynically churning out yesterday’s slogans.

People who proclaimed themselves radical believers in change a few years ago are now the most conservative defenders of the dying old world order. Lefties, so desperate to cling to cold-war certainties that no longer exist have become the reactionary defenders of dictatorship and allies of religious bigotry. The arguments of some have even drifted close to the kind of racism once the preserve of old-style imperialists.

People who once described themselves as ‘internationalists’ now call themselves 'anti-globalisers', without, it seems, any sense of irony. So-called Marxists who once claimed to understand the ‘dynamic of change’ have transformed themselves into modern-day Luddites, content to leave the developing world to struggle with neo-feudalism, corruption and despotism rather than recognise the inherent and necessary progress that free trade and globalised democracy can bring. There are middle class professionals who think the most pressing matters in the world are their salaries and expenses when millions in the world don’t have enough to eat and when, even in our own relatively wealthy society, thousands struggle with low pay but have no trade union to help them.

The right has its own fools of course. People who can walk around the wastelands and ghost-towns of the North of England and still believe in laissez-faire economics and fail to see the need for planning and co-ordinated investment. Nationalist-conservatives trying to wish away the European Union, who fantasise about an isolated national interest, as if we still lived in the 19th century. Those who make a fetish out of a unit of currency. Those who mistake tribalism for patriotism. Believers in ancient myths and legends who insist, despite centuries of slaughter in their name and despite all the evidence of scientific progress, that they have a right to ‘educate’ our children in their mysticism.

There are plenty of people who need provoking.

posted by BA on 6:42 AM link

It is hard to ignore the similarities between the deaths of 13 Iraqis, shot by US forces and our own Bloody Sunday. Were there shots fired from the crowd as the US army claimed? Or was it merely a peaceful protest as the local Iraqis say? Or was their an element of both - were Ba'athist provacateurs in a crowd of peaceful protestors attempting to provoke a reaction from the soilders? Whatever the truth, something should be learned from this sorry episode.

The problem is that while the US army has proven itself effective at removing a dictatorial regime by force, they have very little experience of the nation-building role they have now taken on. For supposed imperialists they are in new territory here. Contrary to the fantasies of their opponents, the US has very little experience at invading and occupying countries in this manner. In the cold war their proxies had a free hand, in the recent humanitarian interventions, the US have handed over much of the reconstruction work to others. There is little sign that they are willing to do that in Iraq though.

After all in his victory speech to Iraqi Americans on Monday, George Bush did not manage to find time for even a passing reference to the role that British forces played in liberation, let alone suggest America might need a hand in reconstruction. And you only need to watch a little Fox News to realise that the mood on the American right is not exactly multilateralist. People in Europe might lament the abence of a multinational nation-building force in Iraq but it was the refusal of 'Old Europe' to tackle Saddam that led to this situation - they should be learning some lessons now as well.

posted by BA on 1:31 AM link

Tuesday, April 29, 2003


Jacob Levy asks a good question - isn't it strange that, with the exception of the Christian Science Monitor's Galloway papers, it is the British not the American papers that are making all the running with the big intelligence stories and the 'secret documents' in Baghdad?

Is it that American papers are so earnestly reporting the 'reconstruction story' that they have forgotten the value of a good dip into the murky past? Or is that none of them have the, ahem, intelligence contacts of the Telegraph and others?

If that is the case, Levy seems surprised the US authorities aren't encouraging these kind of reports: These are the other side's secrets, documents with a high probability of embarrassing people the U.S. wants to see embarrassed and confirming news that the U.S. wants to see confirmed.

I wonder though. Could there not also be some documents in Baghdad about things that might acutely embarass people the administration don't want to be embarassed? Perhaps about people taking tea with Saddam's people just before the Iran-Iraq war for example? Or meetings with Iraqi officials that went around, say 1991?

There must be tons of great stories for the US market - I simply can't believe there are only files about Georgeous George's frequent flying to Baghdad.

What happened to 'follow the money' ?

posted by BA on 6:48 AM link

These people do

posted by BA on 6:29 AM link

George Galloway has made an appeal for funding of his defence costs in an interview today with Al Bawaba

"Any funds raised will be spent exclusively on the legal costs, if we have a victory inshallah (Arabic for God willing) in the courts, the costs will be awarded we hope to our side and therefore any monies given would be returned to the donors because the loser of the case has have to pay all of the costs. So I suppose I am asking my friends to advance to my lawyers the money that I will need to fight this case. "

Meanwhile the Telegraph shows no signs of letting up - Galloway admits appeal paid wife £18,000

posted by BA on 6:07 AM link
The masses made their views known and so the comments box returns - let's keep it civil though comrades.

posted by BA on 4:41 AM link

At dinner with another former communist last night we discussed how the current global situation was truly revolutionary and how strange it was to live in a world where America was exporting that revolution. Of course, is a point that both critics and supporters of 'regime change' have made frequently - there is indeed something very Bolshevik about the way in which armed force was used to overthrow the Iraqi dictatorship and how 'Free Iraq' is to be presented a 'beacon' to the middle east in the hope that the masses in other countries will be inspired to rise up and overthrow their own oppressors.

The Trotskyist background of some of the US neo-cons has been used to highlight this enthusiasm for global revolution in Washington, but watching George Bush's speech to Iraqi-Americans in Detriot on the television after dinner, another element of the Bolshevik tradition came to mind.

As Bush spoke was almost choreographed rising to applause from the audience, with the ethnic diversity of Iraq reflected in the head-scarved women and men with turbans set behind Bush. My friend turned to me: "This almost Soviet," he said.

Within a minute Bush uttered this line: "We are working toward an Iraq where electrical power is reliable and widely available. Power plant by power plant, more Iraqis are getting the electricity they need," he said. How Soviet can you get? I was just waiting for the latest figures on the wheat harvest.

We had a bit of a chuckle at all this, but then this morning I checked out the White House text of the speech and could barely believe me eyes. Just as in those collections of Stalin speeches, the words of the leader had been punctuated with the responses of the crowd.

Whether you're Sunni or Shia or Kurd or Chaldean or Assyrian or Turkoman or Christian or Jew or Muslim -- (applause) -- no matter what your faith, freedom is God's gift to every person in every nation. (Applause.) As freedom takes hold in Iraq, the Iraqi people will choose their own leaders and their own government. America has no intention of imposing our form of government or our culture. Yet, we will ensure that all Iraqis have a voice in the new government and all citizens have their rights protected. (Applause.)

In the city of An Nasiriyah, where free Iraqis met recently to discuss the political future of their country, they issued a statement beginning with these words: Iraq must be democratic. (Applause.)


Then I read this

Ok, Ok, before some of you go mad, I'm not suggesting George Bush is in any way similar to the mass murderer Stalin. But the style and indeed much of the substance of the propaganda is remarkably similar.

You and I both know that Iraq can realize those hopes. Iraq can be an example of peace and prosperity and freedom to the entire Middle East. (Applause.) It'll be a hard journey, but at every step of the way, Iraq will have a steady friend in the American people. (Applause.)

May God continue to bless the United States of America, and long live a free Iraq. (Applause.)

Long live our fraternal parties! (Prolonged applause.)

May the leaders of our fraternal parties live and flourish! (Prolonged applause.)

Long live peace among nations! (Prolonged applause.)

Update: This is all rather silly I know but a reader sent these quotes in:

"If the opposition disarms, well and good. If it refuses to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves." J.V Stalin

"The Iraqi regime will disarm itself or the Iraqi regime will be disarmed" GW Bush

posted by BA on 3:30 AM link

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Aaranovitch on Galloway, left denial, the cavalier attitude towards freedom and democracy, anti-Americanism, John Pilger's lies and stupid Quakers. Good stuff

In the Sunday Telegraph former KGB man Oleg Gordievsky explains how 'agents of influence' were manipulated.

posted by BA on 9:32 AM link

British Spin
Tom Watson
Stephen Pollard
Nick Barlow
Paul Anderson
Matthew Turner
Jeff Jarvis

Vox Politics
Conservative Commentary
Slugger O'Toole
Public Interest
Emily Jones
Edge of England's Sword
Au Currant
Natalie Solent
Brendan O'Neill
Look Back in Anger
Cinderella Bloggerfeller
Matt Welch