Local Time

Friday, June 11, 2004


The BNP unveils its London manifesto

The British National Party launched its manifesto for the London elections on 2 May, the day after its big London political rally in west London flopped miserably. Titled London needs the BNP, it is full of big promises with little indication of how the party will achieve them, all underpinned by its traditional racism.

It opens by warning that within another generation “London will not even be recognisable as a European city”. This is an interesting choice of words for a party that normally triumphs a British identity and wants to withdraw from Europe. Perhaps it is a mistake, because further on the manifesto complains about “a further massive and unnecessary wave of immigration from eastern Europe”. Surely such immigration would make London more European not less?

Of course what the BNP really means is that there are too many dark faces in London and the manifesto quickly goes on to the BNP’s favourite topic, “asylum seekers and economic migrants”. It claims that the government and Ken Livingstone have made London “a magnet for bogus ‘asylum seekers’ and economic migrants”, who are putting “an unbearable strain on public services, transport and housing”, and causing native Londoners to flee “to the Home Counties”. What the BNP ignores is the fact that London’s public services are largely kept afloat by immigrants, and that economic migrants are people who come here to work in a city of labour shortages. London, like large conurbations all over the world, has always attracted waves of immigrants who start off in the poor areas, such as the East End, and gradually move out as soon as they can afford it through working hard. This has gone on for hundreds of years. The BNP’s message is a policy of stagnation for London.

The manifesto moves swiftly on to “law and order”, another of the BNP’s favourite subjects and certainly one that its members know a lot about – from the wrong side. Jason Douglas, the BNP’s leading London Assembly candidate, is a longstanding football hooligan, Tony Lecomber from Redbridge, the BNP’s national development officer, got a three-year prison sentence for assaulting a Jewish schoolteacher; many others have criminal records for violence and other offences.

The BNP wants tougher law and order policies including much stiffer sentences and the birch, which no doubt several BNP members will queue up to administer personally. The manifesto also calls for “the reintroduction of the death penalty for premeditated murder when it can be proved beyond doubt as by DNA evidence or being caught red-handed”. The BNP must know something that forensic scientists don’t if it thinks that DNA samples can prove premeditation. And it will be very rough justice indeed if presence at the scene of a crime is proof of guilt.

Following on from “law and order” the BNP wants to “make London safe from the threat of terrorism”, by deporting “Moslem fundamentalists”. Never mind that the last terrorist bombs to kill and injure people in London were set off in 1999 by David Copeland, a former BNP activist who, when caught, said his aim had been to help get a BNP government elected. And Lecomber has a conviction for setting off a home-made nail bomb and possessing hand-grenades and electronic detonators.

On transport the BNP’s first priority is to “make the capital’s public transport free of crime once again, as it used to be not so long ago”. When that was, the BNP does not say. The crime-free promise presumably includes underground stations such as Gants Hill, scene of Lecomber’s violent assault.

After imposing “the severest sentences currently allowable” on criminals like Lecomber, the BNP would spend “£billions” on the underground, “two new orbital rail routes” a new bridge across the Thames and other expensive road schemes. This money would come from “BNP policies of withdrawing from the European Union and ending the ‘asylum seeker’ scandal”. How money would be raised from breaking up the UK’s main economic partnerships and trading links the BNP fails to explain.

Air travel will however not be favoured in the same way as road and rail transport. The BNP wants to cut flights at Heathrow from 480,000 a year to 300,000 and ban all flights between 11pm and 7am. Perhaps the BNP believes these 180,000 flights will no longer be needed when all immigration is banned. Instead the BNP would build “a new, offshore, international hub airport in the Thames estuary” with a journey time by rail into central London of “only a few minutes”. That’s for about 65km (40 miles). There are no costings on this one. The effect on employment and Britain’s tourist industry of cutting Heathrow flights is also ignored.

Having blamed asylum seekers for terrorism, crime generally and lack of money to spend on transport, the BNP then blames them for “the property price boom that has priced most Londoners out of the market”. It is difficult to see how “asylum seekers” who are all on benefits according to the BNP, can possibly buy any sort of property let alone fuel a price boom. The main cause of the property price boom is too few homes to meet demand, but the BNP is against building more homes in the London area. Miraculously, ending immigration would “make housing affordable once again for everyone”. In yet another popularist policy, the manifesto states that “development should be confined to brownfield sites only”, ignoring the fact that many are so polluted with chemicals, unstable or prone to flooding that any residential development would be dangerous or prohibitively expensive.

Ignorance has never been an obstacle for the BNP against spouting forth about anything and education policy is no exception. The BNP calls glibly for “incompetent teachers” to be sacked, ignoring the fact that one of the biggest problems in London is filling teacher vacancies. Helping teachers to improve their skills is obviously too constructive a measure for the BNP.

The manifesto does not elaborate on its call for “stricter discipline in the classroom” but the party’s earlier call for the birch suggests what might be meant here. The party wants “a concentration on mastering the basics, the 3Rs, as levels of literacy and numeracy are depressingly low”. Is the BNP unaware of the literacy hour and numeracy hour that are already required in all primary schools and the huge improvements in children’s achievement over the past few years?

Courting popularity, the BNP would scrap the congestion charge, remove most speed cameras and use the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square for a statue of a historical white male Anglo-Saxon.

Perhaps the clearest sign of the BNP’s ignorance is that it cannot even get the name right of the body to which it is seeking election. It is the London Assembly, not the Greater London Assembly. London needs the BNP? Like a hole in the head.

Searchlight 4 May 2004.


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