Brentwood newspaper cozies up to BNP

Last year I was horrified to see on my local newspaper website an advert by the BNP. This year things are a little more serious for one Essex newspaper.

Martin McNeill, the editorial director for Newsquest, who own Basildon Echo among others, on which website the advert appeared, made the excuse to Jon Slattery that:

We are accepting paid-for advertising from any political parties or candidates standing in the current elections. I appreciate how strongly many people feel about the BNP, but it would be undemocratic and against the principle of free speech to refuse to accept any party’s advertising provided it falls within our guidelines.

It might explain this Essex newspaper having its hands tied – though I think the excuse is rather a lame kop-out. But this article in Brentwood will not be able to carry the same excuse off.

It reads:

“The party operates under a veil of secrecy to protect members from those who oppose their beliefs and did not reveal the location of the meeting until just minutes before it was due to start. With the pub set to become a regular meeting place for the new group, they have asked us not to reveal where it is.

“Christine Mitchell, a 68-year-old grandmother from Chelmsford, will be running the branch from here on in. Mrs Mitchell, who is contesting the newly created Saffron Walden seat in the general election on May 6, said: ‘We are fighting for British jobs for British workers, that is the start but we are standing for other reasons – crime rates, the state of the education system and the fact MPs have stolen from the public.’

The former Conservative leader of Westminster Council, Peter Strudwick, spoke for more than an hour during the meeting, rallying support for what he called “ideologies” for the future…

“Searching faces scoured the room until a man who had until then sat quietly in the corner, put his hand up to pledge £100. Others then thrust crisp £50 notes in the pot before the less well-off handed over their screwed up £10 and £20 notes. There was much applause and hand shaking as the money came flooding in, uniting the room in the campaign to bring about radical change.”

The last line is of course the most disturbing; this isn’t just an account of the meeting, it ends in a partisan way, not challenging the notion that the BNP are “radical change” – which of course might be true, but not in any way to be celebrated or uncontested.

As just a brief conclusion, I will point out that this is Essex is part of the Essex Chronicle, which in turn is owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust, which of course owns the Daily Mail. Not that that means anything of course.

(H/T left foot forward)

The BNP in Essex

There are around 670 members of the British National Party in Essex if we are to believe the leaked membership list, but I’m sure that number has changed since September 2008 when the leaked list was drawn up.

For what reasons?

There were those ‘Africans for Essex‘ leaflets, which is just one example of scaremongering tactics concerning foreigners.

There are countless attempts to depict Essex as a place where migrants can fly through council housing lists, bypassing honest native applications.

Immigrants being paid to come to Essex, it would not be unheard of from the mouths (or fingers) of the commentators of the threads on the BNP website, and various blogs attributed to supporters.

But, looking at some figures today at work, I came across a file which had this to say:

Essex is increasingly ethnically diverse. In 2001, 2.9% of the population belonged to Mixed, Black, Asian or Chinese ethnic groups, compared to a figure of 9.1% for England as a whole. Recent estimates suggest that 8.6% of the population belong to Black and Minority Ethnic groups, compared to a figure of 15.3% for England as a whole. These groups are most concentrated in Brentwood, Epping Forest and Harlow but even in these areas the Black and Minority Ethnic groups account for a smaller proportion of the population than nationally. The largest Black and Minority Ethnic group in Essex is ‘White non-British’ but this is likely to change in the future. The evidence suggests limited economic migration to Essex from Eastern Europe, and although 44% of Essex’s Black and Minority Ethnic population is White and not British, only 21% of those aged under-16 identify with this group. Amongst under-16s the Mixed ethnic group is the largest by far, accounting for 32% of all Black and Minority Ethnic residents. As this cohort grows the local population will become more diverse.

At the moment at least, the largest black and ethnic minority group in Essex is white non-British (constituting 44%) – the group, apparently, that the BNP won’t mind entering the country, were they to have that kind of say. 21% of that 44% share are young people who feel themselves British enough not to identify themselves as of an ethnic ‘other’. The share of ethnic minority is way under that of the figure for England as a whole – but this is not how the far right portray the figures, describing Essex as swamped, flooded, anything, actually, with water or sludge.

Either the Essex BNP are lying or they just don’t know Essex like they think they do. What does this picture of Richard Barnbrook (the London borough of Barking and Dagenham are immediately next to Essex) tell us?:

essex bnp

Actual Essex flag (spot the difference):

EssexSeaxesShield

Essex is increasingly ethnically diverse. In 2001, 2.9% of the population belonged to Mixed, Black, Asian or
Chinese ethnic groups, compared to a figure of 9.1% for England as a whole. Recent estimates suggest
that 8.6% of the population belong to Black and Minority Ethnic groups, compared to a figure of 15.3% for
England as a whole. These groups are most concentrated in Brentwood, Epping Forest and Harlow but
even in these areas the Black and Minority Ethnic groups account for a smaller proportion of the population
than nationally. The largest Black and Minority Ethnic group in Essex is ‘White non-British’ but this is likely
to change in the future. The evidence suggests limited economic migration to Essex from Eastern Europe,
and although 44% of Essex’s Black and Minority Ethnic population is White and not British, only 21% of
those aged under-16 identify with this group. Amongst under-16s the Mixed ethnic group is the largest by
far, accounting for 32% of all Black and Minority Ethnic residents. As this cohort grows the local population
will become more diverse.Essex is increasingly ethnically diverse. In 2001, 2.9% of the population belonged to Mixed, Black, Asian or Chinese ethnic groups, compared to a figure of 9.1% for England as a whole. Recent estimates suggest that 8.6% of the population belong to Black and Minority Ethnic groups, compared to a figure of 15.3% for England as a whole. These groups are most concentrated in Brentwood, Epping Forest and Harlow but even in these areas the Black and Minority Ethnic groups account for a smaller proportion of the population than nationally. The largest Black and Minority Ethnic group in Essex is ‘White non-British’ but this is likely to change in the future. The evidence suggests limited economic migration to Essex from Eastern Europe, and although 44% of Essex’s Black and Minority Ethnic population is White and not British, only 21% of those aged under-16 identify with this group. Amongst under-16s the Mixed ethnic group is the largest by far, accounting for 32% of all Black and Minority Ethnic residents. As this cohort grows the local population will become more diverse.

An alternative to EasyCouncil

Okay, there are some clear points of fact in Barnet council’s new initiative to save money, for example public spending cuts look set in stone for the next government, the council itself is bracing for a 15% funding reduction, its tightest spending squeeze since 1977, and to boot the idea is to save £16 million in preparation. How will it do it? By organising the terrain for inequality.

Do you think I’m jumping the gun a little? Carry on reading.

The analogy of the day is the EasyJet business model, which provides a basic service, and offers features such as sandwiches or drinks – non-necessities compared to, say, a seat – for an extortionate price. £4.99 for example will buy you 25ml of vodka for those of you interested. As such, the council will provide a basic no-frills service, a reduced-sized bin or for those who require adult social care in Barnet “budget on whether to have a cleaner or a respite carer”. EasyCouncil it shall be called.

Seems modest enough, but to me there remains a major alternative to the revolutionary approach by Barnet. Namely, the idea of sensible public service spending can be achieved by a reallocation of funding rather than the EasyCouncil way. Reallocation for the local government allows for a renegotiation of necessities; say if it is vital to employ 24 hour wardens in care homes this should be prioritised over building a new welcome centre in the local natural park.

If I could exemplify where I live for a moment, in Pitsea, Essex, the first phase of a regeneration has been approved by the local council which means creation of a new visitor centre at Wat Tyler Country Park, the development of a local School into the East Basildon Academy, 500 new homes, 20,000 square metres of retail, improved community facilities, including 5,000 square metres of leisure space, improved links to the railway station and a reinvigorated market. Lets say hypothetically that funding for the local council was to be cut and the homes situation needed priority over the visitor centre and allocating of space for retail purposes (which seems to me to be the case), the money set for the least necessary item would be reallocated to department in charge of the most necessary item, this would also mean that those in charge of allocating money to different departments have a clearer idea of what is necessary (though admittedly my example is rather obvious, by which I mean it is clear that homes are more important than visitor centres and retail space) and it would also mean that departments were not forced to spend all of their allocated money unnecessarily thereby putting into jeopardy being allocated that much money for a time when they do need it.

Another example, a local school may not need as much funding one year due to the proportionally fewer students requiring special education needs, but the school is obliged to spend their funding in order to secure that amount for next year when they predict they will need as much funding with the proportionally higher amount of children who have special education needs. Year-by-year reallocation based upon necessity can bypass this problematic.

A spending plan that is based upon necessity over non-necessity does not have to preclude the state in any way, and in fact by including the state we sidestep a system that is based entirely upon the ability to pay for it. Services should be subsidised for the reason that a system based on ability to pay marginalises those who deserve certain services – like 24 hour wardens in care homes – but are unable to pay for it. Just imagine the outrage if an idealistic young MEP had called for this type of service in the department of health. All hell would break loose.

The problem here is that the no-frills system doesn’t solve the problem of necessary spending (which seems to be the original problem). To focus on EasyJet, the option to pay a charge in order to be first on the plane seems quite frivolous, and though it puts the option to the passenger – of whether you feel the need to put up some money to jump the queue – it doesn’t solve the problem of whether its necessary to put up that money in order to be first on the plane. The analogy is clear, if its necessary for someone to get on first, perhaps they can’t stand up for long periods of time, but they cannot afford the cost, whereas someone who is just jumping the queue for they see it as their affordable right to, then the system has legitimised inequality.

It may not seem quite as important for the simple matter of a plane journey, but applied to the services that one might receive, for an affordable service that caters for everyone, following the guidelines of necessity and reallocation appropriately, that doesn’t have to appeal to this business model that cuts back on services to legitimise an able to pay model, it is rather important. When the system of public services is structured upon the ability to pay and not a system of privileging necessities in order to balance budgets, then we are in trouble.

In better times, think of Keith Bobbin

What a turn up, the recession might be coming to an end. City said three years, Brown and Darling said one, and as things look, the latter two may be right. Perhaps this was why Brown stayed on, against all odds; he knew deep down. 

The end of national and international turmoil in the economy may well help steady many finances, but it won’t do anything to help ousted Labour councillor Keith Bobbin. He loses his £15,000 allowances after losing to Tory Sandra Hillier in the Essex County Council elections, by only 96 votes (I did my bit by voting for him last Thursday).

To make matters worse, as a consequence of his seat loss, he has to now join the dole.

He is said to have fallen out of love with politics and plans to stand down as ward councillor for Pitsea North West next election. Certainly this would be enough to make one fall out of love with politics.

The right are ill-qualified for the fight against the xenophobes

It has emerged that 27% of voters plan to ‘send westminster a message’ by voting for a fringe party, the Guardian reports today (drawn from a poll of 1,010 adults between 20-21 May).

Though it seems the BNP vote will only garner 1%, some 4% less than the last European elections in 2004 (though as I’ve said before, and the article reiterated, voting intentions are not always so reliable for the xenophobic BNP). Ukip are down from 16% in 2004 to 10% on the voting intentions (perhaps their vote has been affected by the expenses scandals after all).

Two runners hoping to capitalise in on anti-Labour sentiment, have today been involved in in-party dispute’s over public perception. David Cameron of the T0ries, in the last 48 hours, has had to give two tellings off to MP’s for “unnacceptable comments”. Not racist comments, or slurs, but hubristic, nob-headed comments.

The Guardian‘s report notes;

“David Cameron today rebuked the Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries after she accused the Telegraph of coming close to a “McCarthyite witch-hunt” with its disclosures of MPs’ expenses claims.

The Conservative leader also made it clear that party grandee Anthony Steen would have the whip withdrawn “so fast his feet won’t touch the ground” if he continued making “unacceptable comments”.

Yesterday, Steen claimed he was the victim of “jealousy” among his Devon constituents, who he said were envious of his large house.

“I gave him a very clear instruction after that interview – one more squeak like that and he will have the whip taken away from him so fast his feet won’t touch the ground,” Cameron told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One. “It was a completely unacceptable interview,”

(see also Liberal Conspiracy‘s version of the events)

The second party which has (also!) had yet another setback in its false guise of moderate modification is the BNP.

The Mirror informed that;

“A BNP candidate could be deselected for posting offensive comments online.

Eddy O’Sullivan, the party’s Salford organiser, wrote on his Facebook profile: “W**s go home,” adding, “They are nice people, ‘oh yeah,’ but can they not be nice people in the f***ing Congo or… bongo land or whatever?”

Mr O’Sullivan, 49, standing with party leader Nick Griffin in the European election for the North West region, said: “It was supposed to be a private conversation. I also may have had a drink at the time. I don’t believe those comments are racist.”

Clive Jefferson, BNP North West organiser, said if the allegations were proved Mr O’Sullivan would be suspended.

Deputy party leader Simon Darby said: “We will take disciplinary action if we find he has posted the comments.”

Now that really is rich coming from Simon Darby, who was photographed by Searchlight recently being greeted with fascist salutes by Roberto Fiore’s Forza Nuova party in Italy. One would choose their friends more wisely (advice extended to Cameron after mvoing his party to non-attached in Europe along with the likes of Le Pen and the Polish Law and Justice party).

These things are clearly embarrassing for the two parties mentioned here, for they show a presence of an image they would really rather keep quiet. For the Tories, I really believe that David Cameron really believes he is the new modern times Tory, when in actual fact, and despite their elections slogan, they are more of the same. The BNP, however, are desparately trying to seem way more with the times than they actually are (and unsuccessfully). It can be seen quite clearly from the recent amendments made to their manifesto, constantly redefining their ideas of what it is to be British, and their language and conduct entries. Change the voter’s mind, and dupe them later.

To really get under the skin of the BNP in the coming weeks, then months, and years to come, critics must do more to understand their warped appeals to moderation.

Which is why it should not be left down to some comic Tories who have started casually calling the BNP a far-left party – which also tainted some of Tim Montgomerie’s good work. See also Daniel Hannan’s recent blog entry and Harry Phibb’s unbelievable trite, with absurdities like this;

“What Conservatives can add to this critique is something that the left can never admit: Nazism and communism are ideological twins. The BNP is in fact an extreme leftwing outfit. It wishes individual liberty to be sacrificed to state control. It seeks the overthrow of capitalism, and rages against profit and speculators. It wishes to institute a siege economy with protectionism and the nationalisation of foreign-owned companies. In this it is being consistent to its founding inspiration. Hitler nationalised the banks and insurance companies, the economy was rigidly centrally planned, there was an extensive programme of public works, independent schools were banned.

How does he, then, define the far-right – and presumably in whatever way he does define it, he must be in it if everyone right of the Tories are socialist by default. These articles, in spite of their aims, are ample evidence that many respected commentators are ill-qualified to tackle a dangerous element rearing its ugly head in our democracy.

But unsurprisingly none of these party failures have restored any faith in Labour (due to their own party failures). Which is why I was suprised to read this;

“The Labour Party continues to enjoy a healthy lead at the polls according to the European Parliament election forecast even if its share of the vote has dropped over the past two weeks.”

But unfortunately, this article is taken from Times of Malta. At home some of our most respected commentators are still insisting on a Labour Party shake-up to end all shake-ups. Polly Toynbee rejects this flimsy word “reshuffle” for the heavier handed “mass exile“. And although it is well established that the European/ Local Elections are set to look pretty miserable for Labour, there some clean hands in that party (see here for the note on Chris Mullin, and here for Shiraz Socialist’s report on the Labour Party worth fighting for) and the general elections do not have to be half as miserable.

And on an optimistic note, all is not lost on British humanity, for our next generation are already showing a hint of rebellion in Loughton, Essex, where local school children have revolted and instigated a school walk out on account of newly installed CCTV cameras in classrooms. Bite the Flower!

The Bob Spink way

Bob Spink, Independent MP for Castle Point, Essex, gave his backing for an expenses study in February 2008. 

Spink “called for an end to all MPs’ allowances, for the House to deal with all MPs’ costs and be the employer of all MPs’ staff, and for all staff to be properly qualified”, the echo reported last year.

Later that year Spink defected from being a Ukipper to an independent on the basis that Ukip had no whip, and therefore being as good as an independent anyway, despite continuing to be an avowed Ukipper.

It was a brave move of Spink to talk out on expenses, even going on Newsnight to discuss it, because he had been caught up in a row in 2007. Reported in the same paper, and by the same reporter, it emerged that Spink ranked among the top 10% highest spending MP’s “so [he] can do the best possible job for [his] constituents”.

The article explains;

“The MP, a member of the cross-party Parliamentary science committee, claimed £152,937 between April 2005 and March 2006, according to his expenses – which he has released ahead of other MPs.

His spending ranks him 64th out of 646 MPs.

On top of his stated salary of £60,000, the annual gross income for Dr Spink adds up to almost £213,000.”

Which is all the more reason why I was (not) surprised to see his smiling face staring back at me in today’s echo, pointing out that ‘we [big spenders] must hang our heads in shame’. It turns out that Spink claimed a further £135,016 between April 2007 and March 2008, which is a curious amount given the things he doesn’t claim for (as reported today, he doesn’t claim for charity dinners anymore, dog food, gardening costs nor part of his second home which he puts £10,000 towards out of his own pocket). Where is this and his salary going?

He has apologised for his expenses, though (phew!).

Compare his to Thurrock Labour MP, Monarchy basher, and Russian spy enthusiast Andrew Mackinlay, who issued a statement “saying he was a low claimant who did not profit from the system”. A last minute goal in an area flirtatious with the BNP.

What dirt will £300,000 buy you?

My local MP Angela Smith said in todays Basildon Recorder that Gordon was the man to save the economy (the same edition that regretfully informed inhabitants of Essex that the BNP is fielding candidates in all 75 Essex wards next month).  But Brown’s efforts may well be for nothing if he doesn’t inject the country with some reasons to trust his party.

The information leaked today concerned expenses. The telegraph bought the stolen disk containing MP’s expenses, which was being dangled in front of the media’s noses at a high price.

The disk showed details of Gordon Brown paying his brother Andrew £6,000 for cleaning his Westminster flat, but Brown, although seen to be defending the allowances system,  admits the system must be changed.

The disk also reported;

Justice Secretary Jack Straw claiming his full council tax despite receiving a 50% discount from his local authority, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown claiming for the same plumbing bill twice within six months.

As the Guardian reported;

“Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell, a member of the commission, said the information was being offered to national newspapers for up to £300,000 in March and that a hunt had been launched to find the mole.

Bell said: “All of the receipts of 650-odd MPs, redacted [edited] and unredacted, are for sale at a price of £300,000, so I am told.

“The price is going up because of the interest in the subject.”

Peter Mandelson, who by this has been accused of “defrauding” the taxpayer, on the back foot tried to claw away difficult questions by asking what kind of questions the public will be asking about the tories’ expenses. But this is not a game of well they did it, Mandy!

The police have been called to investigate and find the mole who stole and sold the information, while some see this as a grave error, and have come out in defence of the telegraph for purchasing stolen goods, arguing that it was in the public’s best interest (see link above telegraph bought…).

The police will not be unfamiliar with high-cost purchases of dodgy information, reports have just been fed through that police paid informants £750,000 in four years for information on Plane Stupid!, the bubblegum protest group who seem to encapsulate everything older people hate about teenagers; hubris, close contacts, disposable money (not income), and media attention.

I’m sure more on this will emerge by Monday, providing it is not obfuscated by ten more scandals and leaks.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.