As Nick Griffin announced his Parliamentary candidacy in Barking and Dagenham, Solidarity spoke to Dave Landau, an independent socialist and anti-fascist campaigner active in the Redbridge & Epping Forest Together campaign.
The BNP is very strong in this part of London; they really believe they’ve got a chance of winning control of the council. I’m not sure they will, but they could certainly become a stronger opposition.
They’ve said they’re going to target Margaret Hodge and John Cruddas [local Labour MPs]. Nick Griffin will be standing against Hodge, but they haven’t decided who they’ll stand against Cruddas yet. They’ll stand Emma Tollage in Thurrock. It looked like Richard Barnbrook [leader of the BNP group on Barking and Dagenham council] might stand for Parliament at one point, but his star has fallen somewhat.
They don’t have public meetings as such in the local area, but they have had large regional assemblies which show their strength and base.
Their other target in the area is Havering; they think they can become the official opposition on the council there. In the European Parliament and GLA top-up elections, they came second in Havering, so they do have a chance. Their problem is finding candidates who haven't got criminal records. The other thing in electoral terms is an upcoming council by-election in Loughton which has been triggered by a BNP resignation.
In Barking and Dagenham, the main issues the BNP focuses on and campaigns around are jobs and housing.
In Epping Forest and Redbridge, they're also picking up green issues, and opposing the development of the green belts.
Immigration underlies it all; that’s their core policy that everything else leads back to. You have to take that question on ideologically, as well as building a viable socialist alternative that can fight on issues like houses and jobs.
We need working-class based political initiatives for that. We also need to take up the “quality-of-life” type issues; when the BNP blame immigrants and overcrowding for building taking place on green belt land, we need to talk about the problem of the large amount of empty housing that already exists. You can give the question an anti-racist, class focus.
Unfortunately, anti-fascist organisations in Barking and Dagenham are rather divided, and the local Trades Council is weak. However, the recent demonstration called by the RMT did attract substantial local trade union support and may provide a model for workers’ organisations take the initiative themselves. They may show a way forward for united action on a working-class basis.