In a week that saw the appearance of Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, appear on the BBC’s question time the media has been awash with pundits, commentators and journalists debating the merits or otherwise of allowing the appearance of the right wing party leader together with a critique of Griffin’s performance.
It is generally agreed that Griffin did not handle the situation well and was pretty much torn apart by the London audience – as were his extreme right wing views on many issues.
In the midst of this right wing inspired commotion, one thing appears to have gone relatively unnoticed and that is the uncomfortable shift to the right of the Labour party, no, not just gentle tendencies as has been happening slowly over the years, but sudden lurches into areas that were hitherto the preserve of the far right.
It isn’t so long ago that Gordon Brown announced that he would pursue an agenda that sought to ensure “British jobs for British workers”, a slogan lifted right out of the far right handbook.
More recently Brown announced in his keynote conference speech that:
“From now on all 16 and 17 year old parents who get support from the taxpayer will be placed in a network of supervised homes where they learn responsibility and how to raise their children properly. That’s better for them, better for their babies and better for us all in the long run.”
This prompted raised eyebrows, for again Labour was adopting policies first proposed by London BNP who suggested in an address to the British National Party’s 2009 conference:
“that there be no council flats and no welfare benefits available to unmarried mothers under the age of 21. Instead they will be placed in ‘mother & baby homes’. Here they will receive academic education as well as parenting classes, plus courses covering all aspects of their social development.”
Labour’s MSP Cathie Jamieson has also recently demanded that Local houses go to local people, a kind of housing apartheid. Last year Labour’s Cabinet Minister Hazel Blears provoked a race row by calling for an end to ethnic minority-dominated ghettos. Blears said that urban “no-go areas” for whites should no longer be tolerated.
This apparent new found fondness for right wing policies also emerged in the Glasgow North East by-election campaign when Labour candidate Willie Bain expressed views on both the Conservative’s right to buy policy [council houses] and also on asylum seekers.
On asylum seekers it had been pointed out that in many cases they are being sent home to die and whilst waiting for their appeals have only £35 a week to live on – they are also not allowed to work.
Willie Bain responded:
“I think the best thing that we can do is make the asylum system more efficient”
“The best option for them if their case has not been a valid one is to return to their country of origin, we have to make that as easy a process as we can”
Make it easy for these people to “return to their country of origin” sounds remarkably similar to views expressed by some of our more extreme political parties.
However, probably more bizarre, given the social depravation that exists in Glasgow North East and the lack of housing for those on low incomes, was Bain’s reaction to the SNP’s David Kerr who was asked what negative effect the Conservative right to buy policy has had on Scottish society.
“The problem that the right to buy has created is that in Glasgow the areas of good social housing were very quickly bought up,”
“We created effectively in this city - very much against the traditions of the city which were always mixed income communities - ghetto’s of social housing, ghetto’s of poverty as well”
Willie Bain explained that he disagreed with the SNP’s decision to end the right to buy and suggested that local councils decide for themselves; he made no attack on the Conservative policy. However Bain’s campaign website later ran what can only be described as a rant at David Kerr.
"David Kerr doesn't live here so perhaps he doesn't see the changes in my community on his visits here.
"He'd rather talk our area down than solve the problems we have.
"Calling our area a ghetto is a disgusting slur to local people.
"People take pride in our area and look after their houses, so will be furious to be told their homes are in a ghetto."
Local Labour MSP Paul Martin added:
"Like Willie, I have lived in this constituency all my life and know how offensive this kind of sneering comment is. He is talking down at people, it is a bit rich for someone from the Southside to come up here and lecture us.”
Paul Martin of course is the son of Michael Martin now Baron Martin of Springburn, the former Springburn MP and speaker of the House of Commons who was forced to give up the speakers role after he tried to prevent MP’s expenses becoming public.
So, no condemnation of the Tory policy and no acknowledgement that the area has suffered massively from that same policy. One can only conclude that Willie Bain still supports the Tory instigated policy of selling off council house stock and that he considers the disastrous results of such a sell off acceptable.
Single mothers, foreign workers, asylum seekers, local housing apartheid and council house sell off – all areas that has saw Labour move to the right, extreme right in some cases.
Labour may consider the BNP a threat to their core vote; however Newsnet Scotland would suggest that adopting some of the BNP’s policies is not the best way to combat such erosion.
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