Fronting up to fascism

Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist campaign group, faces perhaps its toughest challenge to date in its bid to prevent the fascist BNP gaining seats in the coming European elections.

The elections are a key goal for the BNP and provide its best hope of making significant electoral gain. The traditionally low turnout for EU elections coupled with the use of the d’Hondt system of proportional representation favours small parties such as the BNP if they are able to mobilise their supporters.

The demise of the UK Independence Party and the current economic situation, which is seeing more and more disenfranchised voters casting around for an alternative to the mainstream parties, could also play into the fascists hands.

But according to one of Hope Not Hate’s key organisers, the anti-nazi campaign has garnered more support than ever from diverse quarters including the Church of England and trade unionists.

The campaign to defeat the fascists at the ballot box has even received transatlantic backing.

Blue State Digital the campaign group credited with invigorating the Obama presidential campaign, has joined with Hope Not Hate and the partnership is already reaping dividends.

A spokesman for Blue State says: “Blue State Digital’s strategy and production teams are supporting Searchlight’s Hope Not Hate campaign in the UK to stop the fascist British National Party winning a seat in June’s European election.

“BSD will be working closely with Searchlight – developing messaging, email and fundraising campaigns to help supporters organise and mobilise – and then fight back against the BNP message of racism, intolerance and hate.”

While mainstream politicians, with a few honourable exceptions, are only belatedly waking up to the growing threat of the extremist right-wing BNP, Hope Not Hate has been consistent in highlighting and exposing the hypocrisy and insidious racism of the BNP and other far-right groups.

Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate explains how the alliance with Blue State came about and also why he feels the European election campaign is not a lost cause.

“The alliance with Blue State came about in two ways,” says Lowles.

“The person who set up the European arm of the company is a friend of mine and we both worked on John Cruddas’s campaign.

“Secondly, last October we took a delegation of trade unionists to the US and met up with Blue State while we were there. They agreed to work with us on this important issue as they see our cause as a positive campaign which they wished to be involved with.”

What has the partnership meant for Hope not Hate and its campaigning?

“It has provided us with an organising tool which allows us to build up a much larger network of supporters,” explains Lowles.

“In the last two months we have built up a database of 28,000 people and we are only really starting – we hope to increase that to around 60,000 to 80,000.

“Trade unionists have huge email lists, but now we have a huge number of people actively joining us.

“We have already seen a phenomenal response. We helped get the BNP march in Liverpool stopped and we will soon be unveiling our online campaign.

“We will be providing materials for people to organise events and opposition to the BNP themselves in their local areas.”

Hope Not hate has also made major inroads into the Church of England.

Until recently, the church has, at least publicly, distanced itself from politics.

But in recent months, key figures in the Anglican faith have put their heads above the parapet to condemn the BNP as hatemongers and cynical opportunists whose beliefs are anathema to Christian teachings.

Bishop of Manchester Nigel McCulloch recently addressed the city council on the perils of ignoring the growing fascist threat and urged support for the Hope Not Hate campaign.

The BNP recently polled 23 per cent of the vote in the Moston council elections in north Manchester and have polled similarly elsewhere in the area.

Addressing Manchester city council, the bishop said the BNP would “seek political success in this year’s European elections by preaching a message of division and hatred.

“They will use racism and other prejudice to challenge the very diversity which strengthens our city. They will exploit the difficult times which presently face our country, trying to turn one community against the other.

“They will use difference as a scapegoat because they have nothing else to offer in response to the issues we face.”

Bishop of Bradford David James has also spoken out on the issue, saying that BNP policies were incompatible with the church.

Commenting on the church’s response, Lowles said: “What we are seeing is a concerted effort within the church and among all other faith groups.

“We are also now seeing cross-party support for our campaign. We are facing a big threat, but I think our campaign will be far bigger than it has in the past.

“I would urge people not to be despondent about the Moston vote. In the north-west alone we have got 9,000 people who have joined our campaign online who are all determined to help tackle the threat.”

Copyright Morning Star