Monday, March 08, 2010

Should The Left Stand Against Nazi Nick?

Nick Griffin is standing as the BNP candidate in Barking & Dagenham, raising the prospect of Britain having its first fascist MP since Oswald Moseley. And part of the problem is that the Labour candidate, sitting MP Margaret Hodge, represents everything that is wrong with New Labour, everything that has driven many white working-class people into the arms of the BNP.

In an area with inadequate housing, run-down public services, unemployment and little hope, urging people to vote for more of the same maybe an uphill struggle. So should there be a left-of-Labour candidate in Barking & Dagenham?

Such a candidate may take votes away from the BNP which Hodge and Labour could not, as s/he could stand up for jobs and services, share voters' disgust at New Labour, but offer working-class answers as an alternative to racist pseudo-answers.

But on the other hand, what if a left-of-Labour candidate actually took more votes away from Labour and let Nazi Nick win?!

For me, there is no absolute principle one way or the other. It is neither beyond the pale to vote for Hodge nor to stand against her. In general, in this coming general election, I would advocate standing a socialist candidate against a New Labour candidate where it is credible to do so, and voting Labour elsewhere ie. in the big majority of constituencies.

In Barking & Dagenham, though, I don't think I, or anyone else without a fairly intimate knowledge of the area, is in a position to judge. Rather, I think we need an honest assessment based on reports from socialists active in the area about the reality on the ground.

Possibly, the vast majority of voters are so appalled by Hodge that no amount of knocking up for Labour will convince them to vote for her, but a credible, known-and-liked, socialist candidate could win their votes away from the BNP. If so, stand.

Or possibly, no such prospective candidate exists, and it is possible to convince enough people to bite the bullet and vote Labour, and hopefully convince at least some of them to get active in fighting for working-class interests. In which case, don't stand.

Both these options point to the conclusion that whether we would stand or vote against them or not, we want Labour to win the seat. Especially given that only Labour or the BNP will win it, this is quite right.

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