British National Party Councillor Richard Barnbrook, the leader of the BNP group on Barking & Dagenham council, was elected to the Greater London Assembly on 1 May 2008.
On 13th March Hackney Independent (HI) leafletted a meeting at the Hackney Empire hosted by Hackney TUC which was part of a campaign to ensure that the BNP failed to get a councillor elected to the GLA. The meeting was supported by anti-fascist magazine Searchlight and the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) organisation. Our leaflet was critical of the strategy being pursued through this meeting – of encouraging everyone to vote for any party except the BNP, therefore decreasing their share of the vote. This strategy had been supported by all the main parties elected to Hackney Council.
There was a similar campaign during the 2004 GLA elections. The BNP did not get elected and no further work was done. In 2008 the campaign was relaunched. This time it failed. So it seems reasonable to ask if those behind the campaign will now start to carry out any meaningful anti-fascist work, or will they wait until 2012 and run yet another “vote for anyone but the BNP” campaign?
New London Mayor Boris Johnson will continue with Livingstone’s pro-developer stance of gentrifying working class areas of London. Will anti-fascists actively oppose this, or will they focus on standing outside the GLA and chanting “Nazi” at lone BNP Cllr Barnbrook while leaving unchallenged the handing over of London spaces to big business property developers?
This is the text of the Hackney Independent leaflet:
‘Fighting the BNP in London – Criticisms and an alternative strategy’ from Hackney Independent
This meeting tonight represents an old and failed method of combating the BNP.
This ‘bureaucratic’ strategy is one which seeks an alliance of anti-racist and anti-fascist activists with mainstream political parties and institutions which has long been proved counter-productive.
The mainstream political parties and their policies are not part of the solution but part of the problem.
It is no surprise at all that all the mainstream political parties in Hackney are supporting this strategy. They all profess a hatred of racism and all, understandably, want to halt the electoral growth of an opposition political party.
However, they share a political consensus that supports policy which encourages support for the BNP in many areas of London and elsewhere in the country – be it overcrowded and poor housing conditions, free market ‘solutions’ to social problems, increasing social inequality, etc.
This is particularly true of the Tories and New Labour, but also true for others like the Liberal Democrats where they control local councils. In housing, for example (a key campaigning area for the BNP) the policy of Right to Buy, lack of genuinely affordable housing, overcrowding and poor maintenance, has created conditions which make it easier for the BNP to blame immigrants.
Anti-fascists should understand that the fight against the BNP is also a fight against the inequalities and poor conditions faced by many working class families, irrespective of race; and is therefore a fight against the parties and ideologies which pursue the policies damaging to working class families.
Forming anti-BNP alliances with those that create the problems which allow the BNP to grow is a strategy which is justifiably met with contempt by those tempted to vote for them.
Labelling the BNP ‘Nazi’ is simplistic and misses the mark.
Recent history should have taught anti-fascists that a campaign of sloganeering against the BNP by calling them ‘Nazi’ or ‘Fascist’ is of no practical use. It does not deter people from supporting them. This is because the BNP does not set out to appeal to Nazi sympathies within its constituency.
On the contrary, the BNP – whatever the far-right sympathies of its leadership – has increasingly adopted a form of local, community politics which looks to address the very real problems faced by working class families. Similarly, the BNP can persuasively argue – in the accepted language of official multiculturalism – that it is legitimately representing the interests of an ethnic group, just as other ethnic groups are represented.
In this manner ‘the establishment’ has gifted the BNP with an opportunity to both increase their public profile and cast themselves as free-speech martyrs. The majority of people voting BNP are not hard-core Nazis or racists.
Evidence shows that most of their support over the last 15 years comes from disillusioned Labour voters. These voters are not rabid-right-wingers, nor are they stupid people who need to be ‘educated’ by alliances of the middle-class Left and Right. They are quite justified in feeling disillusioned with New Labour. They do not deserve to be lectured down to. They deserve to be genuinely listened to and their problems taken seriously.
If anti-racists and anti-fascists don’t attempt to bring them into struggles for social justice is it any wonder that some are persuaded to vote for the BNP?
The way forward
What is required to combat the electoral growth of the BNP is for anti-fascists and anti-racists to engage consistently in local, community politics in order to:
a) address the very legitimate needs and concerns of working class families and,
b) provide an alternative to both the BNP and failed mainstream politics.
The ‘bureaucratic’ strategy – building alliances with middle-class parties, moralising against instead of engaging with – is not only useless as an anti-fascist strategy, it has been proven to be counter-productive and boost the BNP’s electoral opportunities through protest voting.
Hackney Independent was originally one of a number of community politics groups that formed in the late 1990’s following the BNP’s turn to electoral politics. This criticism of ‘bureaucratic’ strategies to combat the BNP was formed during the campaign against BNP councillor Derek Beacon on the Isle of Dogs in 1993. (It is tragic that those lessons, 15 years on, have still not been learnt.)
We believe that it is only consistent pro-working class community politics that can ultimately neuter the BNP. Those that offer the BNP electoral support need to be offered an alternative, so that they are able to fight for improvements in the conditions of their lives without being sucked into the arms of racists.
The best possible outcome for this meeting tonight in Hackney, therefore, and other meetings like this throughout London, is that anti-racists and anti-fascists organise themselves to work with working class communities to challenge not just the BNP, but also to challenge the social policies pursued by mainstream political parties which directly contribute to the disillusionment off which the BNP feed.
An edited version of this statement by Hackney Independent member Peter Sutton appeared in the Hackney Gazette on 25th May 2006:
How did we get almost exactly the same council following the elections?
We started with 44 Labour councillors, 9 Tories in Lordship, New River and Springfield, 3 Lib Dems in Cazenove and Andrew Boff representing theTories in Queensbridge. We ended up with 44 Labour councillors, the Tories and Lib Dems holding their wards in Stamford Hill and the Greens taking one seat in Clissold.
What is clear to us is that Labour put no real effort into the 4 wards in Stamford Hill that are still represented by the 9 Tory and 3 Lib Dem councillors. We never see these tame twelve taking on New Labour as they have no major political disagreements with them. They all agree with the ALMO, with privatising council services and with the regeneration/gentrification policies of New Labour. Lib Dem Leader Ian Sharer used to be a Labour councillor and probably would be again if they would let him join. Many of the Tories ran the council jointly with Labour during the Labour-Tory pact 6 years ago This was the time that brought us the Clissold Pool fiasco and the joint agreement to close Haggerston Pool.
Instead Labour’s electoral machine turned its fire on what they saw as threats to the status quo – maverick Lib Dem David Phillips in Hoxton, Tory populist Andrew Boff in Queensbridge and Hackney Independent in Haggerston.
The irony here is that we find it hard to tell the difference between the policies of New Labour, David Phillips and Andrew Boff. They all support privatisation. Boff supports the sale off Council-owned shops, he just thinks the Tories could do it more fairly and competently than Labour. However Phillips and Boff are campaigners and get in the Gazette and get out on the estates promoting their own parties, unlike the tame 12 in Stamord Hill. This is what drew Labour’s fire.
If only New Labour ran Hackney anything like as well as they fight elections. Hoxton, Haggerston and Queensbridge saw more of Jules Pipe and the New Labour leadership in the 4 weeks before the election than we did in the past 4 years.
We fear Labour’s hidden agenda for the next 4 years, that wasn’t in their glossy election leaflets, including:
* turning their Hackney Homes project into a housing association and giving it our council estates
* pushing through more privately-sponsored City Academies
* handing over the East of the borough to Olympic developers, who after 2012 will hand it over to big business
* building private flats on green spaces on our estates
* no new council housing but plenty more luxury flats
* more pay rises for councillors
* planning permission granted to property developers against the wishes of local communities
Is the only opposition to be the Green Party that thinks Hackney’s problems are not enough solar panels or missed recycling targets? Hackney Independent members are already in discussion with groups and individuals around the borough to play our part in opposing the New Labour hidden agenda.
If you want to talk to us about how best we can work together to keep Hackney for the people, contact us.
The last six months have been a hectic time for Hackney Independent. Starting at the end of November last year, our involvement with the occupation at 34 Broadway Market brought onto the national and international stage a level of condemnation for Hackney Council which is usually only reserved for dodgy third world regimes.
Not long after the occupation of Tony’s café was over we commenced the Haggerston local election campaign. The result was a victory for the Labour party with their candidates securing an average 986 votes compared to Hackney Independent’s highest vote of 616.
Labour won every seat in Hackney South & Shoreditch. They faced strong challenges from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Queensbridge and Hoxton, where, aside from a strong personal vote for Andrew Boff, the opposition parties achieved results comparable to Hackney Independent’s in Haggerston.
Of course its particular gutting to be beaten by a Blairite careerist with his snout in the PFI trough; a Trotskyite infiltrator and Cllr. Bright, but Hackney Labour party, feeling seriously challenged by Hackney Independent, threw all their available resources into the campaign.
Labour fought a negative campaign: their main trick being to scream of “chaos” if the Town Hall was to return to being a hung-council.
Most annoying was the dirty leaflet distributed on the day before polling day warning Haggerston residents that “a vote for independent is a vote for the Tory’s”. According to Labour we are under the thumb of the Conservative party!
We were a bit miffed about this as no one person involved in Hackney Independent has ever voted Conservative in their life, let alone been a member.
They also drew in criticism that the H.I. candidates weren’t local, and this was in a leaflet hand-delivered by “local” Labour candidate Barry Buitekant who lives in… wait for it… Upper Clapton!
On polling day itself they had bussed in Labour party activists from all over London, with Jules Pipe himself being present on and off throughout the day.
In his main post-election winning address Mayor Pipe singled out Hackney Independent for particular attention:
‘Voters in Haggerston saw through the nonsense being peddled by Hackney Independent, particularly about Broadway market where they had joined up with local Tories. Residents recognised that they had nothing positive to offer local people. They are now a spent force in Hackney.’
That’s fighting talk Jules!
Of course victory is preferable to coming second place again, but we take heart that our challenge prompted such Labour panic.
While Labour won using fear, lies and manipulation, Hackney Independent stood on a platform of community and solidarity.
We will continue to do so in the future.
For Hackney Independent, post-election plans are to build upon our free newsletter by increasing its size and distribution: as Labour have now publicly labelled us a primary threat to their rule in Hackney, it would be a shame to let them off the hook.
We also need to work out ways of securing regular streams of finance and to expand upon our activist base.
Needless to say, our work with Tenants’ Associations and around such campaigns as Broadway Market and Haggerston swimming pool will continue.
The challenge and the need for such an endeavour is still there. As Tony Blair’s neo-liberalism bites even more, the far-right will gain, and Labour will shrink.
We will work towards building a confident working class independent of the existing political structures, so that we can face the immediate challenges and work towards building a credible long-term strategy.
For those who haven’t given up hope yet we ask you to play a part in Hackney Independent.
The Haggerston ward election resulted in a victory for the Labour party, with Hackney Independent coming second.
On average the Hackney Independent candidates received 578 votes while the Labour party candidates received 986.
We will be writing a more detailed analysis of the campaign sometime in the future.
We are currently standing three candidates in the local elections in the Haggerston ward.
Please get in touch if you can support the campaign and help out
For up-to-date information on the Broadway Market campaign see
Hackney Independent has been working with tenants and residents in Hoxton and Haggerston to try and create an independent group that puts the interests of working people (the majority of Hackney’s population) first.
For over 5 years we have supported campaigns to protect vital community services in Shoreditch, worked with tenants to tackle housing issues such as repairs and regularly put out a free newspaper that tells a very different story from the glossy spin of Hackney Today. Our main focus is on community politics but when we stood candidates in Haggerston in the last council elections we came within 90 votes of beating the Labour party.
We don’t pretend to have all the answers and certainly don¹t have a ‘party line’. We are currently talking with people on estates in Haggerston to see if they might be interested in helping to elect independent candidates who would report directly to residents. In the past we have pledged to commit any councillor’s salary towards creating a drop in centre so that people can report issues and problems directly to any elected representative.
We’d also like to talk with others in the borough who might want to share ideas or group together to work towards building an independent alternative to the main establishment parties. For those who are genuinely interested you can contact us through this website: or leave a message on 0207 684 1743.
Tony Butler – Hackney Independent’s Hoxton By-Election Candidate May 2005
After a hard-fought campaign, the Labour Party won the Hoxton ward by-election on May 5th. The Hackney Independent candidate, Tony Butler, picked up a respectable 310 votes. Coinciding with the General Election on the same day, it was hard to compete on a local level when both the Sun and the Mirror had front-page splashes calling for a Labour vote.
Labour won this time, but we will be watching them over the coming year and reporting back to you. As promised on the doorstep, Hackney Independent and Tony Butler will not be going away after May 5th. The campaigning continues, election or not.
Tony Butler and Hackney Independent would like to thank everyone who supported us. Look out for the next Hackney Independent newsletter and future plans for a Kids Cinema Club and advice surgery.
Jonathan McShane (Labour) 1443
Alexander Ellis (Conservative) 649
Sylvia Anderson (Liberal Democrat) 586
William Butler (Hackney Independent) 310
Cedric Knight (Green) 201
Dean Ryan (Respect) 113
Hackney Independent has been going out across Shoreditch since 1999. In that time we have:
- opposed Council plans to cut, close or sell-off our essential services and facilities
- played a part in some victories like getting rid of ITNET
- supported the parents, kids and staff at Apples and Pears adventure playground who fought off council plans to build flats on their site
We have had some defeats like the closure of Laburnum school. Other campaigns, like to re-open Haggerston Pool are still going on. We have established the Independent Kids Cinema and run benefits and repairs advice surgeries.
And we have marked out as being different from any other political organisation in two important ways.
- we keep going every month of the year and don’t just turn up when there is an election
- we go door to door asking your opinions rather than try to tell you what you should think.
In 2002 we stood for election in Haggerston Ward and got 610 votes – just 90 short of beating Labour. We have built on that in Haggerston with advice surgeries, kids film shows, campaigns for Laburnum School and against privatising estate management. We have support and contacts on every estate in the Ward. While we have some support in Hoxton we are writing this appeal to Hoxton tenants and leaseholders to come forward if you want to help build a stronger independent force in Hoxton.
Should Hoxton rely on the Labour Party? Or should we build an independent force to campaign for repairs to our estates, facilities for our young people and to look at community solutions to the problems of anti-social behaviour? Hoxton, it’s up to you. Get in touch. Hoxton tenants and leaseholders: do you want an independent force in Hoxton? or should we leave it to the Labour Party?
The Independent Working Class Association would like to thank everyone who voted for our candidate Lorna Reid in the London mayoral election.
It is clear from the results that the majority of our votes came from areas such as Hackney and Islington where we have been active on local level for some time.
Unlike the other parties, the IWCA isn’t mainly about elections – we ran a mayoral campaign to raise awareness of our community politics in working class areas. We would therefore like to invite any Hackney residents (whether they voted for us or not) who are concerned about anti-social behaviour, housing repairs and transfers, or defending our vital community facilities from privatisation to get in touch.