The British National Party opposition on Barking and Dagenham Borough Council are claiming responsibility for a FALL in racially motivated crime in the area. At the full council meeting in June, Councillor Richard Barnbrook quoted a Metropolitan Police report claiming that race crimes in the borough had fallen by 15% between March 2006 and March 2007.
In her response to the leader of the BNP contingent, Councillor Rush said that while a drop in race crime was something to be welcomed, she said that people in minority communities lack the confidence to report racially-motivated crime. She said the whole council and its partners (the police and social services) should work towards encouraging people to report race crimes. She did not take Barnbrook's bait by agreeing that the BNP presence had caused a reduction in race hate crime.
In its efforts to appear a 'respectable' political party, the BNP will always take the opportunity to take the credit for a reduction in race hate crimes (which it is more often accused of increasing). The Left should be very careful not to allow the BNP to take the credit in this way: the BNP's policies are racially divisive and would actually create more social tension and resentment within working class communities.
Councillor Rush is correct to point out that many victims of race hate crime fail to report it, but the roots of race hate crime need to be understood before communities can deal with it effectively. If the police devote too many resources towards certain crimes at the expense of others, then this can create fertile ground for the idea that the police do not want to help the white working class community. A better approach would be to concentrate resources on preventing crime in working class areas without racialising the problem: a violent attack on a black man is as much an attack on the whole community as it is on the black community.
BNP Councillor Bailey criticised the Labour Party's attitude towards housing and pointed out that Barking's Labour MP, Margaret Hodge, now agreed that 'indigenous' communities should have priority in council housing. He asked Councillor Liam Smith why he continued to deny that what the BNP claim is correct. Smith said that the problem was about building council homes, not about the type of people who live in them. There should be more homes to accommodate everyone who needs them. It is good to see that Labour councils are starting to wake up to the housing crisis and putting forward a left-wing alternative to the racism of the BNP. It remains for the present administration on Barking and Dagenham borough council to deliver on its housing promises, and more importantly for the Labour Party leadership can support a more Socialist housing policy.
In sincerely hope that Labour Party members in Barking constituency do the sensible thing and de-select Margaret Hodge as their parliamentary candidate. Racialising social problems will only justify the policies of the BNP and I am afraid the present MP for Barking is a liability. We need a class-based solution to a class-based problem.