Another bit of 80s nostalgia

Remember the 1980s? How about the race riots in places like Brixton and Toxteth and Handsworth? What was the spark for these riots? Well, it was the ‘sus laws’, and the use of them by the police to stop young black men, on ‘suspicion’. After the Scarman Report, the laws were abolished, for the very reason that they had contributed to massive problems between the police and local communities.

In 2008, David Cameron did say he would bring back similar powers to the police. Now he’s in power, the Home Office are issuing new guidance to allow race to be used as a reason to stop people.

This really needs to be reconsidered.

Sod off, Woolas

It looks like Phil Woolas will be losing his seat, barring some last minute attempts at a Judicial Review. I didn’t know anything about the tactics being used in his Oldham East election campaign, but looking at the material it is pretty low stuff. Telling porkies to suggest that your main opponent is backed by Muslim extremists, especially in an area which has seen racial tension in the past, is downright shoddy and irresponsible.

That he was a Labour MP is a source of shame to me, and should be to any member. As a minister he seemed to revel in applying some of the draconian parts of our immigration laws (and let’s put a line under the line that there were no controls ore restrictions to immigration under Labour – they became progressively stronger over time). I’ve never had much sympathy for those people in Labour who try to play up on the fears of the white working class for political ends.

But my dislike for Woolas goes much, much further back than that. Back in the early 1990s I was a student in Manchester. At around the time of the Blair takeover, and the return to prominence of Peter Mandelson, he made me so angry I nearly left the Labour Party.

The Tory MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth, Geoffrey Dickens, was suffering from a long illness, and it was likely that he was going to die. However, he was still alive and in post when messages started to come through that we (the Manchester University Labour Students) should go out to the moors towns on the other side of Oldham to campaign. Personally, I felt it was tasteless in the extreme to put an election machine out on the ground for a by-election when the sitting MP was still alive.

Woolas was the Labour candidate for that seat. When Dickens did pass away in 1995, the campaign (which I had no involvement in) was bitter and personalised. The Lib Dem candidate was the subject of various attacks. They failed, and Woolas came second to Chris Davies. Deservedly so, to be honest.

In 1997, the seat was changed in the boundary review, and the new constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth was created. Woolas beat Davies in the rerun. I’ve no reason to believe that the campaign was any more cordial. In 2001 the BNP stood, following riots in Oldham in the spring. So since then there will have been the added racial/religious tension. Woolas and the local party (with the complicity of the region?) clearly tried to tap into that in order to hold the seat – which was never very seure.

I’m glad that he’s been suspended by the Party, but it was disappointing to say the least that he’d been retained in the Shadow Cabinet after the allegations and legal challenge to the election were known. Labour needs to make it clear that they will not pander to racism or seek to use it for tactical gain. Woolas should not be the last casualty of this – he will have had an agent and advisors.

A prison with a Mote in it

What’s worse, an MEP who is elected to stand for one party and now sits alongside neo-nazis instead, or an MEP who can’t represent his constituents because he’s in prison for benefit fraud?

The answer is, of course, Ashley Mote, who has managed to combine both.

Today the MEP for the South East was sentenced to nine months in gaol for defrauding us the taxpayers out of £65,506 over more than six years. Seems that he was claiming benefits after his business failed in 1992, and ‘forgot’ to let the relevant authorities know that he’d got work in 1996, and was receiving money until late in 2002.

When he stood for UKIP in the Euro elections of 2004, he ‘forgot’ to mention the charges against him to his colleagues, and it became apparent soon after he obtained his seat. UKIP chucked him out, but due to the bizarre rules of the EU, even though he was elected on a party slate, they can’t replace him on their own, he has to resign, die or become ineligible somehow.

As an independent MEP, Ashley joined the same bloc as populated by the French Front National and the Italian Alternativa Sociale (represented by Mussolini’s granddaughter, who has inherited all of the old boy’s charm and many of his views). The BNP are also allied to these parties.

You’d think, however, that several convictions (guilty on 21 charges) would be enough for Mote to lose his seat. Especially for fraud. Then UKIP would be able to put a replacement in his place and we’d have a full complement of MEPs working for the South East. However, because his sentence was less than a year, he gets to keep his seat, again, thanks to those ‘wacky’ EU rules (and a lenient judge). Which, as one of his constituents, really gets my goat.

What does a closet-fascist fraudster MEP have to do to lose his seat?

[edit: turns out that the rule about only losing your seat if imprisoned for one year is the same as for the UK parliament, so it's not just a wacky EU thing. Also, Skuds blogged on this one too]

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Love Music, Hate Fascism

Yesterday I went up to the Crawley Mela at the Hawth. The event has been running for many years, and brings people in from all over Crawley and the surrounding area, from all parts of the community. Primarily based on the South Asian festivals, there was lots of lovely spicy food, music and dancing from many cultures. I took a few pictures which (If I can figure out how to get them out of my phone) might get posted later.

Wealden Unite Against Fascism shared a stall with the long-established Crawley Campaign Against Racism and the local Interfaith Network. We gain some new members, but the main aim was to get the name out and to get exposure. One way to do this was to give out stickers to as many Mela-goers as possible. Most people were happy to wear the purple badges.

A few were less so. While most councillors who were there were happy to be associated with the UAF, including the Tory Leader of the council, Bob Lanzer, the Deputy Leader, Duncan Crow pointedly refused to keep one on.

[error corrected]

A question answered.

Earlier in the year, I asked, Does the South East have a Fascist MEP?

Well, one thing I wasn’t aware of at the time was that the grouping set up in January to represent the far right in the European Parliament is essentially made up of two groups. On the one hand there is ‘Euronat’, which is made up of parties like the French Front National and the Flemish Belgian Vlaams Blok. On the other hand is Ashley Mote and two others from Bulgaria and Romania as independents (although Mote was elected as a UKIP candidate).

Thing is, when I speculated that the ‘Identity, Sovereignty, Tradition’ group would be the natural home of the BNP, I didn’t know that indeed, the BNP are the British affiliates to the ‘Euronat’ group.

So yes, Mote is effectively allied with the BNP. I hope that any people in the South East who voted UKIP realise what they have done.

Wealden Unite Against Fascism launched

Tonight, we finalised the setting up of a branch of the UAF to cover Crawley, Horsham, Redhill and surrounding areas. It will be called ‘Wealden’ because we didn’t want to restrict the group to Crawley or to any other specific area. It seems that the BNP are trying to gain councillors by finding vacant Parish Council places and putting candidates forward – often these will be unopposed. Exploiting this means that they can claim to be gaining support and representation (despite the fact that their vote is going down where they stand in real elections).

In the near future the Wealden UAF will be looking to campaign in the area, particularly where the BNP or other fascist parties have a visible presence. There is talk of hosting a ‘Love Music Hate Racism’ event, probably in Crawley, to build awareness of the campaign with young (and probably not so young) people in the area. It would also be a great opportunity for local musicians to display their talents and to help bring the community together

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Unite Against Fascism

I’ve just got back from a meeting in Town, which was called to try and set up a local Unite Against Fascism organisation.

There were people from as far afield as Billingshurst and Caterham, with Horley and Horsham represented, as well as quite a few from Crawley, it was decided that it was best to set up a single group for the whole area, rather than to try small ones in each place. It may be that in time there are enough people involved to establish more local groups, but for now it seems best to work together.

Additionally, it wasn’t all Labour Party members. While there were some, there were also people from Respect/SWP and some who didn’t appear to be involved in any particular party. We know that Conservatives have delivered UAF leaflets in Crawley before. The intention is to avoid any political party being overly dominant and for the campaign to be as broad as possible.

The next step is to set things up properly, and to that end it is hoped that a proper AGM can be set up soon to agree who does what and how it is organised (the fun of writing constitutions!), and decide what are the priorities.

I turned up a bit late, but the meeting was late starting because people got delayed by the trains. While idling outside it was noticed that a couple of people were taking photographs of us. One of the people they may have snapped was just an ordinary bloke who wanted to know what was going on, and left when it became clear that people were being asked to join something. I suspect that our pics are destined to appear on ‘Redwatch’ or something like that. Seeing as the local radio controlled car group were meeting at the same place, they may just have been rival RC’ers, but I think that’s unlikely. I wonder if any of them will have been snapped at the same time?

When approached, the men wandered to a distance, although there was no threat to them. Perhaps they might have liked to chat, but maybe not.

[edit - Parental Advisory on the comments, as it seems that they may not have wanted to chat, but are happy to abuse people on the internet]

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