26 February 2008

Help Searchlight to beat the BNP in London!

Let’s vote for our London

This month Searchlight launches its campaign to stop the British National Party from winning seats in the London Assembly. Our objectives are simple. We need to prevent the BNP from gaining the 5% in the London list vote that would give it one seat, the 8% which would gain it two and the 11% which would see the party win three.

Over the next three months we will undertake our largest, most targeted and sophisticated campaign to date.

We will adapt the lessons from recent campaigns across the country and bring in new techniques that have been pioneered in the United States.

Given the size of the London constituency, with around 5.3 million potential voters, there will be a much bigger emphasis on internet and email campaigning, though this will not come at the expense of community work, especially the enthusing of minority communities and the mobilisation of faith communities.

There must be no pretending that our task is straightforward. In last May’s local elections the BNP polled 14.7% in the 742 wards it contested across the country. The highest average regional vote was in the Eastern region where the party achieved 19% of the vote in the 65 wards contested. The lowest regional vote was 11.1% in the South West, where the BNP fielded 34 candidates. If even its lowest regional average was replicated in London then the BNP would be on the verge of winning three seats on the Assembly.

The BNP is hopeful of success. In the 2006 local elections the party polled 41% in the wards it contested in Barking and Dagenham. It gained councillors in Havering and Redbridge, and overall it averaged 25% of the vote in the 27 wards it contested.

Its prospects will also be boosted by the virtual collapse of the UK Independence Party, whose London Assembly representatives now sit as the One London party. In the last London Assembly elections, contested in 2004 on the same day as the European elections, the UKIP polled 8.8% of the London list vote. This support is now up for grabs and research has indicated that much of it may cross to the BNP.

It is no wonder then that the BNP is prioritising London this year. The region has so far not been affected by the internal party feuds and Nick Griffin, the party leader, knows that even one place on the London Assembly will attract more media attention than several council election victories around the country.

The election will also be an important dry run for next year’s all-important European elections. Victory here, rather than in London on its own, would take the BNP out of the political margins. Each MEP would receive at least £200,000 a year in salary and allowances, so would be able to employ several BNP members as staff, but just as importantly MEPs would give the fascists a credibility they currently do not have.

Mobilising the majority

So, given all of the above, is it certain the BNP will win? Absolutely not, but we will only be successful in preventing a BNP victory if we can launch the biggest anti-BNP campaign to date. And that means people getting active and increasing turnout.

As our table below shows, increasing the turnout will make it significantly harder for the BNP. So increasing the turnout is our key priority.

London has particular groups that need to be mobilised. One third of Londoners are immigrants or the children of immigrants and this figures rises greatly if you include people who have moved into the capital from other parts of the UK.

The capital is far more socially liberal and tolerant than other parts of the UK. Research has shown repeatedly that Londoners are 20% more liberal in their social attitudes than people in other regions.

Many Londoners love London precisely because of its diversity. It is a “World in One City”, a fact that gave us the Olympics and gives it an identity unlike anywhere else. Warts and all, it is the most multicultural city in the world.

We cannot take it for granted that our Londoners will come out and vote. They will need to be reminded, cajoled and encouraged. There is genuine outrage and horror among so many ordinary people when the threat of the BNP is explained. However, often it is expressed only when the threat is explained and over the next couple of months it is vital that anti-fascists get to speak to as many people and groups as possible.

The internet will be vital in this. There are over four million people registered to vote in London. There are another million who are of voting age but are not yet registered. It would be foolhardy to believe that we can speak to anything but a fraction of these people so the internet and email networks provide the best way to spread our message more widely.

Searchlight is fortunate to be able to draw on the skills of political and community campaigners in the United States. They have shared their experiences, provided us with free software and given us advice about internet campaigning. Anyone who has visited our updated website or received one of our weekly email bulletins has, we hope, noticed improvements in recent weeks.

Our changes appear to be paying dividends. In December over 34,000 unique users (different computers) visited our Stop the BNP site, viewing over 400,000 pages. This was a massive increase over previous months and can only be considered a taster for the real campaign over the next few weeks.


Searchlight is kicking off its London effort later this month with a “Welcome” campaign. Our opening salvo is “Welcome the stranger you once were”. It is an attempt to remind people that London is a city of immigration, be it from abroad or from other parts of the UK.

It is also intended to be a positive reminder that the diversity of London is something to celebrate. It is a world in one city and most of us love it for that very reason.

This is only the start. Searchlight and its union, faith and community partners have drawn up a three-month rolling programme of action that will take us to polling day. Each activity will hopefully lead neatly into the next and all the time we hope to be raising the profile of our campaign and the importance of voting for our London.

Over the weekend of 15-16 March we will hold activities across the capital. From attending church services to running town centre stalls, mass leafleting of estates to community meetings, there will be something for every-one to do. In the process we hope to reach out to hun-dreds of thousands of people right across London.

But none of this can happen without your help. Searchlight has thousands of readers in London and there is a role for everyone. Some people might be prepared to deliver leaflets or staff Hope not Hate stalls in shopping centres, others might prefer to work quietly within their own community networks. Yet others may be able to do none of these but could still spread the word to their friends and family by email.

Searchlight cannot stress the importance of the London elections enough. A significant BNP break-through here will give the party a major platform for the European elections. We urge all of our readers to do whatever they can to get involved in the campaign.

To find out more please visit our campaign site http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/london/


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