Have just written this as a news story for Friday’s Tribune. Should be self-explanatory and explain my absence from Labour’s Spring conference over the weekend:
Some 500 delegates gathered over the course of the day on Saturday 1st March at Congress House in central London for United Against Fascism’s national conference. Keynote speakers warned against the threat of having BNP London Assembly members elected at this May’s elections. The message was to maximise the popular vote to prevent the fascists getting a toehold or even possibly as many as two or three elected representatives in City Hall on May 6th, given that the PR system is generous to small parties.
The opening plenary included a number of big hitters from across the Labour movement and beyond. Daud Abdullah of the Muslim Council of Britain, who have had their government funding scaled back, was among those on the platform. The point was much made how for the connotations of “Muslim” in racist folklore today we can substitute “black/Asian” in the 50s/60s/ 70s or “Jews” at the turn of the century. Steve Hart of Unite TGWU gave an impassioned plea from a historical perspective of previous moments in anti-fascist struggles spanning Lewisham and Southall while the TUC’s Brendan Barber managed to combine thoughtful comment with the most memorable soundbite of the day. Alluding to the BNP tendency to appear suited and booted these days he said “they may wear Armani but their inspiration is still Mussolini.”MPs Emily Thornberry and Jon Cruddas too delivered rousing addresses. Thornberry highlighted the anti-women tendencies of the BNP and Cruddas spoke from his experiences as MP for Dagenham which is often dubbed “the racist capital of the UK”. Warmest response of the morning however was reserved for Mayor Ken Livingstone who had brought his baby-sitting with him. Speaking without notes he underlined the solidarity shown by Londoners in the face of the 7/7 attacks and the way that “business as usual” prevailed whereas in other world cities rioting would have followed.
In breakout groups subjects such as no platform policies for the BNP on campus, mobilising faith communities and the Love Music Hate Racism (UAF sister organisation) carnival in East London’s Victoria Park on 27th April were approached in a practical manner, with all delegates leaving energised as the next chapter of the fight begins.