Friday, January 31, 2014

"Britain First" - Whatever Next?

BRITAIN FIRST's Jim Dowson stirs the crowd in Belfast.
Daily Record, January 9, 2013 

WITH Tommy Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley Lennon, having defected from the English Defence League (EDL) for greener pastures, and Nick Griffin of the British National Party (BNP) declaring himself bankrupt, who is likely to elbow their way to the front and take up the flag for Britain's Far Right crusade?

Can they outdo the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and its increasingly oddball looking characters, to harness that combination of popular disillusion with parliamentary politics, and backward prejudice against Johnny Foreigner, that has brought remunerative seats in the European parliament? 

Britain First, set up as a campaign group before deciding to call itself a political party in September 2012, is led by former members of the BNP, like Paul Golding, Andy McBride, and Jim Dowson, who was the BNP's top man in Scotland and leading fundraiser before he fell out with Griffin and quit, leaving his former pals potless. A report in the Scottish Daily Record in 2009 linked Dowson with hard-line Loyalists and criminal activities.

It said Dowson, expelled from his Orange Lodge after accusing fellow members of not being extreme enough, called himself a "dyed in the wool Protestant". But this did not stop him meeting members of the right-wing Catholic Youth Defence group in the south of Ireland, trying to emulate their anti-abortion protests. Plainly when it comes to ecumenism the far Right can set an example to us all!

Last year Searchlight reported that "Dowson is currently busy in Belfast helping to stir up loyalists to protest against the democratic decision by Belfast council to fly the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall only on 20 days a year,...Golding has also visited Belfast for the protests."  

It also reported that Britain First held a meeting in Dartford, Kent, on January 13, 2013, with the EDL and others, at which according to the BF website, they discussed "the disintegrating situation in the street protest movement and were unanimous in their resolve to salvage the situation and start again."

One year later the Britain Firsters decided to come to Cricklewood, in north west London, and wave their flags. Whether they were able to salvage anything from this adventure was not clear, as experts tell me even their flags were upside down.

The ostensible occasion for this was the news that the Muslim Brotherhood, only recently forming Egypt's first elected government, but now being repressed, had opened a small office in a flat over a shop in Cricklewood Broadway. To confront this peril to the populace and civilisation as we know it, the BF brought out just over a couple of dozen flag-waving patriots on Saturday, January 18.

Having heard they were coming, Brent Trades Union Council and local Unite Against Fascism(UAF) supporters managed at a few days' notice to mobilise a larger counter-demonstration.. I was not able to go myself, so here is an account by fellow-blogger Martin Francis:  

Around 27 members of Britain First were confronted by three times as many local activists and residents when they turned up in Cricklewood Broadway today. Ostensibly they were demonstrating against the Muslim Brotherhood office above a shop but their agenda was really anti-Muslim, anti-Mosque and anti- immigrant, using the MB office as a pretext.

In fact they had no placards or leaflets to explain to the local community why they were there. Brent people were present, not to demonstrate in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood, but to say that they did not want Britain First to come into the area and disrupt and divide their diverse local community.

Brent and Harrow Unite Against Fascism gave out a leaflet to passers by, many of whom joined them,  explaining the origin of Britain First in evangelical Protestantism and anti-abortion campaigns, and its associations with Loyalist paramilitaries. The BNP had found them too extreme and their leader James Dowson is on bail for violence.

Local campaigners and residents told Britain First they were not wanted in Cricklewood and a 9 year old boy used his megaphone to passionately tell them that his best friend was a Muslim.

The numbers of Britain First supporters gradually reduced during the afternoon and eventually the dozen or so remaining were escorted by police to Cricklewood Broadway accompanied by cries of derision from local residents and the chant of 'Brent united will never be defeated'.

LESS IMPRESSIVE in Cricklewood.  A local mother comments "These are the imbecilic excuses for grown men that offered out my nine year old son for a fight when he pointed out that his best friend is a Muslim. I am sure they are very proud of themselves".
  photo from Martin Francis blog "Wembley Matters"   

Meanwhile ....Galloping Galloway Enters Fray

CRICKLEWOOD lies partly in the Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary constituency which straddles the Watling Street border of the boroughs of Camden and Brent. Sitting Labour MP Glenda Jackson is about to vacate the seat at the next election, and as the candidates hoping to replace her line up, a surprising outsider - in every sense -has made an intervention.

Respect MP George Galloway first entered parliament as Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead, went on to win Bethnal Green for Respect, and now sits as MP for Bradford West, though several councillors there fell out with him and Respect after hearing he might decide to stand for Mayor of London. Since then he has been campaigning for a "No" vote in the Scottish independence referendum, but this week he turned his attention to Hampstead and Kilburn,

Here's the Kilburn Times: 
 Denouncing Lib Dem candidate Maajid Nawaz as “rancid” and Labour hopeful Tulip Siddiq as a “New Labour apologist”, the outspoken MP for Bradford West revealed yesterday his party would be inviting applications from those interested in standing for his left-leaning party.

It comes not long after Mr Nawaz, a former Islamist who now runs a leading anti-extremist organisation, caused outrage among some sectors of the Muslim community after publishing online a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Mr Galloway MP was among those condemning him, saying: “No Muslim will ever vote for the Liberal Democrats anywhere ever unless they ditch the provocateur Maajid Nawaz.”

He later added: “Respect will take the Hampstead and Kilburn fight right to rancid Maajid Nawaz and the New Labour apologist for Awami League.”
The latter was a reference to Labour candidate Cllr Siddiq’s family ties with Bangladesh’s current ruling political party the Bangladesh Awami League.
The prospects of a Galloway-backed campaign could make the Hampstead and Kilburn 2015 election battle one of the most animated in the country, with the constituency already known as the most marginal seat in the country.

The last election saw the constituency’s current Labour MP, Glenda Jackson, win with a majority of just 42.

So all Galloway needs now is a candidate, and though I'd hazard a guess that Respect would fare little better than Britain First in the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency, it could make enough of a dent in the Labour vote as to let the Tory in.

I can accept there may be more to Nawaz than a cartoon he tweeted. He is a founder of the Quilliam Foundation which opposes "extremism" and facilitated Tommy Robinson's announcement that he was leaving the EDL. All the same, is this such a burning issue in Hampstead and Kilburn as to bring George Glloway's intervention?

As for the Awami League, in Bangladesh, it is  certainly no worse than some of the regimes which George Galloway has defended, and it has the merit of having prosecuted the enemies of Bangladeshi freedom who committed war crimes in the service of the Pakistan military against their own people.  

But that brings us to the Jamaat e Islami party which took that stand, and which has a well-established presence in George Galloway's old Bethnal Green constituency, where it has been said to influence local politics as well as doing successful fundraising. Surely Galloway is not trying to help them extend their reach into Camden?

If so, Britain First are not the only intruders attempting to divide communities.

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