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Crucial time for Labour

Miliband must resist any pressure to shift to the right in the wake of Ukip’s electoral success, writes SABBY DHALU

Yesterday many were celebrating fascist British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin losing his European Parliament seat. 

Unite Against Fascism (UAF) launched the Nick Griffin Must Go campaign three years ago with the support of trade unions, faith, community groups and cross party MEPs. But the celebration is over. 

Across the English Channel Marine Le Pen’s Front National topped the poll and, of course, far-right populist Ukip received the highest share of the national vote with approximately 27.5 per cent so far and 23 MEPs. 

As Bonnie Greer argued on Newsnight, Britain is having its “Tea Party moment.” 

Far from being a working-class party, Ukip is a reactionary multimillionaire-sponsored creation. 

Immigrants are being wrongly blamed for the cost-of-living crisis as a result of the Tory-led coalition’s austerity measures. 

Of course part of the Ukip vote is a reflection of opposition to the EU and a protest vote against the three main parties, but a racist anti-immigrant agenda that wrongly scapegoats immigrants for the fall in living standards has driven the surge in Ukip’s support. 

Nigel Farage’s party placed racism at the heart of its campaign, with election adverts attacking immigrants. 

Racist lies have been spread for centuries about immigrants taking the jobs of established British communities.

Mainstream political parties keep repeating the mantra: “We must listen to people voting Ukip.” 

However the parties’ collective mistake was to allow Ukip to set the agenda instead of championing the real issues confronting people — jobs, better wages, housing and improving living standards for the many not the few. 

We are told that the economy is getting back on its feet, but the majority of people have not benefited from this so-called recovery. 

This right-wing agenda of blaming immigrants must be challenged. If politicians and the media are pumping out an incorrect message of immigrants taking jobs and are usually on benefits then it is no surprise that people believe this and vote for Ukip. The truth is that immigrants create one in seven new jobs in Britain, far higher than their share of the population, and that immigrants on average claim 45 per cent fewer benefits than people born in Britain.

But none of the parties is saying this. 

Labour’s response is crucial. It has come under pressure from its right wing which argues that future electoral success lies in winning over Tory and Ukip voters by “admitting” that the last Labour government “got it wrong” on immigration. 

In reality the advice offered by Blue Labour, Progress and others would not undermine support for Ukip and the Tories but consolidate the drift to the right. 

Labour must wake up and smell the coffee — in Europe social democracy’s concessions to the right’s agenda on immigration, Islamophobia and undermining multiculturalism has benefited the far-right and fascist groups and no-one else. 

Why vote for the centre-left when the right, far-right and fascists will always give a stronger racist message? 

And why alienate the natural centre-left voters in multiculturally diverse big cities?

In multicultural London, where there are more immigrants than anywhere else in Britain, turnout was 6 per cent higher than other parts of the country. 

The anti-racist vote mobilised for Labour against Ukip and Labour’s vote doubled. 

But even in London Labour cannot take this vote for granted, given the consistently strong support for the Greens and Lutfur Rahman’s re-election as mayor of Tower Hamlets. 

The centre-left and left must provide the solutions to the problems that people face and unite against the far-right and fascism, rather than blaming immigration. 

Failure to do so will simply allow the far-right to go on the march. However it could also mean that Labour is out-flanked by a force to the left, in the same way Pasok has been eclipsed by Syriza in Greece.

We have defeated fascists like the BNP and the English Defence League but Ukip is a problem, not just in itself. Dragging the whole political agenda to the right could create a climate that breeds hatred and unleash explicitly fascist groups. 

In the run-up to the elections Britain First, a group that split from the BNP, exploiting the anniversary of the murder of Lee Rigby, waged a campaign of “invading” mosques, intimidating and thrusting Bibles upon Muslims. 

Anders Breivik engaged in this type of activity before he launched a terrorist attack in Norway.

After the second world war Europe, and indeed the whole world, said never again. 

Unfortunately the far-right and fascism are rising again. We must stand up to racism, stand up to Ukip and crucially we must Unite Against Fascism. 

Sabby Dhalu is joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism.

The fight against the far-right and Ukip will be discussed at the UAF conference on Saturday June 14 at the TUC in London. For more information visit www.uaf.org.uk.

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