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LABOUR spoke out today for the launch of a new nationwide movement to resist racism and the growth of the far right in Britain.
The move follows an increase in fascist demonstrations, the storming of Bookmarks bookshop and Tory MP Boris Johnson’s Islamophobic comments.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said anti-racists should build on the work of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL), which was founded in the late 1970s in response to the growth of the National Front and was backed by trade unions and leading musicians of the time such as The Clash.
Mr McDonnell said: “We can no longer ignore the rise of far-right politics in our society. Maybe it’s time for an ANL-type cultural and political campaign to resist.”
He said the movement successfully combated the far right through the mass mobilisation of trade unionists and anti-racist campaigners.
“The ANL pioneered highly influential cultural movements like Rock Against Racism [prompted by the racist gestures of the likes of Eric Clapton and David Bowie] which attracted tens of thousands of people of all ages to anti-racist festivals and protests,” he said.
“We should seriously look at emulating the work of the ANL and Rock Against Racism at a time when the far right once again poses a genuine threat to our society.”
Mr McDonnell gave the example of Mr Johnson’s inflammatory comments about Muslim women who wear face veils.
Mr Johnson stands accused of stoking Islamophobia for political gain after saying this week that Muslim women wearing burkas look like bank robbers and that it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letterboxes.”
SNP MP Stephen Gethins said the “grotesquely offensive”comments were not an “accidental gaffe” but a “calculated and callous insult” against Muslim women.
“It’s about time the Tory Party heeded the calls from former co-chair Sayeeda Warsi and challenged the open Islamophobia being trumpeted within their ranks,” he said.
Party chairman Brandon Lewis has asked Mr Johnson to apologise for the comments.
Mr McDonnell also raised concerns about demonstrations over the jailing of ex-English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson and pointed to the attack at Bookmarks in central London on Saturday as proof of a rise of the far right.
Ukip has suspended three party members involved in the incident, including Luke Nash-Jones, who posted a Facebook video condemning the action in an attempt to shift blame onto “third parties.”
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