The Euro elections on 22 May this week will be a chance to unseat two fascist MEPs who grabbed seats last time round. Emma Chorlton reports from the Griffin Must Go rally in Manchester about the campaign to unseat the BNP leader from his North West England seat.
The Griffin Must Go campaign was launched in 2011 but is coming to a climax this year with the European elections due on 22 May 2014. Unite Against Fascism has hosted a series of events to build support and involvement, the most recent of which was a rally in Manchester on 6 March.
Around 40 people came to hear speakers including Labour councillor Daniel Gillard, TUC president Mohammed Taj, Theresa Griffin (a candidate standing against Nick Griffin in the elections), Dr Dilder Chowdhury from the Muslim Council of Britain, Ray Hill from Searchlight, Weyman Bennett from UAF, Pura Ariza from the UCU union and Maurice Shaw from the PCS.
Much of the discussion focused on the awful result last time that saw the BNP leader elected to represent the North West in European Parliament. Speaker after speaker said this was intolerable, that everyone should vote against him in May, and that we must not “sleepwalk” into letting him hold his seat.
The loathsome racism that Griffin peddles certainly hasn’t gone away. Legoland recently cancelled bookings from a Muslim group blaming threats from the far right. Education workers described how they’d been asked to spy on their students to identify “potential illegal immigrants” or “radicalisation”. UKIP’s presence and views are also making it more acceptable to blame immigrants. This is an environment where racism and fascism can breed if we don’t force it back.
Kicking Griffin out demoralise other racists and fascists, especially in the North West, and boost the confidence of anti-racists and immigrant groups. There was general agreement on the campaign’s basic message too: we have to encourage everyone to vote, and to vote for anyone but the BNP. But as one might expect there was no consensus over whom we should be voting for. Some called for us to vote and join Labour, others condoned voting Tory as a means of getting fascists out. Others pointed to the economic crisis and austerity, conditions that had helped fascism grow in the 1930s.
There is clearly a need for a united fight against fascism, but also clear problems to uniting people with such contrasting views. Unfortunately the rally involved no discussion or even reference to what our strategy had been aty the last election. Was anything we did then wrong or ill-advised? Could we have prevented Griffin from getting in if, as some argue, more people had tactically voted for a minor party like the Greens? I left the rally worried whether just more of the same tactics will get Griffin out, especially today when racism is on the rise. I sincerely hope my doubts are misplaced.
I don’t think it will be easy to get Griffin out in the current climate. We will need a concerted effort by everyone who considers themselves to anti-fascist to campaign and vote against Griffin. We’ll be joining the transport from Manchester to tomorrow’s “Stand up to racism and fascism” demonstration in London and the two UAF regional “day of action” mass leafleting sessions on 12 April and 10 May. For more details see the Unite Against Fascism website.