Excellent result for Labour in Moston

According to two out of the three versions I’ve seen so far of yesterday’s by-election result in Moston, the votes went like this:

Lab 1353

BNP 815

LD 696

Con 558

Green 74

It’s a strong result for Labour, reflecting a strong, enthusiastic and very well-organised campaign; and the extent of the Tories’ humiliation is entertaining. (Cllr Lindley says he knows where they went wrong, but he didn’t want to share.) However, it is deeply disturbing that the British National Party polled around 23% of the vote despite a campaign by Unite Against Fascism to remind people what a nasty organisation they are.

It’s important not to exaggerate what the BNP vote means. They didn’t come near to winning this seat, and in a regular election they wouldn’t be able to dedicate anywhere near the time and resources they did in this by-election. Plus they seem to have taken a lot of votes away from the Tories, so maybe some of their votes were protests against local and national Conservative uselessness. But how can we stop the BNP vote from creeping up?

It has been suggested that UAF and Labour may inadvertently have contributed to the problem by drawing attention to the BNP. But the idea of going into an election against a fascist organisation without fighting them all the way, and exposing them for who they are, would be unthinkable for any active campaigning organisation. While the BNP are doing their best impersonation of a legitimate political party it is essential that voters are reminded of this party’s racism and their homophobia, not to mention their incompetence.

At the same time, however, it’s vital to address the issues that drive voters to consider voting BNP in the first place. The BNP leaflets focused primarily on the housing shortage in many parts of the ward, and this was something I heard a lot about on the doorstep.

I only managed to get involved in Moston in the last six days of the campaign, but in that time I was fortunate enough to observe the enthusiasm and dedication of Manchester Labour’s councillors and activists. On Sunday I knocked doors with Cllr Mary Murphy and Labour’s Gorton South candidate Julie Reid – possibly the best campaign team to face vocal residents over the garden fences of Moston. When a concerned grandmother complained to us about the young men on who race up and down her street on quad-bikes, endangering young children, Mary and Julie took down her details and promised to get the local councillors onto it – ‘we’ll pass this on to Rita, but she can only do something about it if you vote for her’. But the opportunity to get tough on crime came sooner than expected, when two of the famous bikes roared up behind us, scattering children before them, as we carried on up the street. Cllr Murphy snapped the bikes on her camera-phone, Julie took down their registration numbers, and then they called the police (I, meanwhile, was hiding in a hedge).

Said grandmother also raised concerns about her daughter’s inability to get a council house, insisting that all the houses in the area were going to ‘the blacks’. Mary and Julie refused to engage with the casual racism but took down the daughter’s details as well; and as we walked away we discussed the housing issue.

Whatever the BNP will try to tell voters, you obviously don’t get to the top of the housing list by being an immigrant, an asylum seeker or a member of an ethnic minority. You do, however, get to the top of the list if you’re homeless – whatever your colour, and however long you’ve been in the country – which leaves a lot of young families on the list for years on end while their parents continue to put them up, often in overcrowded conditions.

In fact, the very next voter we spoke to was another grandmother-to-be, whose 21-year-old daughter was expecting a baby any minute but was still sharing a bedroom with her younger brother. “I’m not racist,” she insisted, “and when the BNP put a leaflet through I put it straight in the bin.” (I’m sure she meant the recycling bin.) “But when you see houses going straight to people who’ve only just come into the country it does make you frustrated.”

It’s obvious that the BNP’s scapegoating is not the answer. Moston’s election result – a clear win for Labour  – surely shows that voters realise this too. The answer, of course, is partly in raising young people’s aspirations beyond wanting a council house on the same estate as their parents and their grandparents; but with the current threat of repossession hanging over so many homeowners and private tenants, I believe the answer also lies in building more council homes.

The way to deal with the housing shortage isn’t obvious. But some things are. One is that voters need to reject the BNP’s lies. Another is that we have a lot of work ahead, as ever, to help them do so. But a third – and still the strongest message coming from the Moston result – is that Labour is still the party trusted by the vast majority of Manchester voters to get things done; and I am very pleased to have had a tiny part in an election that has demonstrated this once again.

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12 thoughts on “Excellent result for Labour in Moston

    1. Well, as long as it’s only a touch insane.

      I wasn’t really hiding in a hedge, but I nearly was. Those bikes are scary.

  1. It’s not exactly true, is it, that the ‘vast majority’ of Manchester voters trust Labour? Labour did, after all, receive only 38% of the vote, scarcely a majority in anyone’s books. The BNP claim this as one of their best results of 2009, and, given it’s the first time they’ve stood in Moston I’m inclined to agree with them. It’s going to prove very difficult to ‘counter the BNP’s lies’ when there seems to be a gulf between reality and the version of it you espouse here.

    1. I agree it’s a worrying result, but tbh I think the BNP are a while off controlling the council…

  2. So, it’s gone from being ‘a strong result’ to being ‘a worrying result’ in one easy step. What’s of some importance is how you approach defeating the BNP, and you’re not going to do that through an alliance with UAF.

    Ten years ago the BNP were in disarray, having been beaten off the streets across the country. Now they’re portrayed as being a threat to Labour in Europe, according to the BBC website. Yet Labour and their cohorts in UAF don’t seem to have an idea of how to combat them. Saying that the BNP are nasty and pleading with people not to vote for them does not constitute an effective anti-BNP campaign.

    Until the Labour party understands what the BNP are and why they are attractive, they won’t get to grips with them. You seem to think that people vote rationally. That’s far from the case! As someone who was a sabbatical at university, you ought to realise that as many people vote against someone else as for someone. People frequently vote against their own interest, the famous example being working class Tories. The irrational plays a large part in politics, and the BNP are not a rational party. Neither are they a party party, in that their appeal lies – to a fair extent – in that they aren’t part of the political establishment. They aren’t tainted with cash for questions, with cash for peerages, with the expenses scandals, or with taking money for changing policies – or with the lying which has become such a part of public life for the last two decades. They can present themselves as the radical alternative, who are working for a national renewal.

    This all ought to be bread and butter stuff, not rocket science. Yet it seems to be passing the Labour party by.

    Although there are a number of factors currently limiting BNP growth, those restraints are not permanent factors. For example, the BNP have in the region of 10,000 members, of whom about 2,000 are ‘activists’. Many, many people join them – but about the same number leave each year, a situation which may change. The BNP currently have difficulty finding strong candidates. Look at Tess Culnane, for example, who is an out-and-out national socialist, who left the BNP to stand for the Hitlerite BPP and returned to stand in a South London council by-election earlier in the year. For all the weakness of their candidates, they are routinely picking up votes of 20%. Their finances leave much to be desired. But if they win a couple of European seats, they’ll receive many thousands of pounds. But their greatest weakness is that in the absence of Nick Griffin, they don’t have a leader in waiting of any similar ability. The tendency of fascists to die in car crashes, like Ian Stuart Donaldson or Jorg Haider, means that the BNP are only a swerve away from disaster. And it is absolutely astonishing that the mainstream media has not treated the several discoveries of BNP members with explosives with the seriousness such matters deserve. If they had been anarchists or Muslims, you can imagine how this would have been publicised.

    The BNP’s greatest advantage, though, is the record of the Labour party and its abandonment of its traditional voters. Back in the early 1990s, under John Smith, Gordon Brown went round the City of London to persuade the business community that the Labour party was a party of business. The creation of a new political class composed of people who – frankly – haven’t done a day’s work in their lives such as NUS luminaries Lorna Fitzsimons and Jim Murphy become MPs. This is a symptom of the dislocation between the Labour party and their traditional voters. Until the Labour party can demonstrate a community of interest with the people who feel they have been put aside by the party, until the Labour party recognises that they cannot out-argue the BNP as they’re not arguing from the same bases Labour are, until then the BNP will continue to prosper. And everything the Labour party does could be constructed to aid the BNP, from the ‘covenant’ made with jihadis that they could remain here while they did not attack the country, to their handling of crime, immigration, parliamentary conduct… It’s going to take quite some time before the Labour party’s in a position to really counter the BNP.

  3. “So, it’s gone from being ‘a strong result’ to being ‘a worrying result’ in one easy step.”

    From my original post:

    “It’s a strong result for Labour…it is deeply disturbing that the British National Party polled around 23% of the vote”

    If you’re going to comment on my blog, you could do the polite thing and read it first.

    “[The BNP’s] appeal lies – to a fair extent – in that they aren’t part of the political establishment. They aren’t tainted with cash for questions, with cash for peerages, with the expenses scandals, or with taking money for changing policies – or with the lying which has become such a part of public life for the last two decades. They can present themselves as the radical alternative, who are working for a national renewal.

    This all ought to be bread and butter stuff, not rocket science. Yet it seems to be passing the Labour party by.”

    You’re right, that’s not rocket science. We just have to get the BNP elected as the party of government so they can get their own scandals…? Problem solved, then.

  4. “Now they’re portrayed as being a threat to Labour in Europe, according to the BBC website”

    Fundamental misuderstanding of how EU elections work there: they’re a threat to UKIP, not to Labour. They’ll pick off UKIP’s seats, MAYBE a couple more, but it’s incredibly unlikely the BNP will take seats off Labour. Look at the numbers

    “But if they win a couple of European seats, they’ll receive many thousands of pounds”

    Exactly, so you’ll be out campaigning for us in the run-up to the EU elections then?

    On your points about the white-working class, I broadly agree, but with two caveats: 1. although the Labour party has got to do a lot of work to reconnect with those voters, they cannot wholly abandon middle england, otherwise we can have as strong a base as we like but still won’t win any real power. 2. so what do we do about it? maybe instead of criticising pro-labour bloggers, you should be actually out fighting the bnp and changing the labour party from within? 😀

  5. Labour party’s past hope of redemption, going down after next election anyway. Membership’s collapsed and finances at death’s door. No point joining a sinking ship. Won’t be another Labour government after 2010 for at least 20 years, if ever.

    There’re much better organisations to be involved with if you’re opposed to the BNP.

  6. Utter rubbish. What are these other organisations, then? The ‘For Darwen’ Party?

  7. Grace

    Stumbled across your blog from your mention of the BNP. The internal evidence of your post shows that the difficulties the national Labour party have with the truth are alive and well in Manchester too. I mean, you can’t say with that 38% is a majority of any sort. Nearly two-thirds of those voters who turned out chose another party! So, while it’s a victory for the Labour party, there’s at least 800 people attracted by a fascist party which the Labour party’s lost. I don’t think that’s a strong result, I’d say it’s pretty worrying.

    There seems to be a strand of opinion within the Labour party which wants to blind itself to the obvious: which is that BNP votes come in the main from former Labour voters. I think Broxbourne’s the only place where they took a Tory seat. And if that’s the case in domestic elections, then I imagine it’s the same in European ones. When the results in June are analysed, I suspect they’ll show that Nick Griffin in the north-west picks up votes from traditionally staunch Labour constituencies and wards – a situation which I believe will be repeated where they stand.

    But looking at BNP scandals, there does seem a strange conspiracy of silence which surrounds them. There have been a number of BNP members arrested in possession of explosives. It scarcely makes the papers. Yet the News of the World had some non-story about Simon Darby being greeted by Italian fascists giving the old Roman salute. There was certainly a story about Tess Culnane standing in south London after her trip through the nuttier parties of the far-right. I’m told there is a rather bigger story about to emerge about the BNP. But the press seems to pick up on the sort of thing UAF or Searchlight think will play with people, the stupid salute story, for example. That sort of thing’s too little, too late. There are stories out there, but so far those stories – including one about a former member of the Met now in a high rank within the BNP – have been ignored by the mainstream press.

    1. …I can’t help feeling there’s some sort of blogging Groundhog Day thing going on here…

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