The British National Party Cometh

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 5/23/2007 05:17:00 AM
UK Industry Minister Margaret Hodge has been a lightning rod for controversy for the longest time. Her latest (mis)adventure began with this op-ed in the Guardian Unlimited on housing for immigrants which many took as pandering to a constituency with an anti-immigration undertone:

We prioritise the needs of an individual migrant family over the entitlement others feel they have. So a recently arrived family with four or five children living in a damp and overcrowded, privately rented flat with the children suffering from asthma will usually get priority over a family with less housing need who have lived in the area for three generations and are stuck at home with the grandparents. [The Guardian points out that this is factually incorrect.]

We should look at policies where the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family overrides the legitimate need demonstrated by the new migrants.

We should also look at drawing up different rules based on, for instance, length of residence, citizenship or national insurance contributions which carry more weight in a transparent points system used to decide who is entitled to access social housing.There are a small number of confirmed refugees who, of course, would receive the same entitlements as British citizens. However, most new migrant families are economic migrants who choose to come to live and work here. If you choose to come to Britain, should you presume the right to access social housing?
Now, Barking has a large white working class community that has become disaffected with politics-as-usual. During the 2006 election cycle, she gave attention to the fringe British National Party (BNP) by noting that it might garner 8 out of 10 white votes there. Critics say this led to the BNP winning 12 out of 13 seats contested by BNP candidates in Barking during local council elections. The BNP, by the way, resents the "white supremacist" characterization and has this alternative definition to offer:
How should the British National Party describe its underlying philosophy? We are neither a “right-wing” nor “left-wing” political party. We reject international capitalism, little-Englander type civic nationalism and international Marxism and despite what the liberal-left media slander us with, we are not a party of race hatred nor white supremacists so what are we?

Perhaps there isn’t an existing phrase in the political dictionary to define our embrace of personal responsibility coupled with care for the wide community, our embrace of genuine freedom of thought, of expression and association coupled with a duty to the greater good of family, community and nation. Overriding all is the notion of love - love of our own kind, our rich heritage, our hallowed traditions and centuries old “western” philosophy.

In any event, her op-ed poured even more fuel to the fire that she was pandering once again to the BNP for political purposes:
Margaret Hodge today defended her call for British families to be given housing priority over immigrants as critics claimed she was at risk of allowing the far-right BNP to dictate government policy.

The industry and regions minister acknowledged that the issue was "difficult and contentious" but said that she hoped to engage in a "civilised and constructive dialogue".

Mrs Hodge spoke out after her comments at the weekend prompted outrage from politicians of all parties.

Earlier today, Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, warned that her outburst would be "catastrophic for community relations", while Labour MP Diane Abbott tabled a Commons motion condemning her remarks...

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, responded by cautioning MPs against "pouring out of their surgeries" and adding to the debate on immigration after listening to complaints from constituents which could be based upon rumours and inaccuracies.

And earlier today Ms Abbott insisted that the current housing crisis would not be solved by "scapegoating homeless families on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin".

"Mrs Hodge has implied that at the moment immigrants receive some sort of special treatment for social housing; that is simply not true," she said.

"The problem with housing does not come from immigrants being given first choice but rather from the major lack of housing in this country.

"The idea of a native-born preference for social housing is clearly discriminatory ... Social housing should be allocated on the basis of need and nothing else.

"This is supposed to be a Labour government, so why are some ministers allowing the BNP to dictate our policies?"

Mr Livingstone added: "Margaret Hodge's suggestion that housing allocation should be based not on need but factors like length of residence would be catastrophic for community relations ...

"Politicians in general, and government ministers in particular, should get their facts right before making statements with the potential to do great harm to the good community relations on which the prosperity of all Londoners depends."

The Refugee Council pointed out that asylum seekers are not entitled to council housing, and that immigrants from new European Union countries face restricted access to benefits.

Yesterday, Jon Cruddas, the Labour deputy leadership hopeful and MP for Dagenham - which borders Mrs Hodge's Barking constituency - said that the minister's comments were "not only wrong; they are also inflammatory".

An early day motion tabled by Ms Abbott and supported by Keith Vaz, the former Europe minister, expresses regret at "the honourable member for Barking's recent call to give British people housing priority over immigrants".

It adds that the MPs do "not believe that the current housing crisis will be solved by scapegoating homeless families on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin".