by Nick O’Brien
We are Norwich is a broad anti-racist coalition formed to resist the visit of the English Defence League to Norwich in November 2011. We were supported back then actively by over twenty different local trade union branches, religious organisations, and community groups. We also received support from the Union of UEA Students. Since then we have kept active, holding a carnival in support of immigration in the centre of Norwich, and putting on cultural evenings with musicians and poets such as Hollie McNish.
Whilst anti-racists can rightly be pleased with the implosion of the EDL, we remain deeply concerned by the growth of UKIP following the results of the recent European and local elections in May this year, and subsequent by-elections. Here in Britain, the far right and racist UKIP topped the poll, whilst the far right also grew significantly in Europe. In France the fascist Front National came top with 25% of the vote, in Denmark and the Netherlands, far right anti-immigration and Islamophobic parties did well, and in Hungary, members of the Jobbik Party have called for the country’s Jewish inhabitants to sign a special register. These results put together strongly indicate that far too many people in Europe have felt the fear and misery caused by austerity and have drawn the conclusion that this must be the fault of migrants. They blame their own governments for what has happened to them but vote for parties whose challenge to those governments rests on scapegoating and racism, instead of challenging the austerity programme itself.
What is to be done? We have drawn the following conclusions:
- We need to put aside our differences and work together to form a progressive voice, which stands up to racism in a meaningful and coherent way.
- We must focus our efforts locally on leading anti-racist work in Great Yarmouth, where 47% of voters chose UKIP. The town is UKIP’s second target seat next year and as such they need a strong opposition. We intend to build a sustained campaign with a stall in the market square once a month, and are asking trade unions and community groups for a £200 levy to help us pay for quality myth busting campaign material.
- We must strongly make the case that the way to beat UKIP is not “be hard on immigration”, “talk tough” or try and beat them at their own game. Instead we will say loudly and clearly that we welcome immigrants and that they are part of the fabric of this country. As a recent Guardian report proved, the NHS would close before breakfast if it wasn’t for the work of migrant workers, and as Dianne Abbott MP has tweeted, “Worst possible conclusion for Labour to draw from these results would be a need to move right on immigration”. The same goes for the other parties.
- We condemn the media for their coverage of UKIP’s campaign and the general reporting of the results. Nigel Farage has been on Question Time 26 times, more than anyone one else and five times more than any other party leader. In a recent 31 day period, the Daily Express ran 22 front page articles on a supposed threat of a flood of refugees. This serves to confuse the public about migration issues. No wonder the public believe that 62% of migrants are asylum seekers (reality 4%) and that 31% of the population are immigrants (reality 13%).
Over thirty people came out to leaflet last weekend and received a good reception from many local people. It was also obvious how big the task is going to be. If you would like to get involved in the campaign, contact us on email@example.com