Hope not Hate, a campaign group dedicated to exposing and combating far-right politics in Britain recently approached Make Willesden Green to help deliver a message against the politics of hate in Brent. I immediately agreed to distribute their ‘Let Hope Win Over Fear’ leaflet together with our own electoral material, as I think it’s important to challenge the mainstreaming of racist and xenophobic positions in the run-up to the local and European elections of May 22nd.
UKIP’s ascendancy is of course the immediate cause of concern here. Although they are only standing four candidates in the Brent local elections (happily none of them in Willesden Green; though there is one in neighbouring Dudden Hill), the European elections are offering Farage’s outfit an opportunity to spread their poisonous ideas across our Borough.
In fact, whilst canvassing, supporters of Make Willesden Green have come across the occasional resident who’s initially confused my standing as an independent with me being for UKIP. We’ve quickly disabused people of that connection, making it clear Make Willesden Green sits on the opposite end of the political spectrum to UKIP.
UKIP and other far-right parties play on people's genuine concerns about unemployment, housing, education and austerity, and simply blame them on foreigners. They encourage the most disadvantaged groups to take social inequality out on similarly vulnerable people from other nationalities, rather to focus on the gross disparity of wealth within the UK, and between different parts of Europe.
The likes of UKIP also make a lot of hay out of people’s disenchantment with mainstream politics. But the ‘free’ market they’re so fond of (except for when it comes to freedom of movement) is a major cause behind the corruption of politics – either directly through corporate lobbyists or indirectly by handing over democratic control of public goods like education, health or transport to a private sector that’s only accountable to major shareholders. UKIP’s crude anti-politics stems from its extreme pro-market positions; and their free market dogmas simply exacerbate the economic inequalities they then accuse immigrants of causing.
Grassroots initiatives like Make Willesden Green are about the exact opposite. Our campaign has consistently been about involving people politically in the democratisation of our neighbourhood, and by defending those public spaces and services that bring our area's rich mix of people together and protect the most vulnerable in our communities. Ordinary citizens can turn seemingly technical, non-partisan matters like the demolition of libraries or the academisation of schools into political issues -especially if it’s with a small ‘p’ that looks beyond narrow Party-political interests.