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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
London: Love for Labour lost
Zia Trench
Zia Trench
Politics Show London

Labour facing up to BNP challenge
Labour facing up to BNP challenge

Hanging out with a British National Party candidate for the day is not on my list of fun things to do. It was a pretty horrific the last time.

That was in Bristol three years ago. I filmed the BNP canvassing an inner-city ward.

Filmed doors being slammed in their face, filmed voters yelling "fascists" out of car windows.

I filmed the BNP candidate's grim but determined expression as he strode off in search of more abuse.

But I was in for a surprise. This is not Bristol and the re-vamped, milder, less extreme (depends who you ask) party, isn't what I remembered of the BNP.

I met Richard Barnbrook - who stood against MP Margaret Hodge in the general election in 2005. He lost, but did pretty well getting 16.9% of the votes.

He is trying to get a seat on the Barking and Dagenham Council.

The BNP is contesting 7 of the 17 wards here and estimates are that they could win anything from 2 to 8 seats - by as little as a 5% swing in votes.

Richard Barnbrook greeted me, looking dapper in a suit and holding a bunch of flowers.

I thought it was a new tactic, a new way of dealing with "media scum", but no, they were for Margaret Hodge.

"I want to thank her for helping us with our campaign", Mr Barnbrook tells me.

The "thanks" are because last Sunday, the employment minister said that 8 out of 10 of the working class people in her constituency might vote BNP.

And that, in the little bubble of politics, has caused all sorts of excitement.

Does it mean Labour's traditional heartland, the working class, have been so alienated by "New labour" that they are jumping ship?

And what a ship to jump to! The far right BNP.

Things become clearer when I start to follow Richard Barnbrook as he knocks on random doors.

I wait for the screaming abuse, the accusation of racism and the slamming door. None of it happens.

Time and time again, I hear people say they always did vote Labour but they would not any more.

One man takes Mr Barnbrook to task on his "anti-immigrant" stance.

He tells the BNP candidate that the population is not growing, but changing; that multi-culturalism is a global phenomenon and the BNP does not stand a chance.

Of course, this is only local elections, but locals don't care; it is a chance to vent their frustration with politics.

The people I met, felt forgotten.

Multi race group
Has the BNP universal appeal?

What I sensed, is that people here, felt forgotten.

As if "New Labour" had found more interesting, glamorous friends (the middle England, land of the swinging vote) and forgetting their old best-mates, had ran off to play.

This explains why people might feel failed and let down by Labour and other major parties who are busy making policy to woo the middle England, service industry workers vote.

But it does not explain why BNP might be the benefactors. I ask Mr Barnbrook to explain.

"I am out on the streets", Richard Barnbrook tells me, "I talk to them, find out their concerns.

"Time and time again it is about high crime rates, the lack of law and order and the amount of Asians and Africans buying up houses here and destroying the sense of community."

I ask him if he is a racist. He vehemently denies it. "Anyone who comes here and gets work, pays their way is part of the community.

"What people tell me they are angry about, is the new residents who do not work and are helped hand over fist by the local council while white people, or people who have lived here all their lives, get pushed to the back of the queue."

To substantiate his point, Barnbrook purposefully approaches black and Asian locals. He brims with confidence, but I sense he is a little nervous; he says "Good evening Madam" and it isn't even midday.

A Somali couple, shyly shake his hand, an elderly Asian man says politely he would rather not say which way he will vote.

Later, I meet the ex-Mayor of Barking, Pat Manley. He is a UK independence candidate and is another disillusioned ex-labourite - leaving the Labour party after 20 odd years for UKIP.

He has been in politics for 28 years and has left Labour, to stand for the UK independence party.

I ask him why the BNP, and not UKIP are mopping up these votes.

"People are disenchanted with the major parties. They are not offering them anything.

"But, all the people I have canvassed in the last 6 weeks, not one has said they will vote BNP."

This week, all major party representatives have lined up on this; begging people not to vote for the BNP at all costs.

But only May's elections will prove whether London's disenfranchised working class are lurching to the right.

Safer Neighbourhoods scheme

The Metropolitan Police's Safer Neighbourhoods scheme was launched by Tony Blair on the Stonebridge Estate in North West London in April 2004 and was aimed at tackling grassroots problems that affect Londoners' lives.

It is designed to cut crime and make communities feel more secure, by giving a neighbourhood its own dedicated team of six officers.

Policing priorities for each team are identified through consultation with local residents, community groups and other organisations.

By August 2004, 100 Safer Neighbourhood teams had been established, with three or more in each borough.

As at January 2006 there were 285 teams across London, and by April 2007 there will be a six-member team in each of London's 625 electoral wards.

Increased funding for policing is a key element in the Mayor's 2006/07 budget - two years ahead of the April 2008 deadline originally promised.

Safer Neighbourhoods is largely being funded by the Mayor of London.

However in 2004/05, the Home Office gave the Metropolitan Police a grant to assist in the recruitment of additional Police Community Support Officers to support the programme.

Safer Neighbourhoods is about local policing; police and partners working with the community, to identify and tackle issues of concern in the neighbourhood.

Each team is normally made up of six police and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). One Sergeant, two Constables and three PCSO's.

Their aim is to listen and talk to the public, and find out what affects their daily life and feelings of security.

These might be issues such as anti-social behaviour, graffiti, noisy neighbourhoods, yobs or vandalism.

Then, they work in partnership with the community and other agencies to find a lasting solution.

Safer Neighbourhoods teams are dedicated to the community and are additional to other policing teams and units in London.

The Politics Show London

Join the Politics Show on BBC One on Sunday 30 April 2006 at 12.00pm with Tim Donovan.

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