Page last updated at 11:11 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 12:11 UK

BNP targets 'real Londoners'

Interview
By Emma Griffiths
Political reporter, BBC News

RICHARD BARNBROOK
Richard Barnbrook
Age: 47
Family: Engaged to Simone Clarke
Education: Inningham Comprehensive, Grimsby, Royal Academy of Arts, California Institute of Arts
Lives: Dagenham
Career: Sculptor, teacher, councillor

The British National Party candidate for London mayor Richard Barnbrook says he wants to give the "real people of London" a voice.

By "real" Londoners he means the indigenous population first, and the post-war immigrants who came over to rebuild Britain, such as Caribbeans who arrived on the Empire Windrush, second.

He believes immigrants who have arrived in the past 15 years are taking more than they are giving - and says politicians have been too reluctant to tackle the issue.

"It's not immigrants that are at fault here, never has been, it's the establishment, our own governing powers and their greed or their ignorance or their simple gutlessness to do anything about it," he said.

"They feel if they try to look at immigration they will have the finger pointed at them - 'racist'. This is an easy get out clause - this is bullying people."

'Anti-democratic'

Mr Barnbrook says claims the BNP is a racist organisation are "nonsense" and says he is still waiting for a clear definition of what racism is.

"We're not racist at all. We do not perceive one person's religion, identity, culture or way of life as being better or worse than our own, we are simply different."

He is annoyed that members have been suspended from jobs. A former teacher himself, he found his work dried up the first time he stood as a BNP councillor.

He says such action is "anti-democratic": "We are a legal party. We have made no statements that would see us in the courts. (BNP leader) Nick Griffin and (activist) Mark Collett went to the courts over a BBC hatchet job and on two occasions a jury of 12 people acquitted them - a waste of taxpayers' money."

Both men were cleared of inciting racial hatred in November 2006 after a retrial at Leeds Crown Court - the case followed a secretly filmed BBC documentary The Secret Agent.

Mr Barnbrook has been in the headlines for his engagement to English National Ballet star Simone Clarke, who became known as the "BNP ballerina" after admitting being a member of the party.

'Too aggressive'

A painter and graduate of the Royal Academy of Arts, he also did a PGCE (post-graduate teacher training) and spent four years from 1986 lecturing across Europe and America. He was initially a "card carrying Labour activist" in Lewisham, south-east London.

But he became disillusioned with them during the Thatcher years, left the party and returned to his art. He joined the BNP in 1999 after four years of "looking into" the party. He admits he had some concerns it might be similar to the National Front which he said was "way too aggressive".

He said there was no thuggery when he went to meet activists and he was quickly made the party's organiser for Lewisham.

He says he has since been taken by surprise by the rapid rise of the BNP in Barking and Dagenham - where the party is now the official opposition on the council with 12 councillors.

TOP PLEDGES
Tough on crime
33% new housing to be council housing
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Freeze on immigration

He is certain they can reach out beyond Barking and says the BNP will be delivering one million leaflets to outer London boroughs in the run-up to the mayoral elections - and a further 300,000 to inner London.

They have already annoyed the current mayor Ken Livingstone, by putting out their own leaflet titled "The Londoner" - the name of Mr Livingstone's free paper.

Would he characterise the BNP as a far right party?

"Not at all - not far right, not far left, not too wrong," he replies, saying a lot of the party's London vote comes from former Labour supporters, while in the "shires" they have won over some Conservatives.

Housing allocations

He also thinks his party reaches out across the racial divide and claims black people ring him up "on a daily basis" and had congratulated him after the 2006 local elections.

"They themselves feel dispossessed from the communities they moved into 20 or 30 years ago," he said.

"I have (council) surgeries with black and Asian people who come to me with council tax problems, or the council's stuffed them over on job rights or housing situations."

Simone Clarke
Ms Clarke's BNP membership prompted protests at the London Coliseum

"As mayor of London I will deal with people on an individual basis and it will be done equally - not with positive discrimination."

By that he means "highlighting the needs of minority groups over the majority".

One of his main concerns is council housing allocations - the issue that sparked a row in Barking and Dagenham when its Labour MP Margaret Hodge suggested established British families should get priority over economic migrants.

Immigration freeze

He wants a return to the old "points system" which takes into account how long people have been on the waiting list, rather than the current bidding system, which allocates property based on need.

"In Britain it is traditional to queue up, we wait in line. You don't jump the queue," he said.

Where right to buy is used, he says the money raised should go directly towards building more council housing in that borough for people on low wages. He wants at least a third of all new housing built to be council housing.

If the other parties had done their jobs properly in the first place, this party wouldn't exist
Richard Barnbrook

He would like to see a freeze on immigration, which he believes influence "all aspects of our existence" - from health and crime to water supplies. Legal immigrants would stay, illegal immigrants would go - as would those being released from prison.

He advocates tough policies on crime, particularly the "absolutely catastrophic" spate of youth crime: "Handcuffs off the police, on the villains. Not three hits and you're out, one hit and you're out - need more prisons? Build more prisons."

For the elderly he says he would like to help them out more financially with heating bills and, on travel, with a 24-hour freedom pass.

He is happy for school children to get free travel, but he would restrict it to school hours and extra curricular activities.

Britishness

He would look to dismantle the congestion charge and instead "open up trunk roads" and use traffic light "counter flows" to relieve pressure on central London.

Mr Barnbrook would also "plant as many trees as possible in London". Central reservations would become giant planting grounds - so long as they do not interfere with visibility.

He believes the Thatcher government tried to destroy the concept of community and people had been left feeling "dispossessed".

To him Britishness is the "shake of a hand that is a guarantee, the humility, the honesty and the benevolence - all these elements are what make the British people British".

Language, religion, humour and law are "around the periphery".

Asked if you could be a British Muslim he pauses and says: "The answer is yes, but on the grounds that you follow all of the identities being described of living in this country and benefiting this country.

"You may have your religion behind your closed doors but you don't bring it onto the streets. You can be gay behind closed doors, you can be heterosexual behind closed doors, but you don't bring it onto the streets, demanding more rights for it."

Assembly seat

Mr Barnbrook reckons there are "just over" 1,000 BNP members across London. He is first on the list for the BNP's London Assembly list, and says there is "no question" the party will win at least one seat.

Any party which gets 5% of first choice votes for the assembly is seen as likely to qualify for a seat under the voting system used. At the 2004 London elections the BNP got 4.71% of votes on the London-wide list.

Last time round the BNP candidate came sixth in the mayoral race with 3%, or 58,405, first choice votes.

So could he win the mayoral race? "Realistically it's unlikely but who knows?," he said.

Immigration has moved up the political agenda and Mr Barnbrook says the mainstream parties have been adopting issues raised by the BNP.

"Where we lead, they are following," he said.

"If the other parties had done their jobs properly in the first place, this party wouldn't exist. It's as simple as that."



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THE ELECTION RESULTS
COUNCIL RESULTS
  Councillors Councils
Party +/- Total +/- Total
CON 257 3155 12 65
LAB -334 2365 -9 18
LD 33 1804 1 12
PC 31 205 -1 0
OTH 10 898 0 0
NOC - - -3 64
159 of 159 councils declared.

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London Mayoral results
Overall results
Name Party Votes
Johnson CON 1,168,738
Livingstone LAB 1,028,966
Paddick LD 878,097
Berry GRN 409,101

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London Assembly Results
Overall results
Party Constit' Top-up Total seats
CON 8 3 11
LAB 6 2 8
LD 0 3 3
GRN 0 2 2
BNP 0 1 1

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