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Down and out in Barking with Nick Griffin and the BNP

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On the campaign trail with the BNP

By Gareth Furby
BBC London

So what went wrong with Nick Griffin's campaign?

Firstly, was it actually possible for someone so notorious to campaign effectively in Barking and Dagenham?

Instead of canvassing voters Mr Griffin ended up personally delivering thousands of leaflets, something that could just have easily been done by a supporter.

He was always on the move, walking fast, just passing by, accompanied by his security men and their two vehicles with blacked out windows.

Sometimes he was seen. Sometimes he wasn't. But there was little face to face contact with voters, and the kind of gentle persuasion which can, and sometimes does, change many minds.

There were also no public meetings or speeches on street corners. Now of course this may have been a deliberate campaigning style. But what happened when Mr Griffin did stop to talk awhile? On an estate where there was already a strong BNP support this was possible, but this was pretty rare, and surely preaching to the converted.

Out and about in Barking

In Barking town centre Nick Griffin only had time to meet to a handful of voters before a group of black men turned up and began angry protests. He was spat on and then hustled away by his bodyguard and driver.

Later on, in nearby Ripple Road, Nick Griffin had only stopped to eat a salt beef bagel in a café when he was spotted by a youth on a bike who started hurling insults, and then fruit.

Quickly, two or three Asian men arrived and joined in with the insults as Mr Griffin was again hustled away into his vehicle with fruit raining down (shortly after this the fight in the video broke out).

There was also trouble a little later - and this on the final campaigning day of the campaign - when two black men approached and Mr Griffin's security men warned them off. Again blows were exchanged. Nick Griffin's security men said they weren't bothered but it can be argued such scenes are not the best way to win elections.

The opposition groups

Then, there was the scale of the opposition mounted against Mr Griffin and the BNP in Barking and Dagenham.

Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge regained her seat in Barking and Dagenham

The Labour Party campaign had been rebuilt from the ground up, and took in not only the most glossy election leaflets I have ever seen published (one Labour party campaign told me it was almost as tall as Margaret Hodge herself) but I'm told involved up to 50,000 voters being personally spoken to.

The anti-BNP Hope not Hate campaign was also out in force for several days of action, with hundreds of supporters sometimes delivering leaflets through doors explaining why voting BNP would be a very bad thing for the constituency.

Nick Griffin said this was all very unfair, and the law should be changed to allow a fair contest, but his allies in the "Solidarity union" hit back on the day before polling with their own anti-Margaret Hodge newspaper.

So, too much opposition, too much trouble, and too little talking to voters. And add to that those voters who had a major issue with the BNP policies…




SEE ALSO
BBC London election round up
07 May 10 |  TV & Radio
Asian men and BNP candidate clash
05 May 10 |  England
BNP 'expect to be fourth party'
05 May 10 |  Election 2010
BNP takes to streets of Barking
14 Apr 10 |  Election 2010

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