man Richard Barnbrook runs the gauntlet as he tries to put
his partys stamp on London
Amid the hue and cry of Ken v Boris, another candidate has
gone almost unnoticed.
|But Richard Barnbrook,
could end up having the biggest influence on the capitals
By Martin Fletcher
It is a sunny weekday morning. A clean-cut man with a red
and blue rosette pinned to his neat beige suit walks briskly
among the pebbledash semis of Sheppey Road in Dagenham,
East London, pushing leaflets through the doors. It is a
common enough scene three weeks before a local election,
but this man arouses uncommon passions.
His name is Richard Barnbrook. He is the British National
Partys candidate for London mayor and his leaflet
features two photographs beneath the headline The Changing
Face of London. The first shows a 1950-ish street party,
with lots of bunting, Union Jacks and smiling white women.
This is the way London used to be, says the
caption. At ease with itself, friendly, happy and
secure. A capital city with a sense of community values.
The second picture shows three Islamic women in black niqabs,
one flicking a V-sign at the photographer.
A young man called Darren emerges from his house and chases
after Mr Barnbrook. He calls the leaflet Nazi propaganda
and tells the candidate: Youre like a cancer.
As they remonstrate, an elderly white lady walks up and
throws the leaflet at Mr Barnbrooks feet. Dont
put this s*** through my letterbox, she hisses.
But others welcome Mr Barnbrook.
The yellow-jacketed occupants of a dustcart give him thumbs-up
signs. They complain that their wages have been depressed
by East European immigrants. Harry Row, 51 and unemployed,
walks over to say that he will vote BNP. Asked why, he replies:
All the f****** foreigners over here.
Such exchanges foreshadow the much larger controversy that
is likely to erupt after the votes are counted on May 1,
for Boris Johnsons colourful efforts to unseat Ken
Livingstone have largely obscured a significant sub-plot
of these elections.
Mr Barnbrook will not win the mayoralty, but he stands a
very good chance of becoming the first BNP member elected
to the 25-seat London Assembly a breakthrough that
would dent the capitals image as a model of diversity,
the image that helped it to win the Olympics.
An Assembly seat would be the biggest prize the extremist
Right has ever won in British politics, says Tony
Travers, a local government expert at the London School
of Economics. There are no neo-fascists on the councils
of Berlin, Paris or New York, he adds. For London
to end up with such a thing would be an embarrassment and
difficult to explain away.
The BNP won 4.8 per cent of the vote in the 2004 assembly
elections a whisker below the 5 per cent threshold
needed to gain a seat. Since then the UK Independence Party,
which won two seats in 2004, has imploded, while the issues
of race, immigration and asylum have become ever more potent.
The mainstream parties are hardly popular, and in recent
by-elec-tions the BNP has consistently won more than 10
per cent of the vote.
Mr Barnbrook believes that his party could take two seats.
The antifascist group Searchlight has said the BNP could
even win three, and has launched its largest, most
targeted and sophisticated campaign to prevent that
happening. That campaign has already enjoyed one success.
Last week the BNP withdrew Nick Eriksen, its London organiser,
as the second candidate on its Assembly list after he was
identified as the author of Sir John Bull, a far-Right blog.
Ive never understood why so many men have allowed
themselves to be brainwashed by the feminazi myth machine
into believing that rape is such a serious crime,
one entry stated. Rape is simply sex. Women enjoy
sex, so rape cannot be such a terrible physical ordeal.
Mr Barnbrook said that he considered such views abhorrent.
The 47-year-old candidate trained as an artist at the Royal
Academy. Two years ago he became opposition leader on Barking
and Dagenham council when the BNP won 12 of the 51 seats.
Within days newspapers were gleefully describing the homoerotic
poetry and scenes of homosexuality contained in a film called
HMS Discovery: A Love Story that the new poster boy of the
homophobic BNP had produced and directed in 1989. He insists
that it was art, not pornography.
Mr Barnbrook is now engaged to Simone Clarke, until recently
a leading ballerina at the English National Ballet. They
met after The Guardian identified her as a BNP supporter
and he arrived bearing flowers at the Coliseum
to offer his backing.
He cannot say when they will marry. She is living in Leeds,
and while she is not campaigning for her fiancé,
she does appear in his leaflet. Immigration is out
of control, says Ms Clarke, who has a mixed-race child.
Im voting BNP because theyre the only
party who have the guts to speak out on the issues that
In the past two years Mr Barnbrooks council group
has railed against the notion real or imaginary
that immigrants are jumping the housing queue. It has attacked
council programmes promoting diversity and equal opportunities.
It has tabled motions all defeated to ban
burkas from public buildings and halal meat from schools,
to mandate daily prayers and the singing of the National
Anthem at schools, to have the Union Jack flown permanently
over council buildings and to fund St Georges Day
Jon Cruddas, Dagenhams Labour MP, accuses the group
of peddling stunt politics, urban myths and falsehoods.
It certainly taps into the fears of an indigenous population
bewildered by the influx of immigrants. But Mr Barnbrook
denies that he is racist or extremist.
Over a lunchtime beer, he insisted that he was not opposed
to immigrants themselves, and noted that his brother was
married to a Jamaican I myself am not drawn
to that type of person, he quickly added. He said
it was the consequences of mass immigration for community
cohesion, crime and overstretched local services
that concerned him. He even blamed immigration for the tuberculosis
he contracted last year. This disease should not have
come into our country, he said at the time.
All immigration should be stopped, he added. All illegal
immigrants and failed asylum-seekers should be repatriated.
Poor immigrants should be given financial assistance to
Islam was a threat to the British way of life. Where
you have a large Muslim community you find the indigenous
community is whittled away and broken down, he said.
They will not become part of the community. They take
over a community and inflict their identity on it.
These are jarring views for a man who aspires to represent
arguably the worlds most cosmopolitan capital
a city where the foreign-born comprise a third of the population.
But Mr Barnbrook rejects the idea that Londons diversity
should be a source of pride. He sees nothing to celebrate.
He talks of a society that is breaking down, of black-on-black
crime that leaves inner-city residents too terrified to
leave their homes, of large swaths of London
where people fear to go at night. This is not enrichment,
he says. This is not renaissance. This is a dark age.
Under its founder, John Tyndall, the British National
Party struggled to capture more than a tiny percentage of
the votes at local or general elections. That began to change
with Nick Griffins election as chairman in 1999 and
his attempts to clean up the partys image
Its first council seat was won by Derek Beackon
in a Tower Hamlets by-election in 1993. By 2003 the party
had managed to secure 13 seats, adding another four the
Although the BNP failed to win any seats in the
2005 general election, the party raised its total number
of votes to 192,850 from 47,219 in 2001. Mr Griffin
polled 4,240 votes in Keighley, West Yorkshire 9.16
per cent of the total
Of the seven million votes cast in the 2006 local
elections, the party won 229,000. The Green Party, in comparison,
won 364,000 votes. The number of BNP councillors doubled
to 46, and in Barking and Dagenham it became the second
Mr Griffin claimed that the party had seen an upswing
in support after the 2005 terrorist attacks in London, but
the partys annual accounts showed a gain of only 146
members that year, bringing its total membership to 6,502
Two years ago the party was reported to be attracting
about 100 new members a week
Sources: Times database, BNP