Last night something I never imagined I’d see in North London – a protest meeting against the BNP standing in a council ward by-election.
Like Caesar’s Gaul, the London Borough of Haringey is divided into three parts. Those of us in the east of the borough, in Tottenham and Wood Green,live in officially the most ethnically diverse part of the country. And also one of the most impoverished. On the other hand, at the western tip of the borough, Highgate is one of the most affluent parts of London. In between the two, the areas of Hornsey, Crouch End and Muswell Hill have been gentrified to varying degrees, with bohemian liberal types.
Which makes Muswell Hill one of the least likely areas for the BNP to target. But apparently they have a policy of contesting as many council seats as they possibly can before the European elections. And with a single by-election they can bring in their resources from far and wide to concentrate in a small area and get some publicity even when they have no hope of winning. (I am confident that with or without a campaign they will get no more than a handful of votes).
The last time I went to a similar meeting was in an asian community centre on the Isle of Dogs in the early 90’s. The organisers had received death threats and hate mail from the BNP and asked us to provide security. So I found myself on the door with a baseball bat stashed out of site but on hand. Fortunately in the end we were not needed, but the atmosphere from the local community was a combination of very real fear and intense anger.
In contrast, at the meeting last night the mood was of offended outrage – the middle class shocked that these odious fascist types had the cheek to turn up on their respectable doorsteps. There was an element of farce too as one elderly speaker carefully explained to us the scientific fallacy of racism in terms of the ‘out of Africa’ evolution of homo-sapiens. You wouldn’t have got that on the Isle of Dogs.
But there was something touching about the meeting though – here was a genuinely united community, albeit a pretty smug and complacent one, standing together against the Fascists. Still I couldn’t help thinking how the fuck had it ever got this far that we were sat in a church hall in Muswell Hill discussing the BNP ?