This article is from the August issue of Total Politics
Do you campaign digitally?
We always try to combine doorstep politics with the use of modern technology. We’re aware that the BNP has done well because it’s buoyed up by communities that don’t feel represented. So, speaking to people where they live, at street level, is really important.
We’ve also harnessed new technology, partly to mobilise people, but also to take our supporters on the journey, so that they get to feel part of it wherever they are. However, I’m always guarding against those who think new technology is the only answer. It is a way of organising, yes, but the old methods of going to meetings and speaking to people are vitally important as well.
How did you rally voters against the BNP during the last election?
Obviously, Barking and Dagenham was our key target, because the BNP had overtaken in the council. In that six-week campaigning period we estimated that we had over 1,100 different people out for us.
Around 37 per cent of them had either never taken part in any political activity, or hadn’t done so for five years. That was unparalleled, even among the political parties. It was a combination of a positive message, a clear issue and drafting in supportive celebrities.
Which celebrities did you have on-side?
We had Eddie Izzard, Billy Bragg, and a whole number of ‘Hope Not Hate’ patrons – Beverley Knight, Levi Roots, Speech Debelle. This year, ex-footballer Robbie Savage wrote a good article on the stupidity of racism.
We use people like him particularly when going into white working-class communities, because some of our harder-to-reach people might read something by him, but not by us.
What’s your target audience?
Women voters. The reason we came up with the name ‘Hope Not Hate’ was because we found that women were much less likely to vote BNP, because they didn’t like its aggression and the division it creates in communities.
So, female voters are your main target, but which audience is hardest to reach?
The hardest group tends to be men aged between 24 and 45. That, we’ve found, tends to be the group most turned off by politics and who have less of a problem with criminality or violence.
In an election period, we’ve got to turn out those people who are more likely to vote against the BNP because you can’t convert everyone in a few weeks.
Is there an area in the UK where racial-hate groups are most prevalent?
There is a rough correlation with economic deprivation, but it’s more than that. I really think there is more prevalence in those communities where the sense of identity has gone as well – the former one-industry towns, powered by the steelworks, coal areas, or car factories – areas whose whole sense of purpose is built up around a workplace that has been destroyed. I worry that political parties focus too much on economics. People have a pride in a community, and that’s overlooked.
Will the resurgence of the far right in Europe spread here?
At the moment it hasn’t, and the BNP has kind of declined. However, I meet politicians from all parties, and I get really worried about their complacency. The conditions that gave rise to the BNP in the first place are reappearing: a poor economy and a democratic deficit. Most voters have such a miserable attitude towards politicians. Politics can change really quickly, and severe nationalism could arrive in the guise of UKIP, for example.
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What they drank A pint of Boddingtons Bitter for Nick, and a glass of Alto Bajo Sauvignon Blanc for Anoosh.
Bar Snack Spinach and artichoke dip with pitta bread.
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