Campaigning all day on Sunday – except for a journey to a working men’s club in Harlesden to take part in the London part of the Sunday Politics Show on BBC. The club was divided into a big bar and a small bar in which the filming took place. I was there early and so just chatted with Simon Woolley from Operation Black vote and the crew. Tim Donovan was the interviewer and the other guests were Grant Shapps (Tory) and Dawn Butler (Labour) and down the line and only speaking to Tim – Nick Griffin of the BNP.
The two discussions were to be Margaret Hodge’s pronouncement that 8 out of 10 white working class people in her constituency were considering voting BNP and, secondly, the Safer Neighbourhood Scheme.
So – a short film of canvassing in Hodge’s patch and an interview with Griffin. He came over as a racist and a bigot – so at least there was no pretending that that there was anything to do with housing shortages. For the BNP it doesn’t matter what the issue is – they will use whatever is the most obvious local scapegoat to pedal their bile. The word ‘swamped’ peppered Griffin’s language.
However, the arrogance and complacency of Labour in this area left them an opportunity. Political vacuums will always be filled. No wonder the film clip showed a local BNP member taking flowers around to Hodge’s house to say thanks for putting them on the agenda. The publicity we have all been forced into (including this) as a consequence is ridiculous as their ascendance is minuscule. But because of the filth they pedal – we all must always be vigilant against even this tiny blip on our horizon.
My criticism of Labour for their use of the BNP to try and scare Labour voters into voting Labour is that if there really are 8 in 10 white working class (Labour) voters considering voting BNP (which I doubt) – then where the bloody hell was Margaret for the last four years? Did she not know that there was this undercurrent of frustration and unhappiness amongst her constituents? So why the surprise? It is hard not to be cynical and believe that part of her tirade was scare-mongering. And quite frankly – this cynical use of the race card in reverse is as bad as the Tories use of it at the General Election last year. This is dangerous stuff.
The second issue on Safer Neighbourhoods was kicked off with Dawn Butler bringing out the lie that Labour have been peddling that the Lib Dems and Tories voted against the Mayor’s policing budget at the GLA. Tim Donovan did my work for me. He turned on her and pointed out that this was completely untrue. And Tim would know – as he covers the GLA and was there covering the budget debates. As he pointed out – the Lib Dems and Tories both voted on a separate vote for the police budget. And actually – we also put in an extra £20million to increase British Transport Police numbers in London to 272. Voted down by Labour. Anyway – it was good to see that lie rebutted – and not by a politician, by the interviewer himself.
Then she kept trying to say that crime had risen in Islington. The truth is – by the Home Office’s own statistics – that Lib Dem-run Islington has seen a drop in robbery of over 25% between 2002 and 2005, whilst Labour-run Brent (where Dawn is MP) has seen an increase of over 16% and violent crime in Labour-run Brent increased by almost 40% between 2002 and 2005
What drives me mad is the unquestioning repetition of Labour’s false mantras. They trot out absolute rubbish – and believe that repetition of the message will damage their opponents – regardless of the truth. Maybe it works – I don’t know – but no wonder the public don’t believe politicians any more if the truth doesn’t matter.
After campaigning rest of day – get home to find article in the Sunday Times on the meeting that I will be attending with a small group of other MPs from the cross-party group on Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy (MSBP), a condition where people supposedly fabricate illnesses in their children to gain attention. It wants a review of Government guidelines issued to social workers, police and teachers.
The reason for this is that it would seem that many parents are being wrongly suspected of this or variations on this – and the agony of being involved or connected with child protection issues when you are innocent is incredibly stressful and upsetting.
When the group first approached me – because of a local case of this type – my main concern was that in trying to get the balance right over when Social Services should intervene, it might lead to a raising of the threshold for intervention and thereby miss serious child abuse. Coming from Haringey, where the Victoria Climbie tragedy involved the failure of various people to intervene at the appropriate moment, I am naturally concerned that we don’t make it harder for appropriate intervention to occur.
However, the group persuaded me that actually Social Services were failing at both levels – both too many false accusations but also too many occasion when intervention wasn’t occurring. So that is what this is all about.