- 2006 National Delegate Conference
- 12 June 2006
Conference reaffirms that campaigning against the far right is – and must remain – a UNISON priority. The British National Party (BNP) gains in the May 2006 local elections in England are a stark warning that our efforts need to be increased.
The BNP gained 32 new seats, including 11 (possibly rising to 12, following an enquiry) in Barking and Dagenham, where the BNP averaged over 40 per cent of the vote in seats they contested. But this was not a localised phenomenon – the BNP vote rose in many parts of England, coming close to securing many more seats. However, concerted activity by local campaigners supported by UNISON and others prevented further gains in many areas, especially where campaigning started before the election period.
Conference notes that most of the areas the BNP targeted were in traditional Labour heartlands. The BNP and other far right parties tap into high levels of resentment over a range of issues including housing, hospital closures, job opportunities and declining communities. This causes resentment and isolation and exacerbates social tensions and needs to be addressed as a priority. Even where investment in public services improves areas, the BNP attempt to exploit problems in resource allocation to create tensions. If mainstream parties fail to respond adequately to these issues, the BNP can benefit from a ‘protest vote’.
Yet never far beneath the service is the politics of hate, an attempt by the BNP to turn every public policy issue into a race issue. The BNP have spread myths and lies about migrant workers. General deprivation is presented as a conspiracy to discriminate against white people rather than a reason to unite all deprived communities to secure more equal distribution of resources in our rich country.
Conference notes that we have built up a wealth of expertise and experience in campaigning against the BNP and the far right in areas they have been active. These lessons must be shared, while recognising that each area is different and strategies must be developed based on local circumstances. We must act nationally, regionally and locally, but think locally.
Conference believes that we must learn from the 4 May elections that there must be no let-up in the priority we give to this work. Although election work is vital, it cannot be limited to election periods. Our work against the far right must be closely linked to all aspects of our anti-racist strategy.
Following the BNP’s gains on 4 May, Conference recognises the urgent need to step up the campaign against the BNP.
Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council, regions and branches to:
1) give a high priority to tackling the far right, containing and reversing their growth in the United Kingdom;
2) develop our work with local communities, other unions and anti-fascist groups to stop the growth of the BNP and campaign for inclusive, sustainable, well resourced, cohesive communities;
3) further re-invigorate our policies on social inclusion, and explicitly emphasise the role that our Positively Public campaign contributes to this;
4) seek to work with the General Political Fund and Labour Link to develop campaigns and pursue policies that tackle the issues that the BNP dishonestly exploit to generate tensions or ‘protest votes’;
5) develop UNISON’s work on migrant workers recruitment, organisation and rights;
6) emphasise the incompatibility of trade unionism and the far right;
7) ensure monitoring of the BNP performance where elected, their policies and statements in respect of key issues affecting local people and continue to counter their myths and lies at all opportunities;
8) negotiate anti-racism and dignity at work policies with all employers, but particularly where BNP Councillors have been elected, demanding that local authorities comply with their duty to promote race equality.