Sunday, January 23, 2005

New Statesman Jan 24th 2005

The New Statesman leads on a big bold '1 in 5 Britons Could Vote Far Right' cover. This story by assorted academics Peter John, Helen Margetts and Stuart Weir says they have evidence of far higher potential support than conventional wisdom has it, a pool of support for the BNP and UKIP of around 20% of the electorate. The BNP is clearly the most unpopular party with three-quarters of the 2004 State of the Nation Poll for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust saying they 'could never vote for it', but 18% said they might vote for it in that poll, as did 24% in the 2004 London Elections Study (although so far I haven't seen the conditions under which they might vote this way spelt out). In that study more than a quarter had voted BNP in one of the various elections of 2004. BNP and UKIP draw support from the same reservoir of opinion, especially issues around immigration. The destination of second preference votes shows a large overlap between the two parties, even if UKIP has a broader range of support.

This story does come on the heels of the Robert Kilroy-Silk defecting from UKIP farrago and all the speculation about his Veritas organisation (aka 'vanitas'; 'me, me, me' party) which shows some of the instability of the rightwing populism of the UKIP variety. Meanwhile Griffin's arrest on suspicion of incitement to racial hatred is seen as a boost to his forthcoming general election campaign in Keighley, fitting in with a rhetoric of "truth-telling", expressing solidarity with racism and xenophobia while defining themselves as plain-speaking folks who risk persecution for defiance of the 'politically correct'.

Put this in the context of today's story in the Independent on Sunday (Jan 23rd):
'Howard calls for immigration quotas' by Francis Elliott, "Michael Howard today put race and immigration at the heart of the Conservatives' election strategy with a pledge to set limits on the number of people coming to Britain. Quoting an ad in the Sunday Telegraph:
"Only my party has the courage to tell the truth about immigration and the courage to act."

Lindsey Hilsum writes about a National Intelligence Council report Mapping the Global Future, speculating about the world in 2020 and seeing a 'Rising Asia' scenario.

John Pilger writes about the continued oppression of the people of Burma and western hypocrisy about this and plugs the worthy Burma Action Campaign.

Peter Tatchell continues his critique of Ken Livingstone over the welcome for Al-Qaradawi with a hard-hitting 'An embrace that shames London'.

Neal Lawson of Renewal (generally modernising policy-wonk tedium) in a critical article about what the defection of Robert Jackson from the Tories says about the direction of the Labour Party makes the point that 'The Blairites win elections by destroying the space for the Tories..' and that this is part of the process refashioning Labour in the image of Tories like Jackson. And how will they deal with Howard's shift to the anti-immigrant populist rhetoric of the right? Well, The Independent on Sunday story continues: "Labour, however, appeared reluctant to attack Mr Howard's policy proposals. Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, said that the party accepted that there were "legitimate concerns" over asylum and immigration and that the party would be announcing its own plans soon"

Elsewhere: John Kampfner considers the electoral threat of the Liberal Democrats to Labour and their claim to have hived off a quarter of Labour's core support, including 'the anti-war, anti-Blair wing of disgruntled Labour supporters'. Kampfner says: 'For the first time in a decade of leading the Party, Blair has to watch his left flank, because the disgruntled now have a place to go.' And it isn't Respect he is talking about.

Mark Seddon reminds us of the plight of the Assyrians in Iraq. Dave Edwards of medialens takes issue with the media treatment of the Iraqi elections and the limits of media freedom in Iraq, usefully quoting Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead's Demonstration Elections: "it is not free and democratic, because it was imposed by an external force and did not come from demands from within." And localist anti-globalizer Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation criticises the "identikit commercial culture" of Clone Town.


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