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Monday, 12 April 2010

As loathsome as ever: Nick Griffin's BNP is STILL the party of racist lies, violent thuggery and vicious anti-semitism

The Cross of St George is blowing in the breeze outside Clive Neal's end of terrace in Barking. Mr Neal is 61. He took early retirement from the Dagenham Ford plant in 2002 when car production finally stopped and many thousands of jobs were lost.

Gradually, since then, and probably before, he says, the street he still lives in, the area he grew up in, and the country he was once so proud of has changed 'beyond all recognition' and no one - certainly not anyone from the Labour or Conservative parties - bothered to knock on his door and ask him what he thought about it, or the effect it might be having on his life.

Clive Neal used to vote Tory, but now he informs me, though not in a belligerent way, that 'I will be voting BNP', adding: 'We're losing our sense of what it is to be British and this upsets and frustrates me.'
Does that make him a racist? Mr Neal, a quietly spoken, almost shy man, who lives in the same house on the vast Becontree Estate that he used to share with his parents, insists not.

Farther up the road, single mother Karen Woodward, 39, says she will also be voting BNP. As will the woman, in her late 50s, at the pebble-dash terrace at No50, and the 34-year-old former builder, now registered disabled, at No52 ('I've never voted BNP before, but I'm going to because the country is in a mess').

The grandmother a few doors up? BNP. The middle-aged man at the house with a dodgy extension; BNP. His next-door neighbour; BNP. Two pensioners, behind the blue and brown doors, across the street; both BNP. A third pensioner, male, walking along the pavement. 'Yes,' he would be voting BNP, too.

The underlying electoral statistics confirm the anecdotal evidence.

The BNP is the official opposition on Barking and Dagenham Council after winning 12 of 13 seats it contested in the 2006 local elections, polling more than 40 per cent of the popular vote in six wards. In reality, this means that on every street in Barking (pop: 166,000), there are at least 38 people who in the recent past have voted BNP.

BNP stickers in windows and the Cross of St George, like the one in Clive Neal's garden, have become an intrinsic part of the urban landscape. No longer, it seems, is allegiance to the BNP something to be ashamed of; not here, anyway
This is why Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, is standing for Parliament in Barking. Griffin versus Labour's big hitter Margaret Hodge is one of the key sub-plots of the General Election. It is also a litmus test for our political system, with the MPs' expenses scandal and continued fears over immigration at the very top of the political agenda.

Figures last week revealed that virtually every extra job created under Labour - an extraordinary 98.5 per cent of 1.67 million new posts - has gone to a foreign worker.

It's a gift for Griffin and the British National Party, which is fielding more than 300 candidates nationally; but especially so in Barking. The Ford car factory once employed 50,000. Now it's 2,000. Unemployment is running at about 8 per cent. Decent jobs - any jobs - are scarce
BNP posters promising 'British jobs for British workers' already mock Gordon Brown's use of the same phrase more than two years ago. 'When we say it, we mean it,' the poster declares. Even the BNP, however, couldn't have imagined the chasm between Brown's 'jobs pledge' and Brown's record.

The BNP slogans have been backed up by effective community campaigning: clearing graffiti, picking up litter from parks and streets, even taking old folk to the bingo.

The tactics have convinced many of the white working-class who do not see themselves as racists that the new BNP, epitomised by Cambridge graduate Griffin, has evolved from the football terraces and shed the Third Reich nostalgia of the old National Front from which it emerged in the early Eighties.

These are the uncomfortable facts about the BNP and Barking, as well as other party strongholds like Burnley and Stoke. Behind them lies a story which tells us everything we need to know, if we didn't already, about Nick Griffin's 'reformed' BNP.
Let's begin with immigration, an issue which the major parties - particularly Labour - have singularly failed to address, and which the BNP has ruthlessly and shamelessly exploited in Barking.

Barking, overall, has fewer people from ethnic minority backgrounds than the London average. Around 75 per cent of the 167,000 population are white British, according to an Audit Commission report published in January.

The majority of the non-white community, however, is concentrated on the vast Becontree Estate, where Clive Neal lives.

Over the past ten years, half the council's housing stock - 20,000 properties - were sold under the 'right-to-buy' scheme. These new owner-occupiers subsequently moved out of Barking to places like Basildon, Billericay, and Southend in what became known as the 'white flight'. Many of those who took their place in Becontree were Afro-Caribbeans, mostly from other parts of the capital or other parts of the country.

The transformation of Becontree resulted in a notorious BNP leaflet called 'Africans for Essex'.

The leaflet has been dropping through letter boxes in Becontree over the past few weeks. The leaflet claims that the Government has paid African immigrants up to £50,000 to move to Barking to ensure 'safe Labour majorities in the future'.

In fact, the cash incentive scheme - residents in London boroughs are eligible for grants to buy their own homes to ease the pressure on council waiting lists - is open to everyone, not just immigrants or specifically African immigrants.

Guess how many took advantage of the scheme to move to Barking? Just 39 in the past six years. Of these, six were white, 15 were Asian, 13 were black (African and Caribbean) and five did not have their ethnicity recorded.
Just 39, then, in a total population of 167,000.

Yet many residents in Barking are utterly convinced that the 'Africans for Essex' conspiracy exists. Perhaps this is as much an indictment of the Labour Party, which has encouraged mass immigration to Britain while crushing any honest debate on the subject, as it is of the BNP.

The same might be said of other BNP propaganda portraying Margaret Hodge as a witch-like figure handing out the keys of the few remaining council homes to a queue of stereotyped foreigners in burkhas and turbans carrying suitcases. 'Enjoy Your New Home', Hodge is telling them. Behind her an angry white mob screaming: 'What About Us?'

It's a grotesque caricature, of course. But like all caricatures there is an element of truth in the xenophobic rhetoric. At present, those considered to have the greatest need are automatically able to jump housing lists, meaning new immigrants with children sometimes leapfrog people with longer-standing links to the community who may have been waiting longer.

Margaret Hodge, to her credit, raised this issue in 2007. The response of senior Cabinet members, among them Alan Johnson, now Home Secretary, was that Hodge's legitimate concerns were simply 'grist to the mill of the BNP'.
Three years on, the government has now effectively conceded that Margaret Hodge was right all along. Communities Secretary John Denham has just announced that local authorities should favour the children of long-standing residents when allocating council houses.

Indeed, Margaret Hodge, who became MP for Barking in 1994 and is now Minister at the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, has been the target of what can only be described as an ugly, vicious and highly personal campaign by the BNP.

On the doorstep, the BNP likes to use her maiden name Oppenheimer. Born in Egypt, she came to Britain with her Jewish parents, who were refugees from Nazi-occupied Austria.

Bob Bailey, 44, a former Royal Marine, and leader of the BNP on the local council, denied this when I contacted him this week.

'No, that's not true,' he insisted. 'We don't talk about the Labour Party on the doorstep, everyone knows they are rubbish. We want to talk about what we are doing, not what those clowns are doing.' What about his own description of Hodge as 'Margaret (the Egyptian) Hodge'.

'I don't think so,' he replied, then added: 'but that is where she was born, isn't it?'

In fact, 'The Egyptian' reference is on a BNP website called London Patriot. It was posted on March 3 - by Bob Bailey.

'I've been the subject of criticism and attacks in the Press all my career,' Hodge reveals back at her Whitehall office, off Trafalgar Square.

'But I'm in my 60s now and I have never met any anti-semitism before. My parents were subjected to it. I remember this incident when we were kids, when we had a car accident. My father got out the car to apologise to the other driver, but this man looked at my father and said: "You bloody Jew."

'It stuck in my memory. That is probably the only time I have experienced anti-semitism, until now.'

Margaret Hodge was also accused by Nick Griffin of having a personal financial interest in plans - since cancelled - to build a new prison in the borough. Griffin was later forced to apologise for the lie, which appeared in BNP literature. I learnt of another incident - involving Cllr Bailey - during my inquiries in Barking which is also worth reporting.

It concerned a young black student nurse who was conducting an exit poll for the Labour Party in the 2006 local elections. She should have said 'I'm from Labour', before approaching voters outside, but she forgot. It was an honest mistake.

But Bailey overheard her. He is said to have then told her: 'I know who you are. I've got your phone number.'

The girl burst in to tears. Not long afterwards, a car drove past the polling station with four thugs inside. 'Go home you n*****, one of them shouted at the student.

'Oh, dear, burst into tears,' Cllr Bailey replied sarcastically when the allegation was put to him this week. Did he know about the car-load of racist yobs? 'Don't think so, don't think so. Ask another question. Ask another question.'

Well, there was one. 'Is he a racist pig?' Not my words, but those of an opposition councillor who attacked Bob Bailey in the council chamber for his tirade against Nigerian churches in Barking. (Cllr Bailey is now facing suspension as a councillor.) 'I have been called so many names,' he said, 'It's water off a duck's back.'

Cllr Bailey, who works in security, is part of Nick Griffin's campaign team. The two have been out, side by side, canvassing on the Becontree Estate.

They are, of course, hoping desperately that they can increase the 0.7 per cent of the popular vote gained in the last general election in 2005. While the BNP has become the most successful fascist party in Britain since the Thirties, we should remember that its percentage of the popular vote was minuscule.

But their presence as a rising political force in Barking certainly cannot be denied. Apart from anything, they stand a chance of taking the local council. Those elections are also being held on May 6. Remember, they won 12 out of the 13 seats they contested last time.

This time round they are fielding many more candidates. What if they won? The BNP controlling a £600million budget - it's a sobering thought.

'I think Barking would become a no-go area,' says Hodge. 'People wouldn't buy houses in the borough, and businesses wouldn't want to come and invest here.'

But she adds ominously: 'If we don't really expose them for what they are over the coming weeks and if we don't convince people that Labour can actually respond to people's frustrations and aspirations, we're in danger of the BNP winning.'

Griffin, according to the antifascist organisation Searchlight, is already fighting a losing battle, against the (even) more extreme elements in the BNP.

'The reality is that too many in his party are wedded to the BNP's old street-fighting roots,' said a Searchlight spokesman.

Evidence, if any were needed, is here in the the list of the BNP's prospective parliamentarians. Among them are Martin Wingfield (Workington), jailed after failing to pay a fine imposed for inciting racial hated back in the Eighties; Ian Mellor (North West Leicestershire), fined £400 for carrying an offensive weapon; and Julian Leppert (Chingford and Woodford Green), who drives a car with a number plate that looks like 'Nazi' (NA51).
Not forgetting Mark Collett, 29, who was the BNP's publicity director - until he was arrested a few days ago on suspicion of threatening to kill Griffin.

Griffin is the BNP's Dr Jekyll. But be assured that Mr Hyde is still there behind the scenes - both in his colleagues and in his own poisonous mind.

There is no 'new' BNP. There is only the old one, and it's as loathsome as ever, as those who have been on the receiving end of the party's tactics in Barking know only too well.

Daily Mail

BNP's Mark Walker repeats claims that dismissal was a “hatchet job”

A JUDGE has described the behaviour of a BNP parliamentary candidate sacked from his job as a teacher as “scandalous”.

But Mark Walker hit back last night, repeating his claim that the dismissal was a “hatchet job” and branded the leak of a report into the case as “gutter politics” aimed at scuppering his chances of victory on May 6.

A tribunal report leaked to The Northern Echo reveals that Sedgefield candidate Mr Walker would have been sacked by Sunnydale Community College, in Shildon, County Durham, last year regardless of his sickness record.
He was suspended as technology teacher in 2007 amid claims he sent inappropriate emails to a 16-year-old former pupil and watched pornography on his laptop at work. No illegal content was found on Mr Walker’s laptop.
The report said: “In October 2007, the headteacher met with the child protection officer of Durham County Council and reported her concerns in relation to the claimant’s conduct and in particular the email correspondence.

“Durham County Council asked the NSPCC as an independent child protection agency to make inquiries.”
Following a lengthy dispute, he was dismissed because of his sickness record after he became ill following the allegations. He appealed against the decision, saying he had been victimised because of his allegiance to the BNP.
His case was thrown out in January after a tribunal hearing in Newcastle, but the details were not made public.
In the report, employment judge Andrew Buchanan said Mr Walker’s illness was triggered by his own actions.
He said: “If he had not acted in the way that he did towards that former pupil, he would not have had reason to be stressed and anxious and he would not have become ill.”

He said Mr Walker’s “culpable and blameworthy conduct contributed to his dismissal to the extent of 100 per cent” and that “he was the author of his own unfortunate illness”.

He said that joining a demonstration staged outside the school to support him made him eligible for dismissal.
Speaking about the demonstration, held on an induction day for new pupils, Judge Buchanan said: “The claimant’s conduct during the time of his suspension was, frankly, scandalous.

“For a teacher to be associated with a rowdy demonstration at the school gates on a day when pupils new to the school were being inducted demonstrates a failure to observe professional standards which this tribunal finds breathtaking.”
The tribunal also said failure to agree to a health report in February 2008 amounted to unreasonable conduct.

Judge Buchanan said Mr Walker’s membership of the BNP was “of no relevance”, but said: “The tribunal does not accept that the headteacher herself was motivated by antipathy to the BNP, but recognises that that party does provoke antipathy in many people.”
Judge Buchanan added that Mr Walker’s brother, Adam, a BNP candidate for Bishop Auckland, became embroiled in the dispute.

He wrote a letter to 80 Sunnydale staff saying attempts were under way to “destroy his brother’s life”.
Judge Buchanan said: “The claimant clearly was also cognisant of and supportive of the attempts of his brother and others to write to the staff and to seek to undermine the authority of the headteacher.”

Mr Walker said last night that the report was full of unfounded allegations for which dates, times and venues were missing.
He rubbished claims he was involved with the former pupil and said emails described in the report as extremely worrying were innocent.

He said: “All I was doing was responding out of politeness.
“Lots of teachers stay in touch with former pupils. I never taught her, she was never in my care.

“The email was to say ‘hello, how are you doing?’.”
He also said he was being persecuted for being a BNP member and said he planned to take further action against his former employer, Durham County Council.

He said: “Any fair-minded person can see there is no substance to support any of those bogus allegations.

“It is obvious that this is a smear campaign against me and I hope that the public can see through it.”

The Northern Echo

Across Europe, support for populist parties is on the rise (Germany)

In recent months, extreme right-wing and populist parties have won significant gains in regional and parliamentary elections in Europe. For them, times of crisis are a boon.
As Europe grows together, expanding its visa-free zone toward Iceland and the Ukrainian border, many citizens are beginning to see themselves firstly as Europeans rather than as citizens of their individual countries.

But not everyone supports the breaking down of national barriers. In recent months, xenophobic and right-wing parties have made spectacular political gains across Europe.

In Hungary on Sunday, the far-right Jobbik party won well over 16 percent of votes in parliamentary elections, marking the first entry of an openly right-wing extremist party into parliament. With the country hard-hit by recession, Jobbik capitalized on rising nationalism and a resurgence of anti-Semitism and anti-Gypsy sentiment to win votes.
Jobbik's rise echoes that of France's right-wing Front National party, Italy's xenophobic Northern League and the Netherland's conservative Party for Freedom, which all saw dramatic gains in recent elections.

Although right-wing ideology takes different forms across Europe, it shares a common strategy: exploiting the fears of voters in times of crisis. Right-wing populists focus on their followers' discontent, says Wolfgang Kapust of German public broadcaster WDR.
"They offer easy answers to complicated problems: the economic situation, unemployment or social insecurity," said Kapust. "Above all, they want to get rid of, deport or 'send home' foreigners and 'the others.' "

Parliamentary problems
But because right-wing movements define themselves through separation from that which is "alien," it is difficult for them to pool forces beyond their nation states. That's reflected in the European Union.
"Right-wing extremists and populists are opposed to a supra-national political institution like the European Union," says Kapust. "They want a Europe made of nativist countries. They want to maintain the identity of their own countries."

In the European Parliament, right-wing attempts to merge into one group have been unsuccessful.

"The differences are too large between the national movements," says Kapust. Right-wing parties remain protest parties, incapable of joining coalitions.

French nationalism
However, exclusion from coalitions does not mean that far-right parties are without influence. Often, nationalist parties succeed in exerting pressure on the conservative parties of the center, which fear they could lose potential voters to the far right.
This was seen in regional elections in France in February. The right-wing Front National, whose 81-year-old leader, Jean-Marie le Pen, has advocated sending African immigrants back to the continent, registered strong gains at the expense of French President Nicholas Sarkozy's conservative UMP.
The regional elections offered conservative voters a chance to show Sarkozy that they didn't approve of his policies since taking office, says Elisabeth Cadot, French expert at Deutsche Welle.
"Many who were disappointed by Sarkozy's national politics voted Front National again," said Cadot.

Immune to scandal
While non-established and extremist smaller protest parties often disappear quickly from view, the more moderate right-wing populist parties tend to survive. Many observers were surprised when the results of Italian regional elections in March showed that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had survived his numerous public scandals, including a corruption trial.
Berlusconi managed to stay in power due mainly to his skilful coalition building with other right-wing populists, said Stefan Koeppl, an expert on Italy at the Academy for Political Education in Tutzing. He pointed out that Berlusconi's own party came in rather weak.
"The winners are not his political opponents, but his allies, such as the far-right Northern League," said Koeppl.

Moreover, added Koeppl, Berlusconi's brushes with the law were nothing new - he has been known for his affairs, scandals and slip-ups since he came to power.
"Anyone who has forgiven him for the past 15 years is not likely to be put off by recent allegations," said Koeppl.

A special case
Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose Party for Freedom made major gains during municipal elections in March, has sought to distance himself from traditional far-right platforms such as anti-Semitism.

Instead, Wilders has taken pains to present himself as a defender of democracy, while sharply criticizing the growth of Islam in Europe. Wilders has called the Koran a "fascist book" and argued that "there is no such thing as a 'moderate Islam.' "

Still, Kapust sees parallels between Wilder's party and other movements that show less fear of contact with the far right end of the political spectrum: "The development in the Netherlands is clearly connected to the minaret ban in Switzerland and the 'pro' movements in Germany," he said.
Swiss voters decided in November to amend the country's constitution to ban the construction of minarets. That step was lauded by pro-Koeln and pro-NRW movements in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. The linked groups, which hold seats on local councils, campaign on an anti-Muslim platform, decrying what they describe as the "Islamicization" of society.

Political scientists label the activities of such groups "anti-Islamic racism."

DU World

Police Urge Calm at Neo-Nazi Mosque Demo (Sweden)

Police in Gothenburg sought to ward off clashes on Sunday as neo-Nazi demonstrators opposed to the construction of a new mosque met with resistance from counter-demonstrators.

Police formed a human barrier as the demonstrators shouted slogans at each other from a distance of 100 metres at lunchtime on Sunday.

"Our aim is to keep the two groups apart," police spokesman Niklas Eriksson told news agency TT.

A heavy police presence prevented attempts from both sides to cross the lines just days before construction is scheduled to start on a new mosque at Keillers Park on the island of Hisingen.
Police said the anti-mosque demonstration, headed by known local neo-Nazis affiliated with the Nordisk Ungdom ('Nordic Youth') group, consisted of around 100 people. Some 300 people joined the counter-demonstration led by Nätverket Mot Rasism ('Network Against Racism'), an anti-fascist umbrella group that has come in for stiff criticism for its tolerance of extreme elements.
Police said anti-mosque demonstrators had secured a permit for their rally, which started at midday. Their intention was to march to Lindholmen and the premises of a construction firm set to begin work on the new mosque this Tuesday.
The Local Sweden


Hungary's conservative opposition party, Fidesz, has secured a convincing victory in parliamentary elections, ousting the Socialists. Fidesz leader Viktor Orban said Hungarians had voted "to defeat hopelessness". The far-right Jobbik party, which capitalised on anti-Semitism and anti-Roma sentiment, will enter parliament for the first time. The final division of seats will only be decided after the second round. This will be held on 25 April. Mr Orban, who is set to be the next prime minister, said: "Hungarians voted on Hungary and Hungary's future. Today Hungary's citizens have defeated hopelessness. "I feel it with all my nerves and know it deep in my heart that I face the biggest task of my life. I will need all the Hungarian people to solve that." Mr Orban, who was Hungary's prime minister from 1998-2002, promised to cut taxes to stimulate the economy. The country has been badly hit by the global financial crisis, and has had to be bailed out with 20bn euros (£18bn) from the IMF, the World Bank and the EU. The Socialist government of Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai imposed a tough austerity programme to reclaim some of the money, but measures like tax rises and salary and pension cuts have made it very unpopular.

'Clear mandate'
Preliminary results indicated that Fidesz had won 206 seats in the 386-member parliament, the Socialists 28, and Jobbik 26. President Laszlo Solyom said the results had brought a "fundamental shift" in Hungarian politics. "It is unprecedented... for a winning party to secure such a clear and broad-based mandate that we can see now from the numbers," he told reporters. Conceding, Socialist party chairwoman Ildiko Lendvai said: "If results do not change materially, then one thing is clear: the Hungarian Socialist party has lost the opportunity to govern. "But it has not lost, moreover it wants to grasp the opportunity to be the strongest opposition party." The result was a stunning defeat for the Socialist party, which has governed Hungary for the past eight years, and a remarkable victory for Fidesz, says the BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest. The results were announced by the Central Election Commission after several hours of confusion, during which polling stations were kept open later into the evening to allow those queuing outside them to vote. The final division of the 386 seats in Parliament will only be decided after the second round of the election in two weeks' time, says our correspondent, but Fidesz looks close to achieving its goal of a two-thirds majority in the new Parliament. That would allow them to make deep structural reforms, including changes to the constitution, he adds. Jobbik, known for its anti-Semitic and anti-Roma (Gypsy) rhetoric, has risen from nowhere in the last few years, gaining almost 15% of Hungarian votes in European elections last year. Turnout was about 64%, slightly lower than the first round of general elections in 2006.

BBC News


Rabbi Shmuel Raskin and his 50 guests were celebrating the Jewish festival of Passover last weekend when two stones smashed though the double-glazed windows of his home in the centre of Budapest. Police said they had probably been fired from a sling. The group continued with its ceremonies, but in silence and behind closed shutters. The incident was one of a series of hate attacks in Hungary amid an atmosphere of heightened racial tension in the run-up to today’s general election. During a recent speech by Gabor Demszky, the mayor of Budapest, a mob chanted “Jewish pigs” and “To the concentration camps”. Election posters have been smeared with yellow Stars of David and anti-Semitic slogans. Budapest rabbis describe racial epithets being shouted as they walk their children to school, slogans such as “Jews go to Israel” are daubed in the streets, accompanied by swastikas, while cars bear stickers with the slogan “Jew-free car”. Critics connect the abuse to the rise of the extreme right-wing Jobbik party, which has been accused of anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The increase in violent attacks on minorities — a dozen Roma (gypsies) have been gunned down in recent years — has coincided with the emergence of Jobbik, which won 15% support in the European elections held in 2009. Opinion polls suggest that it will attract between 13% and 20% today. Although the centre-right Fidesz opposition party of Viktor Orban, the former prime minister, is expected to win a landslide victory, Jobbik, led by Gabor Vona, a 31-year-old former history teacher, could become the second-largest party following a populist campaign dominated by attacks on corruption and “Roma crime”.

The party denies accusations of neo-Nazism but Gordon Bajnai, the caretaker prime minister, warned that the “monster” was at the door and threatening to “crush” Hungarian democracy. Jobbik is linked to a paramilitary blackshirt group, the Hungarian Guard, which was banned in 2008 but has resurfaced at election rallies. Robert Fröhlich, chief rabbi at the Dohany Street synagogue, said to be the largest in Europe, complained about Nazi salutes. “Insulting Jews on the street is nothing new here, but now it’s done more brazenly,” he said. The country has been hit hard by the recession and had to be bailed out by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Unemployment is above 11% and inflation is almost 6%. The rise of anti-Semitism has gone hand in hand with a renaissance of Jewish culture in Budapest as the old ghetto has been transformed into the city’s most vibrant district, filled with trendy shops, hotels, bars and galleries. Observers have suggested that the increased confidence and visibility of the Jewish population has created a backlash among other Hungarians. Adam Schonberger, a Jewish community leader, complained that successive governments had failed to tackle the issue of minorities in education and political debate. “The government must declare that Hungary is a country of mixed ethnic and cultural traditions and not a home to one single nation,” he said. More than 500,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust and 100,000 still live in the country. Between 8% and 10% of Hungary’s 10m inhabitants are Roma. Krisztian Szabados, head of the Political Capital Institute, a think thank, said racism had been “swept under the carpet” for decades. “Jobbik have simply delivered extremism to an electorate that demands it. No mainstream party has seriously tackled the antagonism towards minorities that has been here for decades.”

The Times Online


The Dutch branch of the European Arab League should be fined €1,000 for publishing a cartoon which implies that Jews invented the idea that six million people died in the World War II holocaust, the public prosecution department said on Thursday. The Dutch representative of the League Abdlmoutalib Bouzerda should be fined an additional €500, the department said. Bouzerda put the cartoon on the group's website four years ago in answer to the Danish cartoons poking fun at Mohammed. But the department decided to prosecute, saying the Danish cartoons 'do not insult Muslims nor incite hatred'.. The AEL said it published the cartoon to draw attention to double standards in society. The league does not think any of the cartoons should be subject to prosecution, Bouzerda told the court.
Dutch News


Incumbent president Heinz Fischer has been accused of shouting "Sieg Heil!" during a parliamentary debate in December 1989. Reports from  (Thurs) say that Fischer – back then the Social Democrats’ (SPÖ) whip – shouted the Nazi salute at the end of a speech by Freedom Party (FPÖ) MP Siegfried Dillersberger. A spokeswoman for the president – who took office in 2004 and announced his decision to run for a second term last November – said Fischer commented on the MP’s speech by saying "That’s almost a ‘Sieg Heil mentality’!" She claimed Fischer was unable to remember exactly what he said, adding that the statement was recorded incorrectly by the meeting’s protocol. Stefan Bachleitner, the head of the left-winger’s election campaign team, said: "It doesn’t surprise me such allegations come up now, a few days ahead of the election." Fischer had around 75 per cent of the vote in polls before the "Sieg Heil" accusations emerged. It has been Barbara Rosenkranz, the FPÖ’s candidate for president, who caused public outcry with several statements regarding Austria’s Nazi past. Rosenkranz – whose husband publishes a far-right news magazine – tried to calm the debate. She declared under oath that she had never doubted the existence of gas chambers at concentration camps as is claimed. Rosenkranz has between 10 and 15 per cent in polls, while political analysts warn of a record-low participation. Rudolf Gehring, the third candidate in the 25 April election, has meanwhile been confronted with harsh criticism after launching his presidential election campaign at a Viennese church. Viennese vicar general Franz Schuster wrote to the city’s parishes today saying he "condemns any instrumentalisation of the Church for political purposes." Schuster added: "Party politics have no place in the Church." Gehring, head of the non-parliament Austrian Christians Party (CPÖ), marks the start of his election campaign at a church in Vienna-Döbling Tuesday evening. Around 30 supporters gathered at the St. Paul parish to celebrate a mass with the real estate manager. Analysts said Gehring – who opposes euthanasia and abortion – did not stand a chance of winning more than five per cent support in the 25 April election.

Austrian Times


A furious transatlantic row has erupted over quotes that were attributed to a retired Italian bishop, which suggested that Jews were behind the current criticism of the Catholic church's record on tackling clerical sex abuse. A website quoted Giacomo Babini, the emeritus bishop of Grosseto, as saying he believed a "Zionist attack" was behind the criticism, considering how "powerful and refined" the criticism is. The comments, which have been denied by the bishop, follow a series of statements from Catholic churchmen alleging the existence of plots to weaken the church and Pope Benedict XVI. Allegedly speaking to the Catholic website Pontifex, Babini, 81, was quoted as saying: "They do not want the church, they are its natural enemies. Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God killers." The interview was spotted on Friday by the American Jewish Committee, which said Babini was using "slanderous stereotypes, which sadly evoke the worst Christian and Nazi propaganda prior to world war two". On its website, the American Jewish Group Committee quoted bishop Vincenzo Paglia, an official at the Italian Bishops' Conference, as saying Babini's remarks were "entirely contrary to the official line and mainstream thought of the Catholic church". As the interview appeared on Italy's main newspaper sites today, complete with the American reaction, the Bishops' Conference rushed out a statement quoting Babini denying he had ever given the interview in the first place. "Statements I have never made about our Jewish brothers have been attributed to me," he said. Babini has previously been quoted on the Pontifex website accusing Jews of exploiting the Holocaust, as well as criticising homosexuality. As cases of alleged priestly abuse emerge in the US and Europe, Benedict's handling of proven molesters before he became pope in 2005 has now been questioned in cases in Munich, Wisconsin and, most recently, in California, where his signature appears on an 1985 letter resisting calls to defrock a paedophile priest.

The Guardian

Leading Moscow judge gunned down (Russia)

A leading judge from Moscow's city court has been shot dead at his apartment building in the Russian capital, court officials have said.

Eduard Chuvashov was shot by unknown gunmen who fled the scene, police told the Ria Novosti news agency.
He had presided over several cases involving nationalist organisations and had received many death threats.

In February, he sentenced nine members of a neo-Nazi skinhead group called the White Wolves to up to 23 years in jail.

BBC News

Elections 2010: BNP hopes hit by candidate drought (UK)

THE British National Party's plans to make decisive gains at the polls are in disarray after only four new city council candidates came forward.

The far-right party has nominated just six members for the May 6 local elections in Stoke-on-Trent – and that includes two councillors defending their seats.
It follows the high-profile resignations of former BNP group leader Councillor Alby Walker and his councillor wife Ellie. Their decision to become independents reduced the BNP contingent to seven councillors, and left just one far-right member in the Abbey Green ward.
Group leader Councillor Michael Coleman admitted he felt let down over the election nominations.

Twenty of the council's 60 members are up for re-election next month, before every councillor goes to the polls next year.
Mr Coleman said: "I approached about 25 people who were all interested in standing. But because they would only be elected for one year many of them felt it was too big a commitment.

"I have had a bit of a falling-out with people over this and it has caused a rift within the group.
"We thought we would be able to put up about 14 candidates this year.

"The Alby Walker situation has also damaged us to a degree, as some of the people who would have stood for us have left because they feel he has been treated badly."
However, Mr Coleman remains bullish. He said: "We have people in the wards where we want to have a presence and we also have three Parliamentary candidates in the city, which is really good."
Mr Coleman also rejected suggestions that the newly-emerged England First Party may undermine BNP support in key wards, including Weston and Meir North, where deputy BNP group leader Councillor Anthony Simmonds is fighting to keep his seat.

Mr Coleman said: "I think it is just vengeful hatred from former members directed against myself and possibly a few others in the BNP. They are out to try to damage us, but they won't stop us."
Professor Mick Temple, politics lecturer at Staffordshire University, is sceptical about Mr Coleman's excuses and believes the far-right party has had its day in the city.
He said: "I think the low number of nominations demonstrates that the BNP's support is not as strong within the community as they maintain.
"If they really were challenging the mainstream parties then you would have thought they would be putting up some decent candidates, particularly as a General Election always generates a much higher turnout."

He added: "I think they have been hurt by the Alby Walker issue, as he was seen by many as the more acceptable face of the BNP."
Mr Walker, who is fighting BNP deputy leader Simon Darby for the Stoke-on-Trent Central Parliamentary seat and defending his Abbey Green council seat, said : "It's a poor show to only find six candidates. It shows I really was the backbone of that group, and that they are in decline now."

This is Staffordshire