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Comment: 'Bongo Bongo land' and anti-immigration vans - the UK's worrying turn to the far right


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In the UK racists are often viewed as a dying breed of Briton; a creature teetering over the precipice of extinction whilst weakly waving a BNP banner in its final death throes. Indeed, news reports often beadily focus on far-right groups’ failed attempts to cling onto collective support; we chuckle at attempted marches dampened and disempowered by the drive of antifascists that oppose them, such as in June 2013 in London following Lee Rigby’s murder.

We are comforted when we compare ourselves to a more racially divided France, whose capital is more often torn by rioting; most notoriously in 2005 when anger captured the country following the accidental death of two young boys of North African origin, after they hid in an electrical substation when mistakenly pursued by police. The slow trickle of racism that still pervades the UK is very easy to underplay when compared to the hazardous volatility of the conflict between French anti-riot police and a growing cohort of young people who feel no attachment to their nation.

However, although we do not suffer from the same populist explosion of right-wing extremism as other countries (32% of the French population were shown to be in agreement with Marine Le Pen’s far-right ideology, which is enjoying a marked renaissance) we should not be complacent and assume that British tolerance is a given.

While Godfrey Bloom’s recent comments about ‘Bongo Bongo land’ are risible, their ridiculousness does mask what could be the start of very nasty politics. Whilst Bloom is mocked as an outdated relic, the power of parties like UKIP slinks under the radar unnoticed. Bloom claims to be ‘standing up for ordinary people in the pub’ and in doing so he foments appeal; his arguments are distilled into very basic ideas that are easily relatable in times of austerity.

He argues that Cameron should not be ‘picking our pockets’ to support African nations paralysed by ‘a trillion pounds of debt’ without displaying awareness of the nature of the global economy. His popularity shines through the top comments left on The Spectator’s blog that claim that he is ‘merely telling it like it is’ and that he has ‘captured the mood perfectly’. Sadly, politicians with offensive views are often very adept at summoning supporters who reject public outcry under the catch-all justification of ‘political-correctness-gone-mad.’

Furthermore, since the events of Woolwich we have experienced a sharp spike in violence towards the Islamic community. In late June a home-made bomb was discovered in Walsall, there were arson attacks on an Islamic centre in North London a few weeks earlier, a mosque in Newport was covered in graffiti swastikas and a mosque in Grimsby was besieged by petrol bombs.

The lesser media interest in this phenomenon is worrying when many political writers, such as Tony Blair, are shaken by fears of a ‘profound and dangerous’ Islamic extremism.

In addition, can we really say that xenophobic sentiment is dead and gone when at this very moment anti-immigration vans emblazoned with the slogan ‘Go home or face arrest’ weave through the streets of London?

On a more optimistic note however, Liberty, a campaigning group for civil liberties, are fighting back with a van of their own with the question ‘stirring up tension and division in the UK illegally?’ The charity claims that the Home Office vans were ‘deeply offensive’ and in breach of the Equality Act. Boris Johnston has even conceded that the language on the Home Office vans ‘could be friendlier’.

Although as a nation, Britain has much to be proud of in terms of its openness, diversity and general refusal to accept racist ideologues (in fact 70% of Britons are in favour of our multiculturalism) we must collectively continue to address these worrying new developments. When faced with ignorant comments such as ‘Bongo Bongo land’ or even an EDL supporter’s curious use of language (‘muslamic rape gangs’) we should not just watch and laugh, but act.

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