British Conservatives, elections and racism


This video from England says about itself:

Smethwick council buying vacant homes to prevent more coloured people moving in on Marshall Street

Video 1 of 3

In 1964 Peter Griffiths, Conservative candidate in Smethwick constituency won his seat using the slogan “If you want a nigger for a neighbour VOTE LABOUR”.

The general election was won by Labour, overturning 13 years of Conservative government. In contrast, largely because of the race issue, a Labour majority of 3,544 was turned into a Tory majority of 1,774, defeating the senior Labour MP Patrick Gordon in Smethwick.

The “nigger for a neighbour” slogan was attributed to the Griffiths campaign in a BBC interview by Labour leader Harold Wilson. Griffiths denied using those words, but said that they accurately reflected the frustrations of locals.

Immediately after the election Wilson (as prime minister) attacked Griffiths in the House of Commons, calling him the “parliamentary leper”.

Additionally the Tories had also taken control of the local council, instituting a policy on Marshall Street of buying houses which came up for sale and putting them back on the market for sale to whites only. …

Soon after, America’s Malcolm X visited Marshall Street and was interviewed, saying:

“I have come here because I am disturbed by reports that coloured people in Smethwick are being badly treated. I have heard they are being treated as the Jews under Hitler. I would not wait for the fascist element in Smethwick to erect gas ovens.”

Malcolm X was shot dead in Harlem days after his return from this trip.

These two videos are the sequels.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Every election the Tories play the race card

Wednesday 29th October 2014

PETER FROST discovers when it comes to Tory election tactics things haven’t changed much in 50 years

“IF you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.”

That was the horrific obscene message pasted up all over the streets of Smethwick in October 1964.

It won Tory Peter Griffiths the seat, defeating a huge Labour majority.

Griffiths stood behind the racist message. “I would not condemn any man who said that,” he told the media during his campaign. “I regard it as a manifestation of popular feeling.”

Nationally in the election, Labour took power in Westminster for the first time in 13 years with a swing from the Tories of 3.5 per cent. But in Smethwick, shadow home secretary Patrick Gordon Walker lost on a 7.2 per cent swing to the Tories.

As the defeated Walker left Smethwick town hall after the count gloating Tories catcalled after him: “Where are your niggers now, Walker?” and “Take your niggers away!”

This racist campaign shocked right-thinking Britons. New Labour prime minister Harold Wilson called on then Tory leader Sir Alec Douglas-Home to disown Griffiths. He called the racist Smethwick MP his “parliamentary leper.”

Twenty-five Tories walked out of the chamber in protest and proposed a motion deploring Wilson’s insulting language. Labour members proposed a motion criticising the prime minister for insulting lepers.

Griffiths didn’t last long. He lost his seat in 1966 and wrote a book called A Question of Colour? In it he argued that “apartheid, if it could be separated from racialism, could well be an alternative to integration.”

Black Country-born comedian Lenny Henry chose to make fun of the deeply ingrained racism of some Midlands people. When the National Front wanted to give black people £1,000 to go home, Henry said: “Fine, that would more than cover my bus fare back to Dudley.”

Smethwick was originally a Staffordshire country town but with the coming of the industrial revolution it grew and grew, eventually meeting the borders of Birmingham. Today it is part of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough.

In the 18th century the Birmingham Canal Navigations were built through Smethwick, carrying coal and goods between the nearby Black Country and Birmingham. The canals brought industry, wealth and work to the town.

Matthew Boulton and James Watt opened their Soho Foundry in the north of Smethwick.

Soon Smethwick was alive with dirty but profitable manufacturing industries.

The town built railway carriages and wagons; made screws and other fastenings at Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN); built giant mill steam engines at Tangye’s works.

They made everything from steel pen nibs and bicycle saddles to London’s famous Crystal Palace.

With industry came the arts. The Ruskin Pottery Studio, named in honour of the artist and socialist John Ruskin, was in the town, and many English churches have fine stained-glass windows made in Smethwick.

After the second world war, Smethwick attracted a large number of immigrants from Commonwealth countries, the largest group being Sikhs from the Punjab in India.

Race riots hit the town in 1962 and, like many other British cities, the problems actually caused by factory closures and a growing waiting list for council housing were often blamed on immigrants.

In 1961 the Sikh community converted the Congregational Church on the High Street in Smethwick to what is now the largest Gurdwara in Europe.

In 1968 Enoch Powell, the Tory MP for Wolverhampton South West, made his famous “Rivers of Blood” speech to the general meeting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre in Birmingham, just down the road from Smethwick.

The speech violently attacked Commonwealth immigration and anti-discrimination legislation.

“As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

Powell’s racist rant caused a political storm, making him one of the most talked-about politicians in the country. It lost Powell his place in the shadow cabinet but undoubtedly contributed to the Conservatives’ surprise victory in the 1970 general election.

Fifty years on, what are the lessons we can learn from what happened in Smethwick in 1964?

Nigel Farage, for all his denials, is putting forward exactly the same political message that immigrants are taking jobs and housing from native-born Britons.

Sadly David Cameron and his backwoodsmen — and women too — are riffling through the political playing cards looking for the race card that has served them so well in the past.

Nick Clegg and his shrinking band and even Ed Miliband, whose dad certainly taught him better, are making suspicious noises too.

Make no mistake about it. Farage and his right-wing obsessives will make sure racism plays a major part in next year’s general election.

It up to those of us who despise these evil ideas to make sure it doesn’t play the decisive role it did in Smethwick half a century ago.

Peter Frost blogs at www.frostysramblings.wordpress.com.

MICHAEL Fallon, Tory defence secretary, did an Enoch Powell (he made his anti-immigrant ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968) when he claimed on Sunday that British towns are being ‘swamped’ by immigrants and their residents are ‘under siege’. After the ensuing outcry he was urged to admit that his language should be slightly moderated by PM Cameron, and responded that he had been ‘careless’ in his use of words: here.

Britain and the Afghan war, 2003-2014


This video from Britain is called Kate Hudson, CND: The War on Terror Today; Confronting War Ten Years On 09 02 13.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Kate Hudson

Tuesday 28 October 2014

However you spin it, the story of British intervention in Afghanistan is a tragedy

In the thirteen years of our military involvement, tens of thousands of innocent civilians were killed and the lives of 453 British troops were lost

It’s strange how 13 years after we went to war on Afghanistan, the actual reasons for doing so seem to be almost entirely obscured. ‘Leaving the country in better shape’ seems a favourite – if anodyne – description, or perhaps making it ‘more stable’. Beyond that, we have assisting in nation-building, tackling the drugs trade, improving gender equality… the list of constructive and humanitarian-sounding tasks is a long one.

Does anyone now remember or refer to the actually stated reason – the War on Terror – declared by President Bush in the days following the 9/11 attacks on the United States? The war on Afghanistan was its first manifestation, inflicted on the people of Afghanistan by Bush and Blair on 7 October 2001. This was Operation Enduring Freedom – launched on the grounds that the Taliban government refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda operatives.

The stated goal was to continue the War on Terror until every terrorist group had been found, stopped and defeated. Whilst this goal may have found emotional resonance with many shocked by the terrible attacks on innocent civilians there were also many at the time who argued against the collective punishment of an entire people because of the actions of a foreign-originated terrorist cell. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have died as a result.

But the arguments made for alternative courses of action to bring the criminals to book fell on deaf ears. And though targeted alternatives were derided at the time, Bin Laden was eventually killed in Pakistan in 2011 by a team of US navy seals.

This was not so surprising as it turned out, for as time passed it became clear that the US had actually decided to overthrow the Taliban before the 9/11 attacks and spoke of regime change in other countries too. The tragedy of 9/11 was an opportunity to bring about the change in the region that the Bush administration sought. In that context, the illegal war on Iraq – following hard on the heels of Afghanistan – was made all of a piece in Bush and Blair’s War on Terror narrative. Many at the time rightly observed that there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq but that war would be the midwife of terrorism there. Over a decade on, that couldn’t be clearer as the region is engulfed in catastrophic and brutal conflict and attendant humanitarian crises. The shocking and seemingly unstoppable events of the last months are indeed part of the legacy of that opportunist and disastrous ‘War on Terror’.

The rebranding began some years ago. In April 2007, the British government announced that it was no longer using the term ‘War on Terror’. President Obama abandoned it in favour of ‘Overseas Contingency Operation’ as he sought to distance himself from the most extreme and unpopular policies of his predecessor, without making significant changes to the policy direction. In Britain, the shift was not surprising given the shattering impact of popular opposition to Blair’s War on Terror at home. The consequences of Blair’s lies continue to reverberate around the corridors of power and they have reshaped the politics and practice of military intervention for a generation.

In the meantime, the way we talk about our military intervention in Afghanistan has gone through a number of rationalisations. But whether we were supposed to be there to counter terrorism, to help the Afghans build a new society and democratic infrastructure, to support and advance the rights and opportunities of women and girls, or to tackle the drugs trade as it re-emerged post-Taliban, the reality is, we weren’t equipped for any of it and we just shouldn’t have been there.

In the thirteen years of our military involvement in Afghanistan, the sorry truth is that tens of thousands of innocent civilians were killed and the lives of 453 British troops were lost. Opium production is at record levels, providing around 90% of global supply. There has indeed been a rise in women’s rights – around 3 million girls now attend school – but these advances have been offset by a rise in gender specific violence including rape and acid attacks. These results have cost us anything between £20-£40 billion.

Whatever the narrative, however you describe it, the story of British intervention in Afghanistan is a tragedy – for our troops whose lives have been lost needlessly and for the people of Afghanistan who once again have to start rebuilding their lives. Let us hope that the lessons will be learned.