My “View from the House” column for the Ham & High on Thursday 21 June 2018:
“Thousands of people marched through central London earlier this month under the guise of “defending freedom”. In reality, this protest in support of the former leader of the English Defence League Tommy Robinson, featured a series of far-right speakers, reports of Hitler salutes, bottles being thrown and aggressive outbreaks of violence with police and anti-racist campaigners coming under attack.
This brazen show of neo-fascism in the heart of our great city was the latest in a string of marches drawing increasing crowds. It is a disturbing development and mirrors what we have already seen both across Europe and in the US following the election of Donald Trump. Trump’s open racism, hostility to migrants, proud proclamations of “Muslim bans” and wall building have energised the far-right. In the UK hate crime is on the rise, with the highest recorded spike following the EU referendum – hardly surprising after a deeply divisive, racist and unpleasant campaign that sought to stoke anti-immigrant prejudice.
As I write this, it is two years to the day since my colleague Jo Cox was murdered by a far-right terrorist who called her a “collaborator” and a “traitor” as he killed her. A trial is currently underway for six members of the banned neo-Nazi organisation National Action who stand accused of planning to kill another Labour MP Rosie Cooper. Two men convicted for racially aggravated harassment of Luciana Berger MP are both from the far-right. The Finsbury Park terrorist Darren Osborne has started a minimum 43-year prison sentence for his brutal attack on people leaving a mosque. After he was arrested, he spoke of wanting to kill Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan.
There is a danger that this threat isn’t being taken seriously enough, because of the collapse of the BNP as a political force and the failure of its successors such as For Britain to make ground in elections. To do so would be a grave error. The threat of 2018 isn’t just at the ballot box. It is on our streets, in internet chatrooms, on divisive newspaper headlines, and in attempts to try and build an “alt-right”, pro-Trump movement here in the UK. There is no room for complacency.
One of my favourite things about this great city is its diversity. It is why so many people have chosen to make it their home and it is its biggest strength. We are no strangers to fighting fascists here. In 1977 the people of Haringey stood strong against the National Front’s attempts to march through Wood Green, an event that helped lead to the foundation of the Anti-Nazi League and hasten the demise of the National Front as a political force.
But we must do it again. Jo Cox used her maiden speech in Parliament to remind us that we have more in common than that which divides us. She was right. We must unite against attempts to divide our community and stir up hatred. I will be holding a public meeting in July to discuss the threat of the far-right and how we defeat it. Full details will be on my website at www.catherinewest.org.uk as soon as they are available. I hope you will join me.”