News - June 2000


30th June 2000

UEFA accuse Keegan of 'conning the British public'. However as is now becoming apparent, the British public had the wool pulled over it's eyes well and truly by UEFA as well. UEFA's threat to expel England from the tournament followed days of momentous 'rioting and rampaging through the Low Countries' or so were told. But as the Channel Four documentary 'England my England' exposed, the 'infamous Charleroi riot' lasted all of "ten minutes". Surely the shortest riot in history. Not only that, but Gordon Farqhuar 5 Live sport news reporter scored the level of violence in the ten minute riot as 'three out of 10'.

Writing in the Guardian Charlie Whelan (formerly aide to Chancellor Gordon Brown no less) not only witnessed German 'firms' swaggering nonchalantly into the square populated by England supporters under the beign eye of the Belgian plod, but noted that "at least 50 TV cameras were there to witness the inevitable". Police, certainly aware of the propaganda value of their planned extravaganza even "obligingly tipped off TV crews that they were going to arrest some Germans and the rest is history". (26.6.2000) As Charlie Whelan put it " the pen might be mightier than the sword but it's not as powerful as television."

Along with Tony Blair and Jack Straw who rushed to congratulate the Belgian police for their expert handling of the 'scene' these "great TV pictures enabled those not there, and those who were, to talk rubbish". And how. But what is really extraordinary is not just that the TV literally 'made the news' but the visceral hatred of the middle classes unleashed thereafter.

Suzanne Moore writing in the Mail on Sunday (25.2.2000) called for the banning of the national game altogether. "The problem with English football is not about 'a minority'. It is about the lumpen majority...". Paul Johnson had similar things to say in the Spectator. The Guardians Martin Kelner mourned that the 'riot police were not equipped with real bullets'.

Denis Campbell drew further attention to the partisan nature of the reporting (and the reporters) with this little ditty in the Observer: "Some of the English fans arrested by the Belgian police for causing havoc in Brussels the night before England-Germany responded with humour that was, sadly, untypical. After being wrestled to the floor, made to lie face down and strapped into sharp edged plastic handcuffs, a row of bodies suddenly lapsed into a chorus of 'Always look on the Bright Side of Life'. Their Belgian captors didn't see the funny side, however, and an officer produced his truncheon and went down the line giving each man a tap on the head until they shut up.'It looked and sounded like someone going up the musical scale on a glockenspiel's, laughed one British security official.

Hilarious I'm sure, particularly as none of those assaulted had apparently not done enough to be charged without any offence and were duly deported without their luggage. Clearly you had to be there.

For the Spectator it was no longer sufficient to gentrify football off the pitch, but after England's woeful performances, it was now time to introduce 'a better class of person' on the pitch as well. It devoted it's editorial to the poser. "Why can't we pass?" The diagnosis way simple. "The English prejudice against educated footballers has led to not only to yobbery off the pitch, but to a certain mental weakness on the pitch." For the Spectator lumpen on and off the pitch was the problem. " The English players had plenty of heart,...what they lacked ...was the the ability to think; they were out-thought by their opponents...There are some posh families that would not even consider a career in football for their child. It is a prejudice that is damaging our country, and victimising brighter footballers who might be better at passing." You could hardly make it up.

As author Nick Cohen observed recently; 'We live in an age where racial hatred is persona non grata, so is hatred of women and gays, but the one thing that's flourishing is class hatred'.


28th June 2000

The result of last week's Rise Park by-election in the London Borough of Havering on Thursday was:

Conservative 909 (58%) up 12% from 1998
Residents Association 541 (32%) up 1% from 1998
Labour 138 (8%) down 15% from 1998
London Socialist Alliance 34 (2%)

In the GLA elections the LSA got 1.6% in the area and so claim to have improved on that as well as 'increasing the local profile for the LSA'. Pete Alder, the Havering candidate, views this as a positive result - moving forward were it not for, well you name it and the LSA will have a myriad of excuses and reasons why. Why is it that the Socialist Alliance is failing to win hearts, minds and, ultimately for them, votes, despite grandiose claims to the contrary? At a time when the BNP are commanding as much as a quarter of the vote in London saying that the LSA are clearly out of touch with working class voters would be something of an under-statement. How can anyone who has taken the wrong road entirely ever expect to reach their destination, unless they have the sense and integrity to admit they've got it wrong, and remedy the situation. The LSA should take stock of reality, rather than crawling down the same old worn out paths of left wing fiction.


25th June 2000

The Tottenham by-election where the big hope of the conservative Left, the London Socialist Alliance took 885 votes, approximately 5% of the vote confirms the warning made clear following the Greater London Assembly election in May, that 'bolting together left wing groups' will not be sufficient to pull the working class in behind it. The fact is the working class have not just lost faith in socialist parties per se but to greater extent in socialism itself. Consequently the Left as a whole needs to re-invent itself. Failure by the LSA to take the opportunity to do so will see it follow the same path as that of it's 'left unity' predecessor Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party. With the BNP pulling 25% of the vote in the New Deal Board election in Newham on the same day the consequences must be obvious.

Like the LSA after the May 4th elections, Scargill was similarly triumphant following the general election in 1997 claiming the SLP was now the 'fourth biggest party' nationally. Thereafter it was of course all down hill. Indeed confirmation that the 'bluff and bluster' approach would prove self-defeating came in a parliamentary by-election in his own backyard in Yorkshire. If memory serves the SLP 'saving it's deposit' there was hailed as breakthrough then. In reality if all he could do was save his deposit, in what must have been considered a 'heartland' by supporters, then self-evidently there was little chance the party would do better elsewhere.

The same equation is now true for the LSA, Tottenham being to them what Barnsley was to the SLP. Taking into account the work intensive high profile LSA campaign, the unpopularity of New Labour in inner London, plus the characteristic low turn out of 25%, the LSA result was poor no matter how you cut it. Indeed the approximate of 5% is only marginally better than the Left have traditionally come to expect from standing in working class constituencies in the last three decades.

True the LSA had the satisfaction of beating the Greens into fifth place. But that only serves to remind that these days 'socialism' like environmentalism is politically on the 'fringe', mainstream fringe, but fringe nevertheless. Some climbdown from a little over three years ago, when the victory for Blair was hailed a 'socialist triumph' a 'class vote' and 'a move to the left' by all the principle sponsors of the LSA, the SWP by far the largest numerically, being particularly prominent in the drum-beating.

Rather than continue to pretend they were both right then and right now, the only starting point for the Left as a whole is a 'lucid registration of defeat'. The Left has failed. Acknowledging mistakes is the only way of correcting them. Fascism has re-invented itself and socialism must do the same. Failure to do so, when 'left unity' is itself viable, will almost certainly guarantee that the repeat of the pattern of other countries in Europe is fulfilled. There, almost uniformly, the radical alternative is filled by the far-right rather than the far-left. The writing is on the wall.

CONS 2634
LSA 885


22nd June 2000

GRUNT! GRUNT! GRUNT! 'The only language they understand' ran the headline in The Mirror. Having himself been chased, Ben Brown writing in one of the Sunday qualities papers wondered if "these people are even human". Meanwhile Guardian pundit Martin Kelner (22.6.00) admitted to some 'unGuardian like thoughts': "what a shame the Belgian riot police were not equipped with real bullets, and second, can nothing be done to sop these people reproducing, should their appearance not be a sufficiently effective contraceptive." Old favourites like 'Neanderthals', 'brutish', 'witless' 'pot-bellied' 'ugly' etc, along side new entries such as 'human sewage', usually reserved by the right-wing press for asylum seekers also made an appearance. While the right-wing press consider all working class people in such terms, the liberal press seem to need to first sustain the accusation of 'racism' to give full vent to their hatred of the lower orders. An 'anti-racism' which is assumed to be the preserve of the middle classes fulfils this function perfectly; thus 'making it alright to hate the poor'.

Meanwhile in a genuinely witless Panorama programme on the same subject, the commentators seem to hint that "No Surrender to the IRA", was somehow as offensive as "I'd rather be a Paki than Turk". While the latter ditty offends two nations, the former has as I understand it been policy for successive British governments since sometime in 1916 and generally has offended only one.


13th June 2000

On June 1, an audit commission report entitled Another Country warned of the political dangers of a breakdown in the compulsary dispersal of asylum seekers. It highlighted in particular the £30 million shortfall between what local councils spent on supporting asylum seekers and what they have managed to reclaim from the government.

It urges urgent action on this including the possibility of a lottery cash injection. £30 million was after all what the government recently granted the Dome. In the meantime the report finds evidence of some doctors refusing to register asylum seekers because consulatations take three times longer, while some schools are resisting the acceptance the chidren of asylum seekers if they cannot provide language support.

The report also warns councils not to provide services to asylum seekers that are not available to other residents. It cites cases when asylum seekers were given money for furniture that was not avalaible to homeless people. In another case asylum seekers were provided with taxis to take them to new accomodation while local people had to use public transport. This appears to be a lesson the liberal left seems determined not to learn. Rather than take government to task for their failure to properly fund hard pressed councils they are eager to be seen championing the rights of the refugees over and above, and at the direct expense, as the report shows, of the host community. There is no awareness that even if the perception of preferential treatment that they and Guardian editorials demand was a myth it would still have to be sensitively addressed for fear of compounding working class alienation.

Instead of demanding not only adequate, but extra resources to help 'grease the wheels of local integration' the liberal left, with the SWP prominent, feel their time and money is better spent plastering run down estates with posters insisting 'Refugees wecome here'. 'You'll take it and like it' is the authoritarian message. A strategy that is determined to lay down welcome mats for the BNP in areas where till now they have had no resonance cannot be anti-fascist. No weasel words can disguise the fact that in the real world this is not anti-fascism but its opposite: not 'bravely confronting prejudice' but recklessly creating it.


Laura Friel
10th June 2000

Sinn Fein is "incapable of representing all the people" of Belfast city but Sammy Wilson of the DUP can? The Sammy Wilson who as Belfast Mayor in 1986 was caught wearing his chain of office at an Ulster Resistance rally at the Ulster Hall?

The same DUP councillor who proposed a resolution congratulating the UDA death squad who assassinated Sinn Fein Councillor Eddie Fullerton in 1991? Who described Sinn Fein voters as "sub human animals" and once declared "Taigs aren't ratepayers"?

The Ulster Unionists Party's decision to thwart Sinn Fein's hopes of electing their longest-serving city councillor, Alex Maskey, as mayor last week in favour of the DUP's Sammy Wilson was not simply an act of bare-faced hypocrisy, it was also blatantly sectarian.

The Ulster Unionist Party justified their vote by saying that Sinn Fein does not attract cross community support and is incapable of representing all the people of the city. Their comments sounded all the more hollow following the exemplary record of Sinn Fein's Marie Moore, who served as deputy mayor last year.

The Ulster Unionist Party also nominated a member of the loyalist Ulster Democratic Party, which is linked to the UDA, Frank McCoubrey, as deputy mayor. The UDA is currently engaged in a bloody feud with the UVF, the latest victim of which, Martin Taylor, was buried less than a week before the City Hall vote.

But this is not the first time the UUP have been involved in a sectarian head count at the City Hall. In 1994, Hugh Smyth of the Progressive Unionist Party, a party linked to the loyalist UVF, was elected as Belfast mayor with the support of the Ulster Unionist Party.

At the time of Smyth's election, the UVF were not on ceasefire and in 1994 they were engaged in a brutal sectarian killing campaign in which 25 people died and many more injured, almost all in random sectarian attacks.

The attacks included the brutal slaying of Margaret Wright, who was battered and shot to death in a loyalist drinking den in the mistaken belief she was a Catholic. Pensioner Roseanne Mallon, shot repeatedly in the back as she watched television in a relative's house in Tyrone. Two Catholic students, Gavin McShane and Shane McArdle, both 17 years of age were shot dead, six Catholic football fans were gunned down as they watched a match at a pub in Loughinisland, County Down and pregnant mother of five Kathleen O Hagan was killed in Tyrone.

The unionist benches at City Hall were packed to capacity for Thursday night's mayoral vote. UUP Assembly members Michael McGimpsey and Reg Empey, who also hold seats on Belfast City Council, rushed from meetings at Stormont to cast their votes for the anti-Agreement DUP and loyalist UDP candidates.

The bitter differences between the loyalist political groupings the PUP and UDP, fuelled by the current bloody feud being waged between the UVF and UDA, were momentarily suspended as PUP councillors voted in support of the UDP candidate for deputy mayor.

But it was still close. By a margin of 26 to 24, in a recorded vote, DUP councillor Sammy Wilson was elected mayor and UDP councillor Frank McCoubrey deputy mayor. The irony of Sammy Wilson, a bitter opponent of the new Assembly, securing the post courtesy of the pro-Agreement councillors of the UUP and PUP was lost in the rush to deny Sinn Fein the position.

Maskey's mayoral bid was further undermined by the absence through ill health of SDLP councillor Carmel Hanna and dissident Alliance councillor Danny Dow's defection following his party's decision to back Sinn Fein.

Afterwards, Sinn Fein councillor Alex Maskey described himself as "disappointed but not surprised". Unionists had collapsed the election of the city's mayor into a "sectarian headcount," he said, a view echoed by the SDLP and Alliance Party.

SDLP group leader Catherine Molloy labelled the election "a night of shame". The unionists had used the hard arithmetic of this election to take all the top positions for themselves, she said.

Alliance Party councillor David Alderdice described the position of the UUP as "sheer hypocrisy". They are not prepared to support Sinn Fein but they were prepared to vote for a candidate associated with the UDA and UFF, he said.

1994 was the year in which UUP councillors elected loyalist UVF representative Hugh Smyth as Belfast City mayor. The following were killed by the UVF in the same year:

Cormac McDermott (31) Catholic electrician, 27 Jan
Mark Sweeney (31) Catholic taxi driver, 3 Feb
Francis Brown (38) Catholic, 11 March
Margaret Wright (31) mistaken for a Catholic, 6 April
Ian Hamilton (21) 12 April
James Browne (48) Catholic newsagent, 28 April
Roseanne Mallon (76) Catholic pensioner, 8 May
Eamon Fox (44) Catholic electrician, 17 May
Gary Convie (24) Catholic builder, 17 May
Gavin McShane (17) Catholic student 18 May
Shane McArdle (17) Catholic student 18 May
Martin Doherty (35) IRA Volunteer, 21 May
Maurice O Kane (50) Catholic shipyard worker, 9 June
Gerard Brady (27) Catholic taxi driver, 17 June
Cecil Dougherty (30) mistaken as Catholic, 17 June
William Corrigan (32) mistaken as Catholic, 10 July
Adrian Rogan (24) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June
Daniel McCreanor (59) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June
Eamon Byrne (39) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June
Patrick O Hare (35) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June
Barney Green (87) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June
Malcolm Jenkinson (53) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June
David Thompson (48) Protestant, 5 August
Kathleen O Hagan (38) Catholic, 7 August
Sean MacDermot (37) Catholic builder, 31 Aug

Among the outrageous comments made by the new 'acceptable' mayor of Belfast, Sammy Wilson, are the following:

"Irish is a leprechaun language." Irish News, 3 Nov 1987

"Leadbelly." Sunday World 17 January 1988. A comment about fellow Belfast councillor Alex Maskey after he was shot in the stomach by a loyalist death squad

"Our message to the perverts who voted for them [Sinn Fein] is that they will not get anything through this council." Andersonstown News 5 March 1988

"I have no regret that someone openly identified with terrorist organisations and activities meets his death the same way."Irish Times 24 Sept 1988 after the loyalist killing of Gerard Slane.

"The GAA is the sporting wing of the IRA,"Irish News 6 Sept 1989

"Would this council be prepared to congratulate all those who have done a good job on two sides of the border." Sunday World 15 June 1991 reference to the loyalist murder of Sinn Fein Donegal councillor Eddie Fullerton

"5,000 sub human animals." News Letter 3 Sept 1991 voters who returned Joe Austin to City Hall

"They are poofs. I don't care if they are ratepayers. As far as I am concerned they are perverts." Daily Express 1 June 1992 after gay rights activists had requested the use of City Hall

"Taigs don't pay rates." Irish Times 12 January 2000

Reproduced from
Irish Republican News and Information


June 9th 2000

As militant anti-fascists in Britain we welcome the recent comments from Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, in relation to the asylum issue in Ireland. Speaking at a meeting in Ireland on 17th May, he said: “Not only has the [Irish] government failed to address the needs and rights of refugees and asylum seekers, it has also ignored the needs and rights of urban and rural communities. Communities have a right to be consulted and to expect adequate resources and supports. But communities also have obligations and responsibilities as human beings.” He added that “racism does not grow by accident. Everywhere it has taken hold it is because unscrupulous people in politics and other spheres of society have nurtured it for their own cynical interests.”

These comments are just as accurate in relation to the situation in Britain. A failure to demand adequate resources along with the rights of refugees can only, as in many communities in Britain, pit the most wretched against the most disadvantaged. For liberals and professional anti-racists to then ‘take sides’ on the issue of resources without addressing the £30 million shortfall by the New Labour government in recompensing local authorities compounds the problem. A fourfold increase in support for the Far Right in the May elections in London and a doubling of race attacks are some of the consequences.

To our knowledge the Sinn Fein president is the first political leader to promote an anti-racist strategy that is not perceived to be anti-working class, and through that has hopefully helped move anti-racist thinking from the purely moral to the strategic. If so it will prove to be a timely intervention.

Reproduced from
Anti-Fascist Action


The following two articles appeared in the traditionally right wing Daily Telegraph on 23rd May '00.

Insofar as they provide an autopsy on multiculturalism both articles echo arguments made many times in the RA Bulletin (see Race And Class section).

However neither offers any practical way forward beyond the vague notion that now multiculturalism is discredited we can all begin to come together to create a new national identity. No mention is made of the ever-increasing divide between the classes in Britain.

The idea that all parts of society, from the poorest working class estates, abandoned politically, and plagued by anti-social crime, to the safest, most affluent sections of the middle classes can now unite culturally in a 'shared sense of Britishness' is as doomed to failure as the multiculturalism it is supposed to replace.


Rachel Sylvester
23rd May 2000

THE Commission for Racial Equality should be scrapped because multiculturalism has failed, according to a report by the Foreign Policy Centre, a think tank whose patron is Tony Blair.

The author, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, argues that black and Asian people should no longer be treated as a distinct group with different rights from others. She calls for the CRE to be subsumed into a new Human Rights Commission, representing all sections of British society. "No group has special privileges, but no groups can claim special dispensations and opt-outs either," she says.

The Church of England should be disestablished, state funding for religious schools removed and blasphemy laws scrapped to create a level playing field for different faiths, the report concludes. Ethnic quotas and monitoring, such as those at the civil service and the BBC, should be phased out.

The report, After Multiculturalism, will prompt debate among ministers who have been struggling with the race issue in the light of the Macpherson report and the row over asylum seekers. It argues that attitudes adopted by Seventies liberals are harming the very people that they are meant to help. Research among young people from different ethnic groups found that almost all thought that the principles of multiculturalism were "divisive" and "old fashioned".

The report says certain groups seem to have an "immunity from criticism" and calls for an end to the "victim culture" prevalent among some communities. "The multicultural mindset and ideology has reached the end of its useful life. It is the moment to dispense with these ways of thinking."

In an article in The Telegraph today, Ms Alibhai-Brown says multiculturalism "risks building barriers between the different tribes that make up Britain" rather than uniting the country. She says broadcasters should spend less time thinking about "the colour of the people on our screens reading [the news]" and more on "what is in the news".

Teachers come under fire for using "an education of redress" in the classroom. "Home cultures of black and Asian children are revered and those of white children ignored." Instead, schools should extend the appeal of Shakespeare to black children and tell white children that Benjamin Zephaniah is part of their heritage too.


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
23rd May 2000

NOTHING is for ever. Progressive ideas that are right, bright and appropriate at one historical moment can, in time, fade and decay or become defensive in the face of further progress. I believe this is what is happening to policies promoting British multiculturalism today. We urgently need ties that bind - and multiculturalism isn't delivering them. It risks building barriers between the different tribes that make up Britain today, rather than helping to create a new shared sense of Britishness.

Few would deny there has been progress on race relations in recent years, but racism continues to blight many lives. I feel profoundly British, but experience has taught me to put a bucket of water under the letterbox when I go to bed and, just last week, a London cabbie refused to let me into his taxi because of the colour of my skin. I have fought against racism for three decades, and will always support uncompromising action against overt and hidden discrimination. However, our multicultural policies, with the emphasis on ethnic monitoring and on special provision for black and Asian communities seem increasingly divisive and irrelevant to a new generation of young people, and are out of touch with the way our world has moved on.

We do not have the optimistic and integrated society we all hoped for. It is not just Scottish and Welsh nationalism that threaten British identity. In these post-devolutionary times, multiculturalism is pitting all communities against each other. People who used to think of themselves as black are now retreating into tribal identities - demanding attention and resources for their particular patch. White people have no stake in multiculturalism, either - it is seen as something that black people do. The English are understandably disgruntled that their ethnicity is denied while all other identities - Welsh, Scottish, Hindu, Caribbean and the rest - are celebrated. Young white kids celebrate Diwali in schools without any sense of how it links to their own identity.

The cloak of multiculturalism has been worn by those with no interest in integration. Treating black people differently has enabled white institutions to carry on as if nothing substantive has changed since the arrival of the Windrush from the West Indies. As long as "ethnic minorities" were given some money and space to play marbles in the ghetto, nothing else needed to happen. Whether you look at the BBC or the top FTSE companies, the multicultural answer has failed to transform anything very much. Talking to the teenagers who have grown up with multiculturalism, I found that many young people - black, Asian, white and mixed race - are impatient with the whole ideology. They reject the traditional categories which multiculturalism tries to shoehorn them into.

Their notions of diversity go way beyond a love of curry. Although most feel connected to the values of their parents to some extent, their identities are changing in unpredictable ways. Young white men absorbing urban black ways of life (Ali G is really out there), and young Asian girls refusing forced marriages, show how cultures cannot remain static or settled whatever purists may wish. A young black man said, simply: "I think this kind of thinking is for sad old people." A young Asian man was equally scathing: "Multiculturalism is a boring word. It is grey and small and domestic. It does not include Europeans. It does not include internationalism. It is like an old cardigan knitted out of different coloured scraps of wool."

Others felt that multiculturalism merely has pernicious effects. Some community leaders use it to justify human rights abuses in their own backyard. Police and social workers are often reluctant to intervene where they suspect domestic violence, in case they are accused of racism. An Asian girl I interviewed said she was "treated like a Paki" both by white people and by her own family who forced her to marry a man who then repeatedly raped her. She said: "Their multiculturalism is just a cover. Some Asians use this to hide what they are doing to the girls in the community. Leaders and politicians let them get away with it." So, whose multiculturalism is it, anyway?

The out-of-date term "ethnic minorities" is an obstacle to integration. It is based on the ludicrous assumption that there was once a large, homogeneous, white "majority" surrounded by "ethnic minorities" who were just too strange for words. These measures are even less defensible in a complex, diverse society grappling with devolution, globalisation and integration into Europe, American domination, collapsing values and fragmentation at every level.

My criticisms - which are outlined in After Multiculturalism, published this week - have nothing in common with the views of those who resent these policies because they regard this as a white Christian country that must resist diversity. More than ever we need a national conversation about our collective identity. We need to concentrate our energies on the ties that bind us and use this to create a new British identity. Diversity is an inescapable condition of modern life and respect for this is essential. That respect will have to apply to everyone, black and white. But respect for different ways of life cannot be allowed to destroy any sense that we live in the same country.

Once multiculturalism has been laid to rest, we can concentrate on developing a strong, diverse British identity rather than retreating into ever-smaller tribes.

After Multiculturalism (£10.95 including p&p) is published by The Foreign Policy Centre ( To order, call Central Books 020 8986 5488