Labour's `joke' may backfire

ACCORDING to one of Labour's most influential figures, the party has so alienated traditional white working class supporters that there is a real danger that the far right British National Party will flourish at the ballot box in next month's local elections, especially in parts of London's east end.

ACCORDING to one of Labour's most influential figures, the party has so alienated traditional white working class supporters that there is a real danger that the far right British National Party will flourish at the ballot box in next month's local elections, especially in parts of London's east end.

Margaret Hodge, former leader of Islington borough council and now MP for Barking and minister of state in the work and pensions department, knows the politics of the back streets of the capital like the back of her hand.

She's hit out at the metropolitan elite in suits which now runs Labour, saying the party has no one else to blame but itself over the negligent way it has allowed the BNP to build up such impressive support in areas such as Tower Hamlets, Dagenham & Barking, and Hackney.

Labour has totally ignored the plight of poor whites, hitherto unthinkable as anything other than Labour voters. This is what one young man from central Dagenham had to say to the Press Association: “Half the world is getting dumped round here. I'm a retailer. I work 50 to 60 hours a week. I'm working my guts out. And I see people from nowhere getting a Mercedes cheap. I live here and I don't want this.


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“My daughter was ill and it took us ten days to get to see my GP. People come in from Eastern Europe and get seen straight up.”

The liberal classes and commentators in Labour's ranks will no doubt be shaking their heads in anguish at what they would regard as racist comments by white trash. But many more voters will be nodding in agreement - while Mrs Hodge herself says that the previous shame people felt in voting BNP has now been replaced with pride in her constituency.

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There's not much to be gained by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in east London or urban Lancashire and West Yorkshire. They count for nothing in those parts, which means voters who believe Labour's policies have turned them into third class citizens at the bottom of a multi cultural heap are likely to turn to the BNP.

The response from the Labour spin machine? Silence.

Instead they've expended time, energy - and no doubt much of the money loaned to them - on a personal attack on Conservative leader David Cameron, producing a cartoon character called Dave the Chameleon.

“This image shows exactly what David Cameron represents - a political chameleon who says whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear,” preened Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott on Tuesday when Labour's onslaught on the Tories was launched.”

A party political broadcast lampooned Mr Cameron for telling red Labour supporters he was the “heir to Blair”, and the yellow Lib Dems he was “a liberal Conservative.” It mocks his bicycle-riding green credentials. “But underneath it all he is still true blue, through and through.”

Local government minister Phil Woolas defended the broadcast. Asked why the party had chosen to make a hostile personal attack on Mr Cameron he said: “Well, it is funny.”

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett, joining in what soon became a boring and very unfunny theme, accused Dave the Chameleon of changing to green. “Last year, David Cameron voted against the Cleaner Neighbourhoods and Environment Act during its passage through Parliament.

“Now he says cleaning up litter, fighting noise pollution and making parks and public spaces beautiful are all on our agenda.”

Labour revealed it would use the chameleon relentlessly even after polling day. There'll be mobile phone ring tones, pod casts, downloads for i-Pods, and a special website www.davethechameleon.com.

Start yawning now.

Meanwhile, the BNP is mopping up some of the disaffected, which means Labour is set for a thumping all over England on May 4, and not just from the Tory chameleon and Lib Dems.

It will be interesting to hear what excuses are written for Mr Prescott, Mrs Beckett and Mr Woolas when they have to explain on May 5 the loss of Labour councillors to the BNP.

SIR ALAN'S BIT OF AGGRO WITH THE BEAST

DEPUTY Commons Speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst - Conservative MP for Saffron Walden - yesterday accused Labour left winger Dennis Skinner of being “grossly offensive” and then threw him out of the Commons for saying he was biased towards Tories during questions.

The row erupted after Shadow Commons leader Theresa May suggested the Prime Minister had “misled” the House over claims about the NHS. Commons Leader Geoff Hoon retorted: “I am sure you did not intend to say that the Prime Minister had misled the House.

“I am sure you put that in a way that you would, with the benefit of slightly more mature thought, recognise that that was not an appropriate observation to make,” adding: “I am certainly willing to allow you to correct the record if you wish to do so.''

Sir Alan rose to tell MPs that he would have intervened if he thought an “entirely improper” remark had been made. “I judged it in the context in which it was said. She had not suggested there had been a deliberate misleading.”

Mr Skinner shouted from a sedentary position: “She was let off because she's a Tory.” As MPs shouted in disapproval, Sir Alan said: “That is a grossly offensive and misleading remark on the part of the Honourable Member and I would wish that you would withdraw it.”

As Mr Skinner remained silent, Sir Alan continued: “If you are challenging the Chair, the Chair has certain powers which it would not hesitate to use. Are you prepared to apologise?”

As Mr Skinner - known as the Beast of Bolsover again suggested there were different rules for Tories, Sir Alan named him, which is the traditional way of ejecting an unruly MP.

But Mr Skinner immediately left the Chamber, avoiding a formal motion to suspend him. Sir Alan then remarked: “The Honourable Member has taken the easier way out.”

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