Martin Bright

Should John Denham Shut Up About the Extreme Right?

Should John Denham Shut Up About the Extreme Right?
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It's the perennial problem: platform or no platform, anti-Nazi campaign versus no oxygen of publicity. You'd have thought we'd have sorted this one out by now. I agree with David Blackburn that John Denham's comments comparing the English Defence League to Mosley's Black Shirts risk overstating the significance of this "organisation". It is always tempting to make a historical fascist comparison and they rarely work. The Communities and Local Government Secretary should probably have resisted.

Denham may have been clumsy in this instance, but he is at least recognising that a strategy needs to be developed in response this particular historical instance of the rise of the extreme right. The Labour Party, with the exception of Jon Cruddas, was very slow on the uptake -- initially because the British National Party was no threat to its marginals. But that's pretty appalling when you come to think about it. Because the resurgent far right was strongest in Labour's safe seats it was felt there was no urgent need for concern. 

My real concern here is that talk of rising tension between Muslims and the white working class becomes self-fulfilling. The rise of al-Qaeda, the bombing of civilian targets by extremists and the emergence of home-grown networks of terrorists has not led to retaliatory attacks and long may that continue. 

But that doesn't mean the situation isn't serious. There are extremists within the Muslim community and the white working class who would like nothing more than a conflagration.