Wednesday, 1 December 2010


She was spat on. She was intimidated and threatened. Director Laura Fairrie bares her battle scars from charting The Battle for Barking, a documentary offering intimate insight into the belligerent general election campaigns of Labour and the BNP

You wouldn’t think the British National Party would give, of all people, a middle class woman privileged access to its shrouded party machine and leader. But that’s exactly what they did with film-maker Laura Fairrie in the run up to the general election. And the results are extraordinary.

Before their dismal performance in May, there was a very real fear that the BNP would prize the constituency of Barking – previously a Labour safe seat – from Margaret Hodge. There was reason to believe so; the BNP had twelve councillors in Barking and Dagenham. And under Griffin’s leadership, as he never fails to mention, the BNP had acquired a Jewish councillor and Black and Asian support, lending shaky credence to his self-styled title of moderniser.

That does little to detract from the BNP’s common conception as a band of thuggish suits in boots, an assumption Fairrie now takes issue with: “When I first started trying to get access to the BNP I had all these preconceptions about them as well, but I really wanted to go in with an open mind. What I found was this group of misfits that just were so alienated and cut off from society, who found this place to belong in the BNP, or the ‘BNP family’ as they’d call it. A lot of them were ex-Labour voters. A lot of them weren’t necessarily racist. They were just so fed up and confused. Of course there’s racism in the BNP, and of course here are some horrible characters, but there’s reason behind that racism, and they’re not all evil monsters.”

There are some who would have trouble digesting that; who would take offence with it even. “People thought I was awful for it. It became a real struggle with my own conscience. A lot of people were really critical of me for finding people who didn’t fit into the BNP stereotype. But like everything in life, it’s not just simply black and white. I was trying to be fair and non-judgmental. I was trying to give both sides a fair voice.”

Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time courted controversy for giving the BNP a legitimate platform; despite his performance being critically panned, the BNP claimed that it quickly resulted in 3,000 people registering to sign up as party members. So does giving the BNP “a voice” do their recruitment for them? “Look, a lot of people get angry with me for having made this film, but I think you can actually make more progress by giving them a voice. If you treat the BNP as monsters that must be ignored and just bashed on the head, it reconfirms their sense of being outsiders, of the establishment being against them. If you treat them properly, then suddenly they have to look at what it is they’re saying, and they have to be responsible for their actions.”

Surely it must have been difficult trying to allay their fears and breach that deep-seated mistrust. “It was a constant process of negotiation with the BNP. They let me in, but I constantly had to persuade them that I wasn’t secretly filming and that I wasn’t going to stitch them up. When they were out walking the streets, leafleting six hours a day in the freezing cold, I was there with them. They saw that I wasn’t just coming in as a journalist to grab a few soundbytes and run off. But they still didn’t trust me, right up until the end. Especially as a woman, I think. They just couldn’t work out what the hell I was doing there as a woman on my own with a camera. Even now I hear from some of them saying that their expectations are low, that they’ll be made to look like evil idiots.”

Have any of them seen it? What did Nick Griffin make of it? “I’ve tried to show it to Nick Griffin. They all made such a big fuss the whole time I was making the film. I was intimidated, threatened even, and I’ve since not been able to show it to any of them. Maybe they just don’t want to relive an awful, awful result and a complete humiliation.”

Despite a year of increased national exposure, the BNP suffered a crushing defeat, finishing third behind Hodge and the Conservatives. “They didn’t stand a chance. They were so disorganised. The media were building them up as this viable threat, but that wasn’t what I was seeing. They were just going around with their photocopied leaflets, shoving them through doors. That was the extent of their campaign.”

No one can forget Bob Bailey’s scuffle with some Asian youths while canvassing. Was it not frightening filming alone – Laura didn’t have a film crew – when there was a constant threat of violent confrontation? “I did feel vulnerable and scared on my own. Without money it’s very difficult to get people to commit people to a year’s work. I had a tiny budget. I can’t really say how much because I think my executive producer would be embarrassed! Many people assumed I was BNP. I was even spat on. Sometimes going home on the tube I would think “what the fuck am I doing? I’ve got two young kids.” There were times when I just didn’t feel safe, especially when I was out with Nick Griffin walking the streets. There was a real sense that someone would come and kill him. Cars would drive by slowly, and they’d drive off, and then another would drive up really close.”

Was her access to Griffin – whether canvassing or in the café – predicated on her skin colour? “I thought that maybe it did help a bit, but then they were so keen to prove that they weren’t racist. During the election, BBC Panorama sent a TV crew with a black cameraman. The BNP were so lovely and friendly and welcoming to him. Nick Griffin went out of his way to be nice to him, and they’d all given me such a hard time for months and months. So it’s difficult to say…”

Laura tells me that some people feel the BNP come off better than the Labour Party in the film. Does she feel the camera inhibited their honesty? “I was there so much with the BNP, and they got so used to me being around, that often they’d forget I was there. So there is a lot of honesty in the film. Having said that, Nick Griffin is incredibly calculating and incredibly careful. So I didn’t get the Holocaust denial moment or whatever else it is that people are hoping to get out of this!”

What does Margaret Hodge make of it? “She’s disappointed. It’s not the film she wanted. She wanted something that was going to show all the brilliant work she was doing in Barking to reconnect with the white working class vote, something that would show what monsters the BNP are. But once Nick Griffin announced he was standing, she wobbled a bit and for a while she wasn’t so keen for me to make the film. It became quite difficult because I started moving between both sides. One day I’d be in the Labour Barking office, and the next I’d be in the back of a BNP van. But to her credit she allowed me to carry on making it even in the times she was terrified, when she thought she would lose.”

The BNP ran a dirty campaign against Hodge in Barking, calling her ‘Margaret the Egyptian Hodge’ because she was born in Egypt, before coming to Britain with her Jewish parents, who were fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria. What about Labour’s campaign? “I very much had the sense that Labour was playing just as dirty a game as the BNP. Margaret’s whole thing on the doorstep was: “the BNP are Nazi fascists. You either vote for me or the Nazis.” And that’s demonising and calling everyone who wants to vote for the BNP in her community a fascist. Well there are reasons they are voting for the BNP – they’ve been so let down by the Labour Party. They’ve been left to rot in revolting tower blocks for seventeen years without a chance of being moved, with no one to listen to them.”


I think we as a party came across very well. At least it should have nailed the lie that the BNP are a bunch of neo-nazi skinheads.

All I saw were people who are trying to save our country and its people from the direct and indirect Anti-White racism that the foreigners already here show to the Indigenous British, with racist comments aimed at the BNP such as "WHITE C***S F***K O** before you get Blown away or words to that effect, from an immigrant to the BNP in the first 5 or 10 minutes of the programme.

Good to see that Hodge, who said she was trying to reconnect with the White Working Class vote, didn't bother and went to the Islamists and african voters to mobilise their vote.


Andyj said...

I couldn't bring myself to seeing it.
The favourite trick with most of these camera crews is importing some violent, errant commie to add to the drama.

Maybe after the Woolass case, the BNP can bite back on a level playing field.

The problem with the younger generation is they have no idea what this country was like before Blair :(

Lanky Patriot said...

Well the Lib Dems complained about Woolas and his lies.
What about Hodge telling the blacks we would throw them out of planes?, a complete lie and she knew it.
But as my uncle used to say, "a bad deal is better than a good law suit"
Basically we can't afford it.

Silly Kuffar said...

If we have proof positive of lying, which we have, then we should prosecute, the losers pay the victors costs.