Thursday, 6 June 2013

Hope not Hate's 'consultation' on UKIP

Following on from Hope not Hate's sparsely attended meeting a couple of nights ago in Warrington, it is clear that despite a 'public consultation' supposedly in progress, the outcome is already decided.

I shall leave aside for now the failure of Hope not Hate to publish the dates of their 'consultation meetings' across the country - on the 18th May, there were 50 planned with dates to be announced 'early next week', and yet 3 weeks later there is still no sign of a preliminary announcement, nor of their 'Stand up for HOPE' campaign which was supposed to convince wavering supporters that UKIP was somehow a suitable target for HnH.

A quick look through the 'News Blog' of the Hope not Hate website produces some interesting figures. Given the events of May - specifically the killing of Lee Rigby in Woolwich - since the beginning of that month there have been 105 'news' postings. 57 of them involve the EDL, the BNP, Drummer Rigby and the threat to mosques, while 48 focus on important UKIP news, such as Nigel Farages son being arrested and UKIP MEP John Buftons announced retirement.

It is interesting to note that, at a time of heightened racial tensions, Hope not Hate's statement on the Woolwich murder requires a Google search to find, while prominently displayed on the front page of their website is a condemnation of the arson attacks in North London which is couched in far stronger terms than their wishy-washy approach to the murder. Despite Al Muhijaroun being one of the 'hate groups' that they claim to target, there is no condemnation of Anjem Choudhary's inflammatory statements.

And this brings us to the root of Hope not Hate's problems. The BNP and EDL have largely been beaten: not by Hope not Hate, but by UKIP at the ballot box. The relatively small numbers who turned out for the EDL in recent weeks, and the complete irrelevance of the BNP who found themselves unable to capitalise on recent events have left two organisations devoted to their destruction with nothing to do. UAF accounts are notoriously difficult to come by, but Hope not Hate file theirs with Companies House. Their donations and sponsorship have fallen since 2010, when they declared a spend of over £309,000 as a 'third party' during the General Election campaign and in which year they had a turnover of around £450,000. When added to the income from what was previously the Searchlight Educational Trust Ltd, that is a pretty tidy chunk of change, and brings disproportionate political clout to the individual who wields it, in this case Nick Lowles.

With the far-right fractured into myriad splinter groups and competing factions, it is difficult to justify continued financial support for Hope not Hate at the levels it has seen over the past few years. Its self-proclaimed victory over the fascists has left it with dwindling resources and no enemy to fight. The UAF have turned back into the bully boys they have always been: unwashed college failures in army surplus clothing, a rabble of the lost adopting the methods of the skinheads they profess to despise.

For Lowles - the sole shareholder of Hope not Hate Ltd, the problem is tougher. A series of failed initiatives such as 'Britain Tastes Great' have depleted his resources and proved that without the bogeyman of racism in British politics, even the Daily Mirror is not much interested in an organisation which has become irrelevant. Lowles only hope - and in this he is aided by the Labour Party, which has belatedly awoken to the threat UKIP poses to the support it has long taken for granted - is to demonise UKIP, and create a paper tiger against which he can rail.

Of course, to achieve this requires considerable hypocrisy. News items attacking UKIP councillors for opposing an expensive 'right to buy' scheme could hardly be considered to fall within Hope not Hate's core aims, and neither could critiques of UKIP education policy. It also has required a volte-face over the past few years: under the Gables, Hope not Hate fulfilled its mission by working with UKIP to keep racists out, something Lowles put a stop to.

With UKIP polling over 20% in some polls, Lowles is walking a fine line. Many within UKIP would support a genuinely anti-racist organisation, but by attacking UKIP - for things which all parties and none suffer from - he risks alienating a significant portion of his own support, particularly in the North. The signs of this were there in the Warrington meeting earlier this week, and it is not difficult to imagine a significant drop in activist participation if Lowles continues to use Hope not Hate's anti-fascist credentials for blatant party political purposes.

The reality is that Hope not Hate has only one course of action open to it: to scale down its operations in line with the demise of the far-right, and to bide its time lest the BNP ever gets its act together. Sadly, the obvious is the one course of action Lowles is unlikely to follow: he has got used to being listened to, and is now unable to accept that he is as irrelevant as the BNP.

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