Council leader hits back at suggestion of far-right growth in Barking and Dagenham

Barking and Dagenham is not a breeding ground of the far right, says the council leader.

A charity report claimed the East London borough could see a rise in extreme and racist right wing politics following the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Hope Not Hate said that 52 local authorities in the UK that have seen their economies hit hard by coronavirus were likely  to see a breakdown in social cohesion and the growth of far-right groups.

However, leader of Barking and Dagenham Council Darren Rodwell strongly rejected this suggestion, arguing that the borough had built links between communities in recent years.

In 2006, Barking and Dagenham elected 12 members of the British National Party to the local council – one fifth of all the BNP’s council seats in the UK.

At the next local elections in 2010, all 12 BNP councillors lost their seats.

Darren Rodwell argued that the borough had moved on from electing far-right officials, despite Hope not Hate’s claims that economic difficulty would create an environment for extremism.

He said: “We have our own history of defeating far-right extremism in Barking and Dagenham, including Nick Griffin and the BNP in 2010.

“We learned some important lessons which we have since put into action.

“Like other areas up and down the country we may face challenges, but bringing the community together is not one of them.”

Hope not Hate emphasised that the growth of far-right politics in the 52 area of the UK was not guaranteed, but that it was increasingly likely in places experiencing “significant” impact from COVID-19.

The charity said that these areas, including Barking and Dagenham, also had: “More hostile than average attitudes to migration and multiculturalism among parts of the local population.”

It added, however: “This does not mean they will automatically be susceptible to far right overtures.”

Alastair Lockhart

Local Democracy Reporter