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Hodge is playing with fire

Margaret Hodge has clearly decided to fight fire with fire, in her personal battle against the BNP’s Nick Griffin, as she calls for a “benefit ban” on migrants. But this is a game where everyone gets burnt.

Sky News reports on Hodge’s article in today’s Daily Mail:

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge claims the needs of those who have lived in Britain longer should come first, with immigrants having to ‘earn’ benefits.

“In the same way that we feel comfortable in talking about cracking down on people playing the system, we should also feel comfortable in talking about prioritizing the needs of people who have lived in an area all of their lives,” she said.

We reported in November that is was vitally important Hodge got her strategy right when fighting the BNP, and that meant no pandering to the far right.

Such hopes now look forlorn, as the net effects of her article will be to reinforce the views and sentiments of Griffin, thereby strengthening his hand.

For instance Hodge writes: “People believe rightly or wrongly that others are getting the housing before they do. The result is people feel resentful about what they see as an injustice in the system and the BNP and other right wing parties seek to turn this resentment into popular support for them.”

The answer to this question – as anti-fascist activists have noted for years – is to combat the myths with facts and reality which prove that immigrants are not jumping the housing queue over the white working class.

This strategy takes a little time, not least because it requires overcoming the credibility deficit mainstream parties have in places like Barking and Dagenham. But truth will win through in the end, especially if allied to creating a greater connection between the authorities and the people more generally.

Hodge knows that the inevitable “benefit ban” headlines will overlook the nuances in her article. As an experienced politician, she must have intended this.

But it is a dangerous game that risks not only backfiring on her personally, but risks feeding the BNP all over the country.

By Lester Holloway

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