A nasty Tory election leaflet has rightly been attacked for presenting a surreptitiously racist message, using what is known as ‘dog whistle’ politics to get across its unsavoury message.
The flyer, printed in various editions to cover a number of wards, has been dished out to residents by Tory candidates in the rundown outer-east constituency of Romford for the forthcoming council elections in the London Borough of Havering (LBH).
All the various editions of the leaflet start with the banner heading: “Havering in Danger!” What can this shocking news mean?
Well, the leaflet goes on to tell us how, under Labour, “Romford will increasingly become like an inner city area…”
Labour must be stopped because a win for them on 3rd May would apparently mean (and I quote):
- Massive population increases from London
- High rise blocks of flats
- A London crime wave
- Havering ruled by Mayor Khan (!)
- Havering resembling boroughs like Hackney, Newham, Camden and Barking, rather than a traditional part of Essex!
All blood-curdling stuff designed to send a clear message: a Labour victory would result in inner city crime, population rises, high rise blocks, and - of course - a similarity to those London boroughs that just happen to have a large ethnic population.
Just in case you haven’t got the hint, the leaflet ends by calling for a Tory vote to preserve our “traditional” Romford. The area, they say, must be kept “special” - i.e. white. In many ways, the leaflet is all too similar to the sort of openly-racist propaganda we saw from the Tories in the 1960s.
The Nasty Party
Although local Tories have denied that the leaflet is racist, national Tories have realised that nobody will believe this. Conservative HQ have tried to distance the national party from the leaflets. This despite revelations that Boris Johnson, no less, turned up last December to the launch of the Tory campaign in Romford town centre.
“This leaflet is disgraceful,” said Nicholas Boles, Tory MP for Grantham and Sleaford. “We cannot attack Corbyn for indulging anti-Semitism in Labour and allow messages like this to go unchallenged.”
The Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis has been called on to take action. Unfortunately for him, it now appears that the party’s campaign headquarters saw the leaflet draft and gave it the OK to be issued.
This leaflet has just served to expose the hypocrisy and double-standards of the Tories. No wonder the editorial of the London Evening Standard (editor: former Tory chancellor, George Osborne) has demanded that those involved in the “thinly disguised” racist leaflet be suspended and the leaflet publicly denounced by Tory high command.
The editorial warns that if this is not done then it will become all too clear that “...their recent fury with Mr Corbyn is less about principle than political convenience.”
This is already all too clear. Like the Blairites, the Tory leaders certainly see the anti-Semitism hysteria currently being whipped up inside Labour as little more than a cynical device to attack Corbyn with.
Stirring up hatred
Of course, this is not the first such leaflet to be vomited out by the Romford Tories. Both the party and its ultra-right wing MP in Romford, Andrew Rosindell, routinely dish out such stuff. Rosindell’s garbage newsletters regularly feature endless rants about Europe (of course), Sadiq Khan, “inner city” London, and his desire for Romford to be part of Essex rather than the capital city.
All this is usually backed up by pictures of The Queen, Saint George, the Union Jack, Margaret Thatcher (naturally) and - for good measure - a British Bulldog. In fact, Rosindell’s “Romford nationalism” has become something of a joke even at Westminster, where he is now kept firmly on the backbenches.
This constant stirring up of hatred could have serious consequences, however, given that the migrant and ethnic population of the constituency has risen in recent years.
Rosindell now controls the local Tories, a group which has had more than its fair share of coups, plots, punch ups, splits (including a mass defection to UKIP some years ago) and purges over the last few decades.
The Tories on Havering council have been operating as a minority administration since 2014, when they lost seats to UKIP and a motley selection of so-called residents groups.
You might have thought that, given the collapse of UKIP, the Havering Tories would be looking to gain seats in May. However, although the 2017 general election did indeed see a collapse in the UKIP vote, the rise in votes for the Tory candidates was nowhere near as much as that picked up by Labour. The alarms bells have been ringing at Romford HQ.
In addition, there has been a clear and growing dissatisfaction with the “do nothing” Tories in the town hall. The authority has been run into the ground, with services cut to the bone or withdrawn altogether. Ironically, given the leaflet, some LBH functions have been outsourced to the “inner city” London Borough of Newham to save money.
Kick out the Tories
Across London there is a growing anger over Tory councils who do nothing for the people, but who merrily line up to claim their huge expenses each month. In Havering, the high level of expenses and salaries paid out to its members (on top of all the other ‘perks’) has become something of a scandal. All these ladies and gentlemen seem to do is sit in meetings to vote through cuts, before staggering from one merry junket to another.
In Romford they are playing the race card because they have nothing else to offer. It is a desperate attempt to keep their well-paid jobs. All they can now promise is to keep the assorted flags flying outside the town hall - a particular obsession of the local Tories it seems.
The voters in May should deliver a fatal blow against these types, both in Romford and across the country, in the various local elections taking place.
The swing to Labour in 2017 in areas like Romford shows the growing support for Corbyn and for radical policies. Those Labour candidates elected or re-elected on 3rd May must reflect that mood, break with the Tory-lite approach that has infested Labour councils like Haringey in recent times, and carry out a bold socialist programme that defends public services and jobs.
Only in this way can places like Romford become ‘special’ and reflect the real traditional mood of struggle amongst the working class.