Sunday, 25 October 2009

Smeato set to steal BNP's thunder?

It looks like Nick Griffin's attempt to sanitise the BNP's public image has cut little ice with the party's candidate in the Glasgow North East by-election. In today's Scotland on Sunday a news article entitled 'BNP man's racist vow' states that Charlie Baillie thinks the party should continue to be white-only, because there are too many organisations for "brown, black, yellow and Muslim people". This puts him at odds with leader Griffin, who has vowed to change the party's constitution, which currently falls foul of the relevant law due to discrimination on grounds of race or religion.

And in an analysis of the party's campaign in the by-election, Eddie Barnes uncovers the BNP candidate's stance on the big issue:
Baillie goes on to spell out his hardline and somewhat eccentric take on immigration. "The only people, I will tell you sir, the only people that Britain should take in as refugees, as asylum seekers, are persons from the nearest two countries, which are France and Ireland."

Everyone else should stick with their own neighbours, he declares. So, if someone arrives on these shores from Zimbabwe, having been tortured, and who tells the authorities they will be killed if they are turned away, our response should be to tell him we're full up? "Yes," Baillie says immediately. "They have neighbouring countries where they can go to." The BNP could easily be re-named the NMP – the Not My Problem party. This, it seems, is the "truce" that Griffin had laid out on Thursday night. West and East, North and South should remain apart; Christian from Muslim, rich from poor. "We would give them foreign aid on the condition that they would remain in their own country," adds Baillie – the humane side of the BNP's compact.

Leaving aside the fact that Mr Baillie's views on immigration - as opposed to asylum - aren't really made clear, it's interesting to compare this with another by-election analysis, this time by Allan Brown in the Sunday Times. This takes a wider look at the contest, but is dominated by an examination of the campaign of independent candidate John Smeaton, "the amenable but unlettered folk hero of the 2007 Glasgow airport attack". But perhaps the most interesting passage is this:
Smeaton, as far as many in Glasgow North East seems to be concerned, laid into one of “them”, a foreigner, a Muslim, a sponging, treacherous incomer. In the Alive and Kicking centre this fact alone seems to accord him a gold star: “I collect my pension every Thursday and the post office is queued out with Africans and Asians and God knows who, stuffing their pockets with notes,” says one of the centre’s tea dancers. “This isn’t our country any more. So I applaud John for standing up to those people.” The sentiment is echoed widely and leaves you wondering how he would have fared in Glasgow North East had the terrorists he banjoed been white.
Therefore this particular voter seems to be conflating the issues of immigration, asylum, terrorism and race, and John Smeaton seems to be the winner. Thus if disillusioned voters in the constituency want to send a message to Labour regarding immigration and asylum then Mr Smeaton could provide the conduit for such votes rather than the BNP. Of course, the difference is perhaps that the BNP's candidate is overtly anti-asylum while John Smeaton's position on the matter is unclear, but the latter has apparently been making anti-immigration noises in his Sun column.

However, if the race-oriented issues do feature heavily in Glasgow North East then it seems likely that if the lack of nuance demonstrated in the quote above is typical then John Smeaton will be garner the related votes in view of his 'celebrity' status and the BNP's relatively low profile in Scotland, although last week's Question Time debacle may have went some way to reverse this.

Meanwhile, the wider issue of Scotland and immigration is examined by Jenny Hjul in her Sunday Times column, in which she compares the relative success of the BNP in England compared to north of the border, and concludes:
The white supremacists’ failure to gain a bigger foothold in Scotland may say something about Scottish tolerance. But the far more plausible explanation is the much lower level of immigration here than in England. The deprived communities of Scotland have not responded to the politics of hate, as have their English counterparts, because they have not, on the whole, been exposed to mass immigration.
However, Ms Hjul then goes on to portray immigration as an unalloyed good for Scotland and says it needs to be encouraged, the only problem being that the SNP are getting in the way (quelle surprise!). But having opened her piece by claiming that the "politics of hate" have failed to gain a toehold in Scotland due to limited immigration, she thereafter ignores what effect encouraging immigration would have on this.

18 comments:

Wardog said...

".... The deprived communities of Scotland have not responded to the politics of hate, as have their English counterparts, because they have not, on the whole, been exposed to mass immigration...."

You know and I know, oor Jenny hasn't daintily stepped into any deprived areas of Scotland, instead our intrepid serial fantasists reports form her cosy west end pad, snuggled up to the 'dark hearted unionist' Mr Cochrane....

She has no idea what the immigration is like in spirngburn, castlemilk or anywhere else


Indeed, she seems to lay the blame of the Uk Government's immigration policy at the SNp Government's doorstep whilst somehow and incoherently saying that Scotland is somehow different from England, that Scotland is 'special'.

Only a few weeks ago she as railing at Kenny Mackasill daring to suggest that society and culture in Scotland is different from other areas of the united kingdom!

Make up yer mind love.

In the end, as per every other sunday, Jenny's article is spoiled by her own insane hatred of the 'gnats', a position she consistently fails to reinforce and todays article being a supreme case in point.

Observer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Observer said...

Wardog - Castlemilk is Observer territory, my parents in law live there. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when the asylum seekers first arrived there, but it's all settled down and everyone is relatively happy (even my mother in law who is bonkers).

I just really do worry that all this negative publicity generated by the BNP will damage what are good community relations.

I guess the press and the media don't worry about that, but then as you point out they are unlikely to live in Castlemilk.

Stuart Winton said...

Wardog, yes, and it's interesting to compare Jenny Hjul's approach to Muriel Gray in today's Sunday Herald. Both anti-Nationalist, of course, but the latter is considerably more sceptical about immigration, but they both manage to criticise the SNP on the issue ;0)

"[Alex Salmond] backs this up by saying that “different traditions do not undermine Scottish culture – they enrich and enhance it”.

"That sounds absolutely gorgeous. Who on Earth wouldn’t want that? But what does it actually mean? Which incoming traditions and which bits of Scottish culture is he referring to?

"For instance, do those who arrive from a variety of countries still adhering to unreconstructed traditions including gender separation, rigid caste systems, house-bound women, and contempt for homosexuality, really enrich and enhance Scottish culture?

"In what way do they? Where’s the benefit and enrichment? Perhaps Salmond has a secret plan to better integrate communities that currently don’t very much care for the way each other lives. If so, why hasn’t he shared it with his colleagues in England? Given the building pressures, one imagines they’d be very grateful. [...]

"We need to know what Salmond’s multi-cultural Scotland will look like in reality, and how he will, unlike his Westminster colleagues, avoid self-protectionist immigrant ghettos, white elitism and diametrically opposing cultures jostling for social supremacy, and instead deliver this new “enrichment”."

Stuart Winton said...

Observer, indeed, and of course it's always difficult to strike a balance between stating the facts on the one hand and not putting too bad a light on things on the other.

But comparing the Hjul/Gray take on these things is instructive, as was yesterday with the Boris Johnson/Charles Moore comparison.

When I was twenty years younger I very definitely subscribed to what I now call the idealist/rose-tinted view, but now I lean towards the more sceptical stance :0(

John said...

A well written, I greatly enjoyed reading it, but surely Smeaton isn't anti-immigration just cos he kicked a terrorist in the nuts is he? He's got a foreign wife, he couldn't be anti-immigration, can you explain your thoughts a bit more please?

SmeatonFan said...

Why the hell would John Smeaton be anti-immigration when he has an American wife?

This blog is nothing more than a muddled little sequence of non-sequiturs and specious reasoning.

It seems to be suggesting that, because the Times article quoted some ignorant xenophobic loon, John Smeaton must therefore be anti-immigration. Oh, and this is somehow qualified by the pathetic assertation that Smeaton has:

"apparently been making anti-immigration noises in his Sun column"

Apparently? You mean you didn't actually check?

Is this author stupid, or does he have some kind of cynical agenda to smear Mr Smeaton?

Indy said...

I really don't know why we take the opinions of people like Jenny Hjul and Muriel Gray on the political impact of immigration as having any particular validity.

I have spent time chapping doors in both Castlemilk and Springburn so I know more about it than they do. I don't claim my opinion is any more valid than theirs but I am quite sure it is better informed.

I have encountered more racism from voters in both Castlemilk and Springburn than in more multi-cultural areas like Pollokshields or Charing Cross.

I think that is for 2 reasons. Firstly, both Springburn and Castlemilk are pretty mono-cultural, apart from a small number of asylum seekers and Asian shop owners who do not actually live there. Therefore non-white people stick out more. For some people that equates to hordes of Africans and Asians queuing out the post office stuffing their pockets with notes. However other voters I have spoken with are very pleased to have asylum seekers as neighbours, as they are preferable to having drug dealers and/or neds as neighbours and their children are quiet and well behaved.

The second reason that people are more inclined to be racist is I believe that levels of education are quite low. There is no way of saying that without sounding judgemental but it is a factor. 50% of electors in Glasgow North East have no educational qualifications at all. You are talking about a pretty unsophisticated electorate who probably get most of their political analysis from the Sun or the Record and that helps shape their opinions.

D'ziet said...

Seems to me it's a bit unfair to blame John Smeaton for a hatchet job done on him in the times. One constituent being racist does not a racist candidate make. Plus I live in Dennistoun and I can tell you it's not 'it is urban squalor in every hue' Perhaps the author might not be so keen to quote Allan Brown after reading this link. http://scottish-independence.blogspot.com/2005/03/sunday-times-scotland-doesnae-like.html

SmeatonFan said...

While the author of this blog is at worst guilty of artlessly regurgitating other material, the Times' Allan Brown deserves a more vitriolic response.

His shameful attempt to damage John Smeaton's campaign is cynical, undeserved and in poor taste. It is offensive to all Glaswegians and should be met with the contempt it deserves.

Stuart Winton said...

Thanks for the responses.

Sorry, haven't got time for a comprehensive response at the moment, but the aim of the piece was to juxtapose the two articles and stimulate debate rather than come to any definitive conclusion or opinion.

Yes, I should have been more precise about John Smeaton's views regarding immigration, but the blog is just a hobby, and I ran out of time, so ended up sounding a bit vague ;0)

But what about his Sun column on crime and East European immigration, for example?

I can't find it at the moment, but if anyone would like to quote it or provide a link then that might add some meat to the bones.

By the way, if I was an elector in Glasgow East then I would very probably be voting for Mr Smeaton, so the aim was not to smear him, it's about getting to the facts and debating the issues rather than the more usual crude partisanship.

Stuart Winton said...

SmeatonFan wrote:

"Why the hell would John Smeaton be anti-immigration when he has an American wife?"

Well you'd have to ask him for the precise answer to that, but surely it's a truism that at least some immigrants who've come to the UK are anti-immigration, not to mention people like John Smeaton who've married them?

But in launching his campaign Mr Smeaton said: "And we need a tougher and fairer stance on immigration."

That's clear enough, surely?

"This blog is nothing more than a muddled little sequence of non-sequiturs and specious reasoning."

And your response is?

"It seems to be suggesting that, because the Times article quoted some ignorant xenophobic loon, John Smeaton must therefore be anti-immigration."

No, what I said was that for the reasons outlined votes that might have otherwise went to the BNP could go to John Smeaton not just for the rationale mentioned in the Times article - ie a crude, anti-foreigner ethos from some voters - but also due to his high profile and because he'd been making anti-immigration "noises". I wasn't suggesting that Mr Smeaton held identical views to the voter quoted, although to take a more nuanced approach there's surely compelling evidence that he's been making anti-immigration "noises".

"Oh, and this is somehow qualified by the pathetic assertation that Smeaton has: "apparently been making anti-immigration noises in his Sun column"Apparently? You mean you didn't actually check?"

OK, surely you agree that the comments at his launch speech amount to "anti-immigration noises"?

And I've found the Smeato column about immigrants and crime that I referred to earlier. Entitled "We're living in fear of violent foreigners", it says:

"We are now being flooded by foreigners from dangerous cultures where life is cheap.

"Is it any wonder when our courts are full of scumbags from around the world?

"But I must admit, I’m not so sure about the new breed from the former Eastern Bloc and the likes.


"I’ve noticed more and more of them fishing along our canals. They don’t like to interact — even with friendly anglers like myself.

"But suspicion is going to turn to outright hostility the more foreign rapists, murderers and thieves they allow to swan in.


"And when we discover a immigrant has a criminal past, can we please chuck them on the next flight home instead of giving them a council house?"

Those are just extracts, but if you read the full article then Mr Smeaton makes some postive points about immigration, but surely you'd agree that the sentiments expressed in his column are the kind of thing that would appeal to the voter quoted in the Times, even if Mr Smeaton doesn't necessarily wholly agree with the voter?

"Is this author stupid, or does he have some kind of cynical agenda to smear Mr Smeaton?"

Do you have some kind of cynical agenda to smear this blog?!?

As I said earlier, if I was a constituent in Glasgow NE then I'd probably vote for John Smeaton, and indeed when he lauched his campaign I wished him well in a post I wrote on this blog, albeit while expressing some reservations. Indeed, when Alan Wallace appealed for volunteers on his blog I did think about emailing him, but since I'm in Dundee and don't have much spare time then I thought the better of it - too much time spent responding to smears on this blog ;0)

Stuart Winton said...

John wrote:

"A well written, I greatly enjoyed reading it, but surely Smeaton isn't anti-immigration just cos he kicked a terrorist in the nuts is he? He's got a foreign wife, he couldn't be anti-immigration, can you explain your thoughts a bit more please?"

Thanks for that, John, and I hope my earlier response to SmeatoFan has to some extent answered your question, but I suppose the answer is that we don't really know.

But in one of his columns he compares his wife's problems with a convicted terrorist claiming asylum and says:

"Christy is smart, educated and has a degree and a good job and is proud of the fact she has never claimed welfare in her life — she’s not about to do so when she gets here, either.

"As far as I know, unlike certain other foreigners, she’s never been a threat to national security or delivered radical preaching."

So whether he's perhaps advocating some kind of merit-based system or just more control over criminals, or something inbetween, is unclear.

But the blog post wasn't so much about John Smeaton's own views than how certain voters are being attracted to him on a rather crude basis via several issues such as terrorism and race, then conflating them into a general anti-foreigner bias, which in turn makes John Smeaton appealling to them, whether or not their actual views coincide. It's a bit like people being attracted to the BNP on economic grounds because of immigration - they're not necessarily racist and agree with Nick Griffin; lots of people just vote on a hunch rather than go through the minutiae like us anorak!

Stuart Winton said...

D'ziet said:

"Seems to me it's a bit unfair to blame John Smeaton for a hatchet job done on him in the times. One constituent being racist does not a racist candidate make. Plus I live in Dennistoun and I can tell you it's not 'it is urban squalor in every hue' Perhaps the author might not be so keen to quote Allan Brown after reading this link."

Thanks for that, D'ziet, to be honest I'm not really that familiar with Allan Brown's writings.

However, if you read what Indy said earlier then what Brown quoted seems plausible enough, and he did say that the view was "widely held" rather than just from the one voter he quoted, which also seems plausible given what Indy said.

And I don't think anyone's "blaming" John Smeaton as such, because no one's attributing him with the views of the voter.

Stuart Winton said...

SmeatonFan wrote:

"His shameful attempt to damage John Smeaton's campaign is cynical, undeserved and in poor taste. It is offensive to all Glaswegians and should be met with the contempt it deserves."

Again I'm not so sure if the intention was to damage Mr Smeaton's campaign rather than state the facts of what was going on, which as I said seems entirely plausible.

Indeed, perhaps John Smeaton himself has been the author of some of the uncertainty, since at his campaign launch it was reported:

"He insisted immigration "needed to be looked at", saying immigrants have done a "fantastic job in this country" but the system "needs to be fairer".

"When pushed for an explanation of what was unfair, Smeato replied: "I just think it needs to be fairer across the board.""

Thus in view of the evidence and the uncertainty in his views, it's surely plausible to argue that John Smeaton could be stealing the BNP's thunder, even if perhaps the latter were never likely to attract too many votes in the first place?

SmeatonFan said...

I’m not attempting to smear your blog, just trying to restore a bit of perspective.

You wrote:

…… in launching his campaign Mr Smeaton said: "And we need a tougher and fairer stance on immigration."
That's clear enough, surely?


Yes, crystal clear. It means Mr Smeaton wants a tougher and fairer stance on immigration. It does not - and I’m in awe of your ability to read creatively - make John Smeaton anti-immigration.

Having concerns over the extent of something does not make one opposed to it, so let’s not crudely dichotomise a complex and inflammatory issue.

OK, surely you agree that the comments at his launch speech amount to "anti-immigration noises"?

I don’t really know what ‘anti-immigration noises’ are, but according to your rationale they seemingly equate to reasonable, rational views on immigration that are cynically misinterpreted as ‘anti-immigration’ by bloggers with a very casual familiarity with the truth.

And your carefully-selected extracts John Smeaton’s Sun column tell only one half of the story. Obviously Mr Smeaton has issues with dangerous, criminal immigrants. Only an idiot would not. But your procrustean tendency to cut and paste quotes without first contextualising them is reprehensible.

For example, whilst alluding to Mr Smeaton’s ACTUAL views on immigration, you curiously neglected to post this extract from the same article, one which is fairly comprehensive and should have been enough to convince any fair-minded person that he is categorically NOT anti-immigration.

This country has been home to generations of Asians and Europeans. Go into a Glasgow corner shop and the Indian guy serving you has a thicker Glaswegian accent than Rab C Nesbitt.

They have integrated into our society and have helped make us a better country.

Because of that Scots have never gone in for all that BNP filth from down south.


That would have cleared things up pretty quickly. One wonders why you didn’t quote Mr Smeaton on that.

Stuart Winton said...

SmeatonFan wrote:

"Yes, crystal clear. It means Mr Smeaton wants a tougher and fairer stance on immigration. It does not - and I’m in awe of your ability to read creatively - make John Smeaton anti-immigration."

But I never claimed that he was anti-immigration per se - I qualified that by saying that he'd been making "anti-immigration noises". Quite what Mr Smeaton's precise position on the subject is is unclear, but that's not my fault.


"Having concerns over the extent of something does not make one opposed to it, so let’s not crudely dichotomise a complex and inflammatory issue."

Well "crudely dichotomising a complex and inflammatory issue" is indeed ill-advised, but your problem is that it's Mr Smeaton that's doing just that, in both of his columns that I quoted earlier. In one he's lauding immigrants who "have integrated into our society and have helped make us a better country" while in another paragraph saying, "We are now being flooded by foreigners from dangerous cultures where life is cheap." In another he's juxtaposing his wife being "smart, educated and has a degree and a good job and is proud of the fact she has never claimed welfare in her life" with "the man who was once described as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man" and a "hate-filled preacher".

To be honest I doubt if you'll find anything as infammatory from a mainstream UK politician; a couple of good rhetorical tricks, but Mr Smeaton can hardly complain if it comes back to bite him on the bum.

And the point is that this crude dichotomising means that it's unclear what his precise views are on immigration, which was why in turn I was vague about them.

By the way, apologies for earlier cocking up the link to one of the "Smeato" columns in the Sun (the latter one quoted from) which can in fact be found here.


"I don’t really know what ‘anti-immigration noises’ are, but according to your rationale they seemingly equate to reasonable, rational views on immigration that are cynically misinterpreted as ‘anti-immigration’ by bloggers with a very casual familiarity with the truth."

I'm surprised that someone who can use the word "procrustean" doesn't seem to know what I mean by "anti-immigration noises". The Collins English Dictionary defines the word "noise" thus:

make noises about informal to give indications of one's intentions: the government is making noises about new social security arrangements

Thus it's not so much about Mr Smeation making an unqualifed, unnuanced statement that he's anti-immigration, it's about the tenor of his comments and how they're interpreted by voters.

Even if he's could reasonably be described as pro-immigration the point is that much of what he's said could be construed as anti-immigration and thus attract voters who might otherwise vote for the BNP. Mr Smeaton's precise views aren't really the issue, particularly since we self-evidently don't know what his precise view are because his only statements use crude dichotomising rather than anything more nuanced.



(contd..)

Stuart Winton said...

"And your carefully-selected extracts John Smeaton’s Sun column tell only one half of the story. Obviously Mr Smeaton has issues with dangerous, criminal immigrants. Only an idiot would not."

Indeed, I did "carefully select extracts", but I did also say that "if you read the full article then Mr Smeaton makes some postive points about immigration". And I qouted what he said about his wife, inter alia.

But the point is how such statements play with the voters, in particular those who are anti-immigation. It's not about how Mr Smeaton balances his juxtapostion of good versus evil, it's about how his comments about the latter play with the electorate. But, to reiterate, how precisely he balances his opinions on this matter isn't clear, because he's made no such statement and when asked has done little more than make vague, evasive comments.

It's a bit like the Question Time scenario last week - the BBC and the pannelists were good at crudely dichotomising and juxtaposing in the good versus evil scenario, but when it came to hard questions relating to immigration policies then it wasn't quite so easy, as Jack Straw ably demonstrated.


"But your procrustean tendency to cut and paste quotes without first contextualising them is reprehensible. For example, whilst alluding to Mr Smeaton’s ACTUAL views on immigration, you curiously neglected to post this extract from the same article, one which is fairly comprehensive and should have been enough to convince any fair-minded person that he is categorically NOT anti-immigration."

I repeat, I haven't said he was anti-immigration pe se, and indeed you are surely being disingenuous when you say his pro-immigrant statements should have been "enough to convince any fair-minded person that he is categorically NOT anti-immigration".

Moreover, just because he says positive things about immigrants don't mean that he's pro-immigration; many immigrants are anti-immigration!!!


"That would have cleared things up pretty quickly. One wonders why you didn’t quote Mr Smeaton on that."

No, it doesn't "clear things up pretty quickly". John Smeaton's views on immigration are as clear as mud. If you and he are incapable of articulating them that that's not my fault. As Magnus Gardham put it:

Smeaton also said immigration "needs to be looked at". But put on the spot, he made no sense.

Here's what he said: Smeaton: "I think immigrants have done a fantastic job in this country. Immigrants have made this country a lot better. There just needs to be a fairer system."


Thus perhaps you could explain what Mr Smeaton's "fairer system" amounts to?

But the point is that even if you or he could articulate this it wouldn't change the fact that his other statements will attract votes that might otherwise have gone to the BNP, as per the Times article and as per this blog.