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Friday, January 12, 2007 

Stop the fascist BNP, by err, shouting outside a theatre...

Sometimes anti-racist groups can be their own worst enemies. Continuing their campaign against Simone Clarke, their agenda is again presented in the Guardian, which also at times cuts off its nose to spite its face:

Around 100 campaigners are expected to mount a demonstration outside the Coliseum theatre in central London where Simone Clarke will take the lead in the English National Ballet's production of Giselle.

It is the 36-year-old's first performance since she was revealed as a member of the BNP last month as part of a Guardian investigation into the far right organisation.

Ms Clarke, whose partner Yat Sen-Chang is an acclaimed dancer of Chinese-Cuban extraction, went on to defend her membership in a detailed interview with the Mail on Sunday, saying the BNP was the only party "willing to take a stand" against immigration.

Yesterday campaigners said that she was using her position to promote the far right party's policies.

Weyman Bennett, of the group Unite Against Fascism, said: "We are calling on all who have an appreciation for the arts to demand that the promotion of racist and fascist politics is incompatible with an institution such as the English National Ballet."

The row is becoming increasingly difficult for the English National Ballet, which as a publicly funded organisation is obliged by the Race Relations Act of 2000 to promote good race relations.

Last night a spokeswoman said it was "not within the company's mandate to express any political view".

She added: "Any personal view expressed by one of our employees should not be considered as being endorsed by the company."

And this was the reality:

British far-right politics has changed a bit in recent years. Out have gone the bovver-booted bomber-jacketed skinheads. In have come the business suits and a ballerina.

And so, in the unlikeliest of turns, a dozen or so anti-racism protesters turned their foghorn vocal chords away from their familiar haunts to turn up on the steps of the Coliseum, the home of the English National Ballet in London's West End.

Bravo! This is the very worst kind of nonsense. No one knew that Clarke was a BNP member until the Guardian rightly exposed her, but to then claim she's using her position to promote the party is complete bullshit. All she's done is defend herself in a far from unsympathetic Mail article, and in the process proved that she isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. In short, she's exactly the sort of person the BNP tries to appeal to.

The protesters may have had a point had she actually said something racist in the article, but she didn't. What she did make clear is that she thinks immigration is out of control, which is something a lot of ordinary people think. It's obvious that believing that isn't racist, neither is it particularly controversial. Believing that the BNP are the only ones talking about it, or that they're the only ones who could solve it, is something quite different. However, this is where the anti-racist groups behind today's protest have so often slipped up: they're more concerned with denying the party any air of publicity, rather than actually fighting their message. Shouting slogans outside buildings is a lot easier than arguing against them in debates. Going after a woman who's simply expressing her own, however misguided personal political beliefs, is not just counter-productive, it's cowardly.

For instance, look at the huge open goal that Richard Barnbrook has created simply by attending Clarke's performance. Could there be a better opportunity to point out just how hopeless the BNP are at actually being councillors once they're elected and how he's a leading member of a political party that is virulently homophobic, when he directed and starred in a film described as arty gay porn? Then there's Barnbrook's own comments about Clarke's relationship with her husband:

"I'm not opposed to mixed marriages but children [of these relationships] are washing out the identity of this country's indigenous people. That's my view. It's not the party's view."

Not true. That is exactly the party's view, as expanded at length here from their 2005 manifesto. You only have to read the views of actual members of the BNP here in a thread about Clarke from the Stormfront forum, to notice that she's regarded as a "race-mixer".

Instead, the protesters are probably still there, shouting "STOP THE FASCIST BNP!", while everyone around them rightly sees their presence as either daft or as someone remarks, pathetic. And the BNP? They're still winning.

Related post:
Doing the goose-step to Swan Lake, and other stories.

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