They are cheery, plain-spoken East Enders who could not care less that their names, jobs and addresses were published on the internet – along with the rest of the BNP’s 12,000 members – this week. Or that their families have since received abusive and threatening telephone calls.
“It shows we’re ordinary people . . . We’re a legitimate party,” says Mike Wood, 62, a former soldier.
They are people who have seen their neighbourhoods changed by mass immigration, feel that the mainstream parties have failed to address their concerns, and – rightly or wrongly – have thrown in their lot with a BNP that claims to have renounced its brutish, racist past.
If there is a public face of what might be called new BNP it is surely Richard Barnbrook – the man who represents this ward and is organising the leafleting. He is leader of the opposition on Barking & Dagenham council, the recipient of 130,000 votes in last May’s elections to the London Assembly and the most senior elected official his party has ever had. On this night – between calls on a mobile phone whose ring tone is Jerusalem– Mr Barnbrook, 47, is the very model of moderation. The leafleting over, he takes me to the cul-de-sac where he lives, points to each house, and tells me the origin of each occupant – English, Asian, Caribbean, East European. There is no violence, no late-night rows, no antisocial behaviour, he says. “It’s a diversity that works really well” – an extraordinary statement from a senior member of a party that abhors multiculturalism.
Mr Barnbrook’s house is the one with the large Union Jack and Cross of St George hanging from two flag-poles on the front.
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