Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hope Not Hate

Tuesday marked Holocaust Memorial Day. In Darlington, like most towns up and down the country, a ceremony was held to mark it.

Some civic events pass off with almost military precision - Remembrance Day is a good example, not surprisingly, perhaps, given its longevity and the central importance of the Armed Forces to the occasion.

Holocaust Memorial Day however was very different - a mix of readings, drama, poetry, songs and video that may not have always run smoothly, but consistently challenged the audiences' values and beliefs.

Held in the Arts Centre before an audience of around 200, there were powerful contributions - reflections from two students who had visited the Auschwitz camps recently, for example, and from the Council's own Director of Children's Services Murray Rose, who read an excerpt from the memoirs of his father-in-law, who was an escapee from the death camps.

The ceremony was at its best when it was most uncomfortable, however, challenging the sudience to think how we would react to examples of race hate which are daily perpetrated in Britain. This linked in well with the accompanying exhibition from students which explored the theme of 'hope not hate' in oils, watercolours and collage.

And my week was rounded off by a more directly political event dedicated to fighting the forces of race hate, but this time the contemporary threat posed by the British National Party. I attended a meeting organised by County Durham MP's Helen Goodman and Phil Wilson at Spennymoor Town Hall, which featured a speech and Q&A session by former Cabinet member Frank Dobson. Frank may be a self-confessed member of 'Heritage Labour' but he is doughty campaigner against the BNP, and impressed an audience united in their opposition to racism in our society.

Perhaps the most telling contribution was made at the end by Phil Wilson. He reminded us that the Durham pit villages were rooted in values of community and inclusion, and it has only been since the entry of the BNP into some places that racist division has become a feature.

Proudly, the North East can claim that we are a region free of any far right elected representatives at a national or local level. Long may that continue


Paul Cain said...

Welcome back Councillor Wallis. I shared the concern of some that you were missing for such a while and, sincerely, I'm glad everything's ok.
Not sure it was such a good idea to take a bit of a sabbatical from blogging though, not with you being a candidate in the forthcoming Euro elections.
We didn't have the chance to ask you about so many things:
The loss of 1,200 jobs at Nissan;
The historically disastrous predictions about the future of the British economy, and the disturbing refusal of the Prime Minister to acknowledge the severity of the situation (or his considerable role in bringing it about);
The fact that, even disregarding the liabilities due under PFI, Britain's increased borrowing will take my children until 2029 to pay off, and that's before Alistair Darling stands up at the Budget and admits that he has got his predictions wrong for about the fifth time this year and needs to increase borrowing;
Corruption among Labour peers;
The Government's determination to record every email, telephone call, etc, of everyone in the country;
The suspicious hush that has descended on the Damien Green inquiry;
And on and on and on and on and on and on and on....

Yes, it would have been nice to know what a candidate for European election had to say about these things. Still.

Regarding the BNP: You're right that we should be grateful that the North East has, so far, seen through their nonsense.

But the fact that you even have to mention them is the fault of New Labour. If you hadn't spent the last decade irritating perfectly decent working people by calling them a racist at every opportunity, the BNP would still be a fringe of loons.

And the uncomfortable fact is that the BNP is not a Far Right organisation; it's closer to you on the left. They believe in nationalisation, protectionism and the surpression of free speech (see above).

British Jobs For British workers - the clarion call of the BNP. And Gordon Brown.


Anonymous said...

Holocaust memorial day sounds as merry as a funeral bell, but whatever gives you a boner I suppose. A laugh riot I bet is wasn't.
You and 199 Goths was it?
How many minutes silence did you afford to the exterminated Gazans?

As for the BNP, I agree with Paul "Chips" McCain. I remember the good old days when it was the Tories that Labour focused all its energy into opposing. It seems like they have been let off the hook now and that the BNP is the 21st century arch rivals of Labour.

ianh said...

I am very much afraid that a number of recent events will only feed the fascist propogandists of the BNP.
Most right thinking people were/are happy for hard working people from other countries contributing to Britain in the good times. (escpecially those doing the jobs no one else wanted)Many now though will see these workers as taking "our" jobs, making Gordons quote even more unbelievable. The fact that so many of our basic utilities and other big employers are foreign owned will only result in far more of the sort of problems witnessed on the picket lines last week.
I was more appalled by the bbcs decsion not to screen the Gaza appeal. Whilst all the fuss may have actually had an even greater impact, that is not the point.
The bbc screened appeals for the victims of other conflicts, congo, darfur etc, but not Gaza.

This decision will only re-inforce the fascist assertions that the bbc (and sky) are controlled in some sort of Jewish media conspiracy.
Whatever the right and wrongs of the conflict, the fact is that the vast majority of the victims were gaza civilians, and the bbc's decision not to sreen the appeal on their behalf was simply appalling.

Gordon is a moron said...

ianh you may have a point there.
Who is the head of the beeb?
And What is the religion of Sky head honcho Rupert Murdoch?

Might go some way to explaining their controversial decision you think?

Ian White said...


What about monitoring all these e-mails you talk about the loss of human lives and human rights in the holcaust.

What of the lost of the human right to privacy that if these new laws on e-mail go through will break?

Or is it OK if you and yours approve?

Will it be like smoking and the conjestion charge and will those who pass the law, will make sure they will be imune from it?

We should all support Lord Carnegie in his opposition to this new e-mail law, is this not after all how Hitler started a little at a time until it was too late?

Spying on the populus without good reason is wrong for any party if this goes through we will of learned nothing from history!

BNP Volunteer said...

Gordon is a moron said "Who is the head of the beeb?"
I'm not sure who the head of the Beeb is but what I do know is that whoever it is gets appointed by the party which controls Government.
So effectively the Beeb is the propaganda arm of the Government. Could it be down to the Labour Party why the Beeb chose not to screen the appeal for Gaza?

Ian White said...

Personally I would remove the TV licence and make the BBC go it alone. they already have the infrastructure etc to make a better go of it than any newly setting up TV company and any channel on Sky that starts "UK" Gold, people, food etc (I know they have changed many channel names lately) are the BBC so they can run channels off advertising revenue they seem to me to want their cake (or rather ours) and eat it.

Cut them loose and make Ross et al work for their money instead of getting ludicrous salaries at the licence payers expence. What other business is run like the Beeb and payed for by us? (Except the banks ;) at present)

Sorry for going off topic I just despise paying the licence fee.

Its like buying a hoover and paying each time you clean your own carpet!

BNP Volunteer said...

You have gone very quiet of late Wallis.
Anything to do with not wanting to answer questions about a certain five million quid?

Anonymous said...

Five million quid. What is this about BNP Volunteer?

Anonymous said...

Yeh, what £5,000,000.00 do you mean the William's window fund?