Phil is wearing an England football shirt. He lives in a quiet crescent in central Dagenham. He’s shaven-headed and has two small children. He regrets voting for Margaret Thatcher: ‘She lost me my business, she did.’ In 1997 Mark moved to Tony Blair. Next month he will switch again, with immense enthusiasm, to the British National Party.
‘I want to make a statement about what’s going on,’ he states. ‘Half the world is getting dumped round here. I’m a retailer. I work 50 to 60 hours a week. I’m working my guts out. And I see people from nowhere getting a Mercedes cheap. I live here and I don’t want this. My daughter was ill and it took us ten days to get to see my GP. People come in from Eastern Europe and get seen straight up.’
I went canvassing with the British National Party last Friday night, and I’d say half the doors we knocked on, all chosen by me, at random, revealed actual or potential BNP voters. Several cars—always carrying the England flag—hooted or waved their approval as we went about our business.
‘Dagenham isn’t what it used to be,’ said a travel-broker who works in Romford. ‘I’d certainly consider voting BNP. We’re working class. We’ve got two little kids. They go to the school next door. There’s been a big influx. Big time.’
He’s a dark-haired family man standing in front of his nice comfortable home. It’s a decent area, very little graffiti. You’d feel safe walking the streets at night in Dagenham, and the locals are what used to be called salt of the earth. Surveys show that the typical BNP member is respectable working class or lower-middle class, some distance from the bottom of the heap.
‘I don’t know how I will vote. I haven’t really considered. My personal opinion,’ he continues, ‘is that family tax credits are no use to us whatsoever. I’d certainly consider giving you my vote.’
Across the road there’s a man clipping a hedge. We stride across. The man from the BNP stretches out a hand.
‘Labour wouldn’t know a socialist view if it bit them on the backside,’ says the man, putting down his clippers, ‘and I believe in the working class.’ The BNP canvasser notes that there are a lot of foreigners coming into the area. ‘Not just here. All over the country,’ replies his new friend.