On the balcony of a first-floor flat in Kilsby Walk hangs a tatty St George's Cross. It provides the only splash of colour against the grey and gloomy surroundings; even in sunshine this rundown council estate looks miserable.
But the flag, through the somewhat unwanted racist connotations it has acquired, also hints at the area's political landscape. In the Mayesbrook ward of Barking and Dagenham, two of the three local councillors represent the British National Party. The borough as a whole has 12 BNP members.
When the Government draws up its list of "hot-spots" susceptible to the message of the far right, it is a safe bet that this estate will be near the top. The working-class residents here feel ignored by the Labour Government which claims to represent them. They list immigration as the problem which has prompted them to turn to the BNP.
As a group of bare-chested men swagger past, drinking lager from cans and led by a pit-bull terrier on a leash, Susan Lawlor, who has lived in the estates of Mayesbrook for more than 20 years, says: "The Government did not pay us any attention and that's why people round here voted for the BNP. Immigration is ruining this area and we need someone who will say, 'Enough is enough'. The doors need to be shut. We are a small island and immigrants are sinking us."
Zoe Shannon adds: "The main problem round here is the lack of housing for people on benefits. A lot of people were angry that foreigners seemed to be getting those houses over local people. There are a lot of foreign people in this area. The BNP picked up on this and promised to do something. Labour didn't and now they are trying to win areas back. I don't think it is possible."Reuse content