Letter: Thatcher took the shine off the National Front

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The Independent Online
NEAL ASCHERSON'S analysis of the British National Party election victory ('Millwall will be East End racism's last stand', 26 September) failed to provide any evidence as to why he believed it to be racism's last stand in the East End. His brief summary glossed over the resurgence of Mosley in the late 1950s, the murderous attacks that took place on black people in East London during the mid-1970s and the increasing share of votes picked up by the National Front during that period.

There can be little doubt that the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism, with its appeal to young people, was a significant force in the decline of the National Front. Nor that the revitalised Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher, flying the flag of British nationalism, took the electoral shine off the National Front.

Ascherson is right that it is the end of something, it is the end of the Thatcherite project. The alienation of the East End that took place with the loss of the docks and its associated industries had something to hope for under Thatcher: a new Docklands, enterprise zones, new housing and work. It is no coincidence that Mrs Thatcher kicked off her election campaigns in Docklands. That was to be the testing ground of Thatcherism.

The loss of contentment under the Welfare State was replaced by the opportunities of the enterprise culture but the Thatcherite fantasy evaporated like so many estate agent's promises.

There is nothing new about people without hope turning to fascism. That is the true measure of the failure of Conservative rule: it has destroyed and dismantled without a vision of the future and created the space for the politics of fear.

Neil Martinson

London N16

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