Sanchia Alasia - The fight against the far right


OBV graduate Councillor Sanchia Alasia, successfully won her council seat from the BNP’s London regional coordinator Robert Bailey in 2010 to become the youngest woman on the Barking and Dagenham council. Alasia talks about her journey into politics and the continual fight against the far right in the UK and Europe.

The success of defeating the far-right, started way back in 2007, when I moved to Barking. I had a letter through my door, inviting me to the Alibon ward meeting, where I am now a councillor. At the meeting it was clear that things were at a low point – 12 BNP councillors had been successfully elected in the borough the year before. The local Labour party were looking for a new start and a way to reconnect with the residents. That reconnection started by developing local action teams in each ward, that would knock on doors each week, to find out the issues that residents were concerned about and take these issues up for resolution with the council. This then developed into things that as an action team we could tangibly say we had done during the short election campaign, which demonstrated to local residents that we would deliver once in power.

It was difficult as I and my supporters had been racially abused by BNP members on various occasions. This is distressing but, realising that I can rise above their ignorance, I strive to work even harder for my local community. There were BNP supporters who were previously Labour and Margaret and the local action teams worked hard to win back their trust to show them that we were a party that cared all the time and not just during election campaigns. We now have a strong local campaign focus all year round in Barking and Dagenham. This is not just for the short haul.

Although the BNP have largely been defeated in the UK, there still remains the threat of an increasing far-right presence in Europe. Michael McTernan eloquently wrote for Progress that ‘across Europe, far-right actors and their anti-politics cousins are regrouping’. In France presently although the Front National leader Marine Le Pen did not win a parliamentary seat, her niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen did, to become the youngest member of the French parliament and is said to be attracting younger members to the party. This could be the start of a groundswell for the Front National needs to become a real political threat in forthcoming elections, especially as their base is increasing from a new generation.

It should be the Socialist parties that are the natural home for youth, with pragmatic solutions to tackle youth unemployment such as the European Union youth guarantee, which is a similar concept to the Future Jobs Fund, which the government scrapped. Socialist French president François Hollande has put youth unemployment very high on his agenda, with a focus on young people without qualifications. On 8 November Hollande signed the first contracts of ‘emplois d’avenir’ – ‘future jobs’ – which will ensure that young people between the ages of 18-25 have access to a first full-time job. The goal of this programme is to generate 100,000 emplois d’avenir over the coming year. The French social affairs and health minister Marisol Touraine has endorsed the campaign for a European youth guarantee. The benefits of this programme should be realised by the time the next presidential election comes around.

Meanwhile, Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party is presently riven by a leadership crisis – a split here could lead to a dangerous vacuum on the right that Front National would only be too happy to fill. The two candidates for the top spot were former prime minister François Fillon and UMP secretary-general Jean-François Copé. They virtually even support, and there were allegations from both sides of electoral fraud. Copé, was declared the winner by just 98 votes, who is seen as more right wing than Fillon’s. Despite Copé’s win Sarkozy remains very popular among UMP members, with many among them publicly calling for his return, so we should not be surprised if he re-emerges in the future. Sarkozy is currently facing hard questions by a Bordeaux judge about party donations from Liliane Bettencourt, who is the heiress of the cosmetics giant L’Oréal and currently the richest woman in France. So the role of the right in France as a ‘safety valve’ absorbing support that may otherwise go to the far-right looks on shaky ground currently.

There can be no room for complacency from the socialists in France or the UK Labour party if we are to keep the far-right at bay. At the Relaunching Europe conference in Nottingham this month, Ed Miliband stated that if a Labour government came back into power in 2015, it would take him six weeks to implement the future jobs fund, which was scrapped by the Conservative led coalition. As the centrepiece of a Labour election campaign this would make the party directly relevant to people’s lives and turn them away from the false promises of the far-right.

Sanchia Alasia

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