The Danger of the Far Right taking Advantage of the #NPPF debacle

Ian McKay has an Excellent piece at the always provocative Forest Uprising

Alarmingly there is quickly emerging a rather warped consensus on what [the NPPF means] for rural England (in terms of the landscape) and what they mean for English culture generally, and my own concern lies not with who is getting pushed into a corner, but those that are crawling out of them as the debate hots up. … one of the many methodologies being utilised by campaigners to rally the troops is the invoking of iconic ‘symbols of Englishness’ but some of the notions currently being peddled are not at all helpful and, in certain cases, highly dubious.

He evokes Colin Ward (the Colin Ward reader is about to be published by one of my friends, I advised on which articles to include)

The establishment of Green Belts, with all-party support, had produced what Peter Hall long ago called a ‘civilised form of apartheid.’ The rich can buy their way into the Green Belt; the commuting middle classes can leapfrog it into new settlements and old country towns and villages beyond it. ‘How lovely to own a house in an area – town edge, village or green belt – where competition had been removed. Most of the good people who appear at public enquiries to object to development do not, I think realize that they are supporting gross and unprincipled greed.

Ian continues

We all know that the NPPF is bad legislation (any fool can see that) with way too many loophole sleights-of-hand but, conversely, yes, there is a massive need for affordable housing in rural areas right now (the evidence is incontrovertible) so let’s get this in perspective. The Conservative Party has a pretty bad track record with regard affordable social housing and one of the reasons it is so badly needed, now more than ever, is due to the very outcomes of Thatcherite policies voted for by those with whom the anti-NPPF lobby are currently cosying up to – by which I mean those from within the Tories’ traditional Shire County heartlands…
As a child, I was always taught that ‘you are defined by the company you keep’, but right now it doesn’t look like the anti-NPPF lobby cares much about the real politics that underlie this debate. Grassroots campaigning has effectively been depoliticised in 21st century Britain, but though campaigners don’t like to hear it, there is a fatal flaw in their stratagem. In light of Colin Ward’s thoughts from 1988, it is a pitiful sight for those of us who know what a chance is being missed to see so many hard-won victories around the just causes of the rural working class being betrayed by Internet-savvy petitioners linking online arms with those that once were ‘the enemy of the working class’ and firing off their paltry salvos into cyberspace oblivion?…
When Bob Neill, the Local Government Minister, accused both the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England of taking part in a Left-wing “smear campaign”, he couldn’t have been more wrong. The impetus is coming from the Right. There is no solidarity, no common voice, no loyalty in the alliance forming around the anti-NPPF lobby, other than that the Right are enjoying the attention of a few Left-leaning groups to bump up the numbers. In truth, the anti-NPPF lobby is an amalgam of self-interested self-serving groups with a Right-wing contingent (some would say far-right contingent) at its core
As Colin Ward warned in 1988, a complete change in attitudes is required to change the monopoly that the upper middle classes have in the rural sphere, but, as he concluded, that also “requires such an effort of re-education and political will that it is unlikely to happen unless it is forced upon us by economic crisis and social upheaval.” Well both of those conditions now exist
The Dale Farm Travellers know a thing or two about what happens when a concept of underclass is used in tandem with spurious notions of what does or does not constitute Green Belt land, and as Colin Ward knew well enough, if you have a society in which the greed of one social and/or political class can dominate policy in the rural sphere while in the urban you have children who have never seen woodland or a stream, let alone lived among living creatures other than human beings, there is little hope for our society to become whole and at peace with itself, and the divisions will merely grow wider as greed becomes the norm….
If you scratch the surface you soon find out that the links between several environmental campaign groups and those of the Right is one small aspect of a much wider Far-Right agenda that is wholly repugnant. The anti-capitalists are finally getting into bed with the NIMBYs and BANANAs it seems (however absurd that may sound) and the result is a broad-based alliance of vehemently nationalistic anti-working-class anti-trade-unionists on the one side, and anarcho-greens and eco-types on the other. Even a few eco-socialists have thrown in their lot with Middle-England to oppose the NPPF recently, but for some reason it’s all being seen as action that is for the common good. I’m afraid I’m not so sure…
The English Democrats (or EDP) have previously announced that “The EDP is a lover of the English Countryside and as supporters of Campaign to Protect Rural England see our farmers and country folk constituting the heartlands from which the EDP will continue to grow.” This is a party of choice for disaffected members of the BNP, remember. In the same news bulletin the EDP announced it had joined forces with the English Lobby, a pressure group and electoral coalition founded by the far-right anti-immigration Freedom Party – itself founded in December 2000 by other former members of the BNP…
I’m sure most supporters of the National Trust and CPRE would be ‘horrified’ (that’s usually the chosen expression) if they thought that some of their co-signatories to any anti-NPPF petition were in any way connected, through lineage or action, to any extreme right-wing faction or political party, but the when the anti-NPPF lobby finally got geared up for their campaign, some unlikely bed-fellows were echoing the anti-NPPF mantra that was being led by the National Trust and CPRE. It’s all very well building alliances, and no doubt disheartening to find that a campaign to oppose legislation such as the NPPF fits so snugly with a far-right agenda, but that’s the reality…
Boundaries quickly get blurred between what is merely middle class greed in the form of Shire County Tories defending their patch and the forces of radical conservatism and neo-liberalism securing their market interest, and further on into disturbing forms of retrogardism and far-right-extremism that link overpopulation and the dire need for social housing with immigration policy as its primary driver, as claimed by the BNP. Soon you find that what was a debate over whether or not a corner of rural England is suitable for twenty new houses, the emphasis has shifted to arguments about whether those houses would be needed if there weren’t so many migrant workers and immigration policy was not as it is…
when papers such as the Guardian, traditionally a champion of social justice, run stories on the NPPF that neglect the plight of the rural poor, you know the battle is half lost already …The only problem is, when the Conservative Party starts messing with everything Middle-England holds dear, the only route they’ll accept at present appears to be a shift further to the Right.

Certainly provocative. Certainly one extreme right plaingenetic fringe has got involved on the anti-NPPF side, but also so has one far ight neo-liberal pro-tea party fring on the pro-NPPF side.

Indeed the current rows over the NPPF have become rows between the two wings of the tory party – its ‘countryside’ wing and its’ development wing. Or in Peel, the founder of the conservative party’s terms the danger of a fracture in the ‘alliance of landed and business classes’

Things are complicated and both sides need to watch out for extremists and look for ways of seeing the other sides point of view. One of the best ways of doing this is for the NT and CPRE to avoid being cast into a BANANA Berbour Brigade stereotype and support a broader progressive ‘Campaign against Sprawl’ that presses for more affordable housing in the right place.

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About andrew lainton

International Urban Planner

Posted on September 2, 2011, in anarchism, National Planning Policy Framework, urban planning. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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