Thursday, 7 May 2009

Hackney christian politician in BNP 'mistake'?

The Reverend George Hargreaves has been attracting the attention of a more sinister crowd than the usual outraged atheists and liberals. (His entry in Wikipedia tells you what you need to know about him - the creator of gay anthem So Macho turned anti-gay Christian fundamentalist based in Hackney.)

Hargreaves' bizarre views are no secret and yet the far right seems to have resorted to fiction to demonise him.

On 3 May this story was posted on the Telegraph website blog: Eu Madness: Nigerians, with Nigerian Passports, Living in Nigeria, Can Vote in British EU Elections by Proxy.

The story claimed that Hargreaves was calling for Nigerians to vote in UK elections.

One reader left a short comment pointing out that the original story - printed in the Nigeria-based Daily Independent - was actually talking about Nigerians with British passports who, like any other British citizen, can vote in British Elections.

It looked like a mistake but exactly the same story, 'mistake' and all, had appeared on the BNP's website a day earlier on 2 May. Here BNP readers had left 103 comments. The BNP site provided a link to the original story in the Nigeria-based newspaper, which the Telegraph blog had not, until one was provided by blogger Peter Barnett.

Some people might wonder why Hargreaves feels the need to campaign for his party in Nigeria but he's certainly not the first to have looked beyond the borders for support. For a start there's George Galloway who campaigned in Bangladesh in 2005. He visited villages with links to Tower Hamlets. After mentioning that he was keen on an amnesty for illegal immigrants in the UK (not necessarily a bad idea) he (possibly a bit cynically) called on his audiences to write, fax and phone their relatives in Tower Hamlets - but more on that another time.

Hargreaves' brush with the BNP was only the latest in a long line of stunts - his other recent escapade apparently involves a poster campaign saying "Murder is not a joke. Sack Alan Duncan" following some comments made by the MP on Have I Got News For You. His last poster campaign 'There Definitely Is A God" was in response to an atheist poster campaign saying "There is no God".

For those who like to leave the nutters to do battle on the fringes of politics, there may be no cause for further alarm.

But a quick google search delivers a Hackney Council scrutiny panel investigation on gun crime in 2004. This says: "The Crime and Disorder Scrutiny Panel would also like to encourage the continuance of contact and discussions between the Council’s Community Partnership team and Reverend George Hargreaves(CANDLE Project) in order to establish clarity relating to the development of his proposed Barnardos led multi-agency response to social deprivation."

Whatever progress was made with this interesting sounding project, no further mention could be found. But the Reverend George Hargreaves' ties to the establishment were highlighted again in 2007 in a piece called: "Half of all young people arrested are revealed to have smoked cannabis":

"Mr Hargreaves, who is the pastor of the Hephzibah Christian Centre in Hackney and sits on two Metropolitan Police committees, said: 'We are talking about a brand of cannabis that sends young people schizophrenic."

And for something lighter, here's a story from the Times about how multiculturalism isn't working in London with a passing reference to Hackney: "I realise now I was confusing coexistence with integration. Looking back, not only were my eight years there marked by a retrospectively bewildering number of terrifying incidents, such as the two times I was mugged on my doorstep, the one time a potential flatmate was mugged on the way to inspect my flat, the several times police officers suggested I move out (“If you saw what I see, you'd get out”), the one time I went to throw away rubbish and discovered a vagrant copulating with a local prostitute in the refuse area, the bombing, the mini-riot, the numerous anti-terrorism raids, the stabbings, kneecappings and murders, but also a complete failure to make friends with any local residents."

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