Dinesh Dhamija (far left) celebrates becoming an MEP with Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable.


by NADEEM BADSHAH CAMPAIGNERS and MEPs have welcomed the failure of Tommy Robinson and UKIP in the European elections but have warned about the sweeping rise of far-right parties in other countries. Former English Defence League founder Robinson, accused of pursuing an anti-Muslim agenda, did not secure enough votes to win an MEP seat in the North West last weekend as did UKIP. However, in France president Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance alliance was defeated by the far-right National Rally of Marine Le Pen, while anti-immigration parties also fared well in Germany, Belgium, Hungary and Italy. In the UK, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was the clear winner with around 32 per cent of the vote, while the Conservatives and Labour suffered heavy losses. The Lib Dems, reduced to a single MEP in 2014, reached 16 after their best ever European results which saw entrepreneur Dinesh Dhamija voted in. Dhamija, founder of the Ebookers travel agency, told Eastern Eye: “One of the reasons why I stood is the fact that we had hate crime after the last referendum in 2016 going up by 327 per cent against Asians. “Not one Tory or Labour leader said anything in public. Privately they were saying but people like the National Front, BNP, the British Union of Fascists were telling people on the streets or at bus stops ‘go home’, throwing things at them. “You see it a lot more in the provinces.” The British Asian politicians who remain as MEPs include Neena Gill, Amjad Bashir, Nirj Deva, Wajid Khan, Sajjad Karim, Claude Moraes and Syed Kamall. Dhamija added that the Lib Dems want another referendum on whether to leave the EU or to revoke Article 50, which would mean cancelling Brexit. “Our message was absolutely spot on, we had a Remain message,” he said. “We said b****ks to Brexit. We are there to exit from Brexit. This was clear and thus people who wanted to Remain voted for us. “The Labour party had a fuzzy message, wanted to ride two horses – one Brexit, one Remain; no-one understood them. “The Conservatives, after three years, weren’t able to deliver Brexit by March 29 and were not in any state to win. “If you turn round and say I want a hard Brexit, you have to have a people’s vote on that, because it’s really damaging to the economy.” Ethnic minorities in Britain faced more overt racism in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum, research in March showed. Seventy-one per cent reported having faced racial discrimination, compared with 58 per cent in 2016. Anand Menon, director of The UK in A Changing Europe think-tank, said we “shouldn’t rest on our laurels” despite the far-right elements doing worse than predicted in Britain. The professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London told Eastern Eye: “We shouldn’t be sitting around patting ourselves on the back. “I think we are better than the French in some ways, immigrants are more integrated and we have a very strong anti-racist, anti-fascist movement. “Nevertheless, we have seen a spike in hate crime and abuse reported since Brexit vote.” Menon added: “[Viktor] Orban won against a party which is far more extreme than he in Hungary so we can take a crumb of comfort. “Hungary is increasingly reactionary and increasingly illiberal state, immigration is a poisonous issue. “The government has managed to convince the people they don’t want more immigrants. “France is more subtle than that. National Front did well, they have a solid base now, I still think this is different to a general election so we shouldn’t draw any hasty conclusions of ‘oh my god they will next run off against Macron’ because they won’t.” Racist tensions were exposed during the European elections when some Brexit Party supporters in Birmingham yelled at Neena Gill, the first British Asian Sikh female MEP, to “go home” in a video posted on Twitter. In Germany the far-right AfD made further gains, while the anti-migrant Flemish Nationalist Vlaams Belang gained seats in the Belgian National parliament. But UKIP lost all its MEPs in the election and saw a fall in its vote share of over 24 per cent with party leader Gerard Batten blamed for working with former EDL founder Robinson. Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, shadow minister for foreign and commonwealth affairs, said the public had seen “through their [Robinson and UKIP’s] rhetoric of hatred among communities, no-one wanted to be part of it.” He said: “Tommy Robinson is there to incite hatred. “They deserve what they got, no seats in Parliament. It just shows how strong people are, we should applaud the people of the north west region.” On the gains the far-right parties made across Europe, Mahmood added: “It is up to politicians to resolve these issues [because] where there is a vacuum of leadership, these things will happen. “Mainstream parties need to take a lesson from this and cannot be put in a corner. They have to be bold, put policies which address issues like the economy and the grassroots. “We need to educate young people into jobs and get away from this stupid rhetoric of xenophobia created predominantly by the Brexit movement.” Nahella Ashraf, from the group Manchester Stand Up To Racism said: “The campaign Stand Up To Racism ran shows that we can pull people together regardless of how they voted in the referendum. “However, we cannot be complacent. We know that all the candidates running for the Tory leadership campaign will use racism to score political points. “We also know that the Tory austerity agenda gives the far right space to grow.”