Carlisle Against Racism. Photo: Martin Powell-Davies
Carlisle Against Racism. Photo: Martin Powell-Davies

Brent Kennedy, Carlisle Socialist Party and chair of Carlisle Against Racism

250 people opposed to asylum seekers being housed in Carlisle marched through the city on 4 March. Racists on the march verbally abused and intimidated asylum seekers housed in a hotel. Fortunately, they were politically challenged by trade unionists, socialists and others mobilised by Carlisle Against Racism.

A number of volunteer groups, who help refugees and migrants, had previously met with the police and agreed not to call a counter-protest in order to “deescalate” the situation, and not “give them the publicity they crave”. As if the far right needs an excuse to express racial hatred!

Free rein

Worse still, they neither invited Carlisle Against Racism to the meeting, nor even let us know about the racist march. When we found out, they asked us and other organisations to respect their decision and stay at home. The Labour parliamentary candidate and councillors announced canvassing in another part of town. If it were up to all of them, the racists would have enjoyed all the TV and press publicity without  answer or challenge.

The Carlisle Against Racism protest was working-class opposition under the slogan “Jobs, homes, services – not racism”, with chants of “Workers united will never be defeated”.

The local paper reported that some people joined the march organised by the far right because of the cost-of-living crisis. But the most effective way to defend our living standards and public services is through trade union action.

Socialist Party members have stood on the picket lines of all striking workers. But we’ve never seen the far right give striking workers support – not that they’d be welcome.

Both local people and refugees are not being housed properly. That’s why the Socialist Party fought the bedroom tax. Why we called on the council to requisition empty houses when residents were flooded out.

The government is faced with a working class increasingly united in this strike wave and a mood of solidarity. So the unpopular Tories have a conscious strategy of whipping up racism, and other prejudices against minorities, to shore up their support – diverting attention away from the economic and social mess they have created.


Labour is ducking these issues, or even demanding more deportations. Imagine if Carlisle’s previous Labour council had done what the Socialist Party demanded – build council homes and refuse to implement the bedroom tax. Instead, when in power locally and nationally, both Labour and the Tories have refused to build the council homes that people need.

By failing to offer a political alternative, Labour has opened up a political vacuum for the far right to fill. A new mass workers’ party – fighting for housing, services and better living standards would undermine the far right’s ability to find an audience for their dangerous ideas.