Waking up on Sunday morning in Plymouth is always a treat. Whether I choose to take a walk through Central Park, have a coffee at Royal William Yard, wander around the Barbican, go shopping in the city centre, have a paddle at the Life Centre or have a lazy morning in the garden, Plymouth offers it all.
This Sunday wasn’t relaxing though. I woke up, checked Twitter and saw that Nick Griffin, the BNP Member of the European Parliament, had been in Plymouth and had described our city as a ‘mess’. I’m no fan of the BNP and I feel disgusted by Nick Griffin’s vile politics but you don’t go around the country attacking other people’s homes based on ill-informed opinions. Part of the BNP’s take on life is to be provocative mistaking rudeness and poor judgement for common sense and Mr Griffin had demonstrated that yet again.
Standing up for my home, where I was born and where I live, seemed the most logical thing to do next.
I’m proud to live in Plymouth and I know that the pride I have for Plymouth is held by nearly everyone I meet across the city. We all have something about Plymouth we love. It could be the Hoe, your local park, your local pub, your favourite cafe, a charity group, a sports team, the new lighthouse road signs, Tom Daley, Michael Foot, it could even be Gus Honeybun. The point is that our city is great. It has a heritage to be proud of and a quiet confidence and hope for the future that is warming and contagious.
Nick Griffin has no right coming to Plymouth and describing our home as a mess. He had just raised £800 at a BNP fundraiser the night before. Donations that will go to peddle hatred and smear communities with their racist approach. Raising money for political parties isn’t easy but surely one of the most basic rules is not attack the place that has just given you money. Logic and the BNP rarely go hand in hand though.
The reaction to my tweet where I called on people in Plymouth to stand up to the BNP was incredibly heart-warning. The #proudofplymouth hashtag has now been used dozens of times. People have shared pictures of Plymouth, highlighted things that make them proud of our city and each and everyone of them by tweeting using the #proudofplymouth hashtag sent a message to the BNP – you are not welcome here.
Seeing people defend our city on Twitter, coming out to be proud about Plymouth was incredible. But what made me feel so immensely proud of Plymouth and its people was seeing the response at the Plymouth Respect Festival this weekend. From the launch event I attended on Friday night with Alison Seabeck MP and Cllr Chris Penberthy, to the parade, the music, the food, the cultural diversity and the smiles and laughter of the events on Saturday and Sunday. That was what made me truly proud of Plymouth.
Plymouth is an incredible place to live. It’s an incredible place to work and its people, in all our amazing diversity, makes this city the amazing place it is today. Now, I don’t know whether Nick Griffin was commenting on our post-war architecture or its people when he described Plymouth as a “mess” but let me say this: we are proud of Plymouth and there was no better demonstration of that pride than the Respect Festival this weekend. Congratulations to everyone who organised the event, participated and attended the celebrations. It made me even more proud of Plymouth and even more certain that the divisive hatred peddled by the BNP has no place here.
Luke Pollard is the Labour and Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. He lives in Plymouth and works in tourism.