"While France ponders we can act"
Categories: Latest News
Thursday March 08 2012
Sajjad Karim MEP for North West England has written an article for the Huffington Post in which he highlights the need for Britain to act against the rise of far right political parties, like the BNP, by addressing their potent racism and by reaching out to the communities who have been alienated by mainstream political parties, allowing the far right to fill the vacuum with their racist and anti-immigrant platforms.
“’Change’ is an over-used political cliché. Margaret Thatcher promised it, Tony Blair swept to power on it and with Barack Obama it was “The Change we Need”.
“But look below the mainstream political radar and there is another ‘change’ taking place… This change is about hate; it is the rise of the European far right including the BNP.
“Voter apathy allowed the BNP to win two seats in the 2009 Euro elections despite winning less votes than five years previously.
“Along with victory comes respectability and finance. Legitimacy is what they seek and another victory may well give them the status they desire.
“This is not a uniquely British affair. In Austria the far right can muster 30% of the vote, the VB is the biggest party in Flemish speaking Belgium and in Norway the Progress Party has 26 seats.
“National Front standard bearer and French Presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen is snapping at the heels of Sarkozy.
“Marine Le Pen has learnt from her father’s mistakes; gone are the anti-Semitic skinheads and in comes pledges to cut immigration and give French citizens priority over foreigners for jobs, housing and welfare.
“Le Pen won’t win but if she does well she will embolden the far right across Europe and we are mere spectators.
“But we can do something. We can beat the BNP here. To do so will involve real ‘change’.
“The BNP has benefitted by speaking up for the forgotten silent minority. It has exploited concern over rising immigration, high unemployment and the changing face of Britain. The BNP has the most visited party political website in Britain.
“Whatever their Leader says racism is in the DNA of the BNP. However, their growing support has been down to voters who don’t consider themselves racist but are politically alienated and tend to live in deprived areas.
“Yes, we need to expose the vile true politics of the BNP but we also need to address the issues the BNP campaign on.
“But that is not enough; we must get involved in the very communities where the BNP is most active, those communities forgotten by Labour in the past decade. This is David Cameron’s challenge and one he is acutely aware of.
“Immigration will be raised and voters of every race share the same concerns about the way housing and welfare benefits are managed. There is massive reform taking place in this area and in the meantime we can help by just listening.
“There is change afoot, but unless we act now then we may find the change not to our liking.”
While the challenge to the mainstream parties is to respond responsibly to policy issues that animate BNP voters, the speech given by David Cameron in Munich on radicalisation and Islamic extremism would suggest that far from containing the slipstream into far-right campaigning ground, the Conservatives have steadily encroached upon it. For example, Nick Griffin’s reaction to Cameron’s speech, that it presented a “further huge leap for our ideas into the political mainstream,” beg the question of how the mainstream political parties will respond to the threat posed by the BNP’s politics of hate without granting it a figleaf of respectability.
As John Grayson notes in a comment piece for the Institute of Race Relations:
“The political polls are suggesting the Con-Dem Coalition is, thus far, successful in both creating and exploiting commonsense racism and xenophobia. Such a climate would, of course, encourage a new wave of dangerous extremist violence. In the short term, though, lies, damn lies and statistics seem to be a useful marketing strategy for the far-right populist party British Conservatives are becoming.”
The BNP has increasingly campaigned on an anti-Islam and anti-Muslim platform, as shown in the recent documentary by Keith Allen on Nick Griffin, the leader of the party. The BNP lost heavily in the 2011 election, but with the rising tide of European far-right movements and their increasing collaboration, there are fears that the BNP could reverse its decline and make future electoral gains in the UK.
Karim’s message to the main political parties and the rest of society is most pertinent if extremist politics and far right movements are to be kept at bay.