They say that every dog has his day. You can only hope that the BNP being elected to Parliamentary positions will be their high point and either they will moderate their views or their supporting public will see this bunch of extremist nutters for how un British they are. It is reassuring to remember, as NW MEP Chris Davies pointed out, that 92% of people in the North West of England did not vote for this Far Right party. There were plenty of other extremists and left or right for them to choose but the main stream parties have to take most of the blame for votes for fringe candidates due to the expenses scandal by many of their MPs. Of course I am disappointed that extra people did not vote Liberal Democrat and more of my friends did not win when we stood on a pro-European platform and membership of the EU has brought so many direct and indirect benefits to British people. A lot of people across the political spectrum and outside of party politics did good campaigning work against the BNP. Will Nick Griffin realise that he has to represent the whole of the North West and everyone in it. The BNP did get a very large amount of votes in England and Wales in the European Parliament elections and some English County Council elections. Those of us who believe in a tolerant, rational, inclusive, modern and diverse (one might even say multicultural) society need to keep up the effort to engage with people who voted for them and even with their foot soldiers so hopefully they can see why they are wrong to blame others for their real and perceived problems.
It is alarming that the response to the Far Right winning more (if very little) ground in English elections of the newspapers the Express and the Star is to run an illiberal intolerant bigoted but populist right wing campaign to ban an item of clothing of some Muslim women, the burka. Even everyone's favourite Tory blogger Iain Dale makes some sensible comment on this issue (28 June) as does upcoming young Tory blogger (and former student of mine) Shane Greer. The Express content is more balanced than its bigoted extremist headline but its readers may well not appreciate the nuance. Tabloid journalists have to be very clever, are often highly educated and have great talent. When people choose to do wrong with great talents that shows a moral flaw and a wrong choice in life. Tabloid journalists appear to use their talents to promote small mindedness, bigotry, hate and envy. These are people who have taken a wrong turn in life. They could choose to do good rather than wrong. One of the better things all the forms of media can do is point out time and time again the flaws of the arguments of so-called Muslim 'extremists'. On the burka as on many issues (such as choosing to kill innocent people of all faiths whether in London, New York, Mumbai or Jakarta) these people who should not be mislabelled as 'radicalised' show that they do not adhere to the teaching of the Prophet.
Some career activist opponents of the BNP will criticise me for suggesting that they might or can change. But people can and do change their views, sometimes for the better if they get older and wiser. People do have genuine conversions. People can make mistakes and people can and do reform. In 1993 at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Torquay I lead a group of Young Liberals disrupting a Conservative Party meeting because they had let a former far right party member join. We wanted to embarrass the Tory party and show up hypocrisy. The meeting was chaired by legendary World War Two fighter pilot, Squadron Leader Johnnie Johnson (Torbay Conservative Chair). Media coverage was mixed, with some reporting the reasons for our action and some highly critical. We were supported by the candidate for Torbay, now MP, Adrian Sanders. It was a great direct action but I have regretted it for years. That is because the far right supporter who had joined the Torbay Conservatives may have had a genuine conversion and we should have respected that rather than made political capital. I also regretted embarrassing a genuine great British war hero on probably flimsy grounds.
Proof in support of my argument is the election of John Bercow, Conservative MP, as Speaker of the UK House of Commons. Bercow was an extreme right wing former leading loony Young Conservative when he spoke to Bristol students in about 1991. He didn't check whether the audience were all Tories and I saw him launch into an openly racist attack where he blamed Hong Kong Chinese immigrants for an increase in crime in his constituency. Nasty racist pandering to prejudice. At the time I was proud that my party under Paddy Ashdown were supporting the rights of Hong Kong Chinese to come to Britain. This was denied by Mrs. Thatcher. John Bercow has mellowed over the years. He is now a prominent moderate, someone who is willing to cooperate with political opponents but oppose when need be. I believe he will help modernise Parliament and become a great Speaker, helping restore some badly needed faith in Parliament.
On the Burka issue: see Anthony_UK's comment here and responses. Read down till you get to Grunk's well worth reading:
Maybe that conversion at the time was not genuine. After being expelled from the Conservative Party the person rapidly resumed far right activities. See
'BNP's strategy of prejudice was sinister but simple' Paul Waugh the Independent Saturday, 1 September 2001 (viewed online 17/07/09; see also the Wikipedia entry of June 09 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Cotterill). Note he should not be confused with the leading Liverpool Conservative campaigner and lawyer of a similar name!