Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: BNP supporters do not merit sympathetic understanding, just outright condemnation

Instead of competing fairly with the striving immigrant, they want to destroy our possibilities
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The Independent Online

Am I alone in feeling no sympathy, none at all, for those drippy losers, the so-called lost souls who are delivering their hopeless votes to the fascistic, but now fashion-conscious BNP? After decades of universal education these voters - ignoramuses and bigots - have learnt nothing about the evils of Nazism and racial hatred.

They rush into the arms of a ruthlessly manipulative party which makes them feel like local heroes for impugning mainstream politicians, the middle classes, immigrants, the EU, Jews, Muslims, blacks and Asians. So let them. The BNP and the always disgruntled deserve each other; they inhabit the same airless pit of reproach, rejection and irredeemable pessimism.

So they may harvest 7 per cent of the votes in some inner-city areas in the forthcoming local elections. Is that any reason for established political parties to panic? In 1973, a year after Ugandan Asians landed in the UK, the National Front got 16 per cent in a by-election. And there have been other such minor breakthroughs in local elections, that were eventually whittled away.

The BNP is making slow but steady gains, but they have nowhere near the support that Green parties now have. But you wouldn't know that from the serious attention the right-wingers are now getting. No wonder Simon Darby, heir to Nick Griffin, is so delighted: "Now our message is being heard," he says. Margaret Hodge handed over a barrel of PR bubbly to Griffin, Darby and their thugs when she came out last week to warn that New Labour was not providing tender loving care to white voters who were set to become BNP supporters.

Now the Shipley Tory MP, Philip Davies, has come out with similar drivel, claiming that white Britons are turning to fascism, "because they are so let down by the powerful in our society. People feel nobody is standing up and talking about asylum and immigration issues. The fear is that if you are white and you say something that may be considered derogatory by somebody about an ethnic minority [sic] you are going to be sacked or locked up".

Yes of course. Richard Littlejohn and Melanie Phillips are now languishing in prison because they dared to question and criticise what they say are let-them-all-in immigration policies. We must empathise with these disillusioned thousands, say Hodge and Davies and an ever louder chorus of editorials. Why?

Would they suggest we should try to identify with the Muslim Hizb ut-Tahrir, which wants to set up Islamic states in Europe? After all, its appeal comes from, and is made to, British citizens who feel alienated and failed by mainstream politics. Why no gentle understanding for this movement and the people who are drawn to it?

Or what about showing similar empathy for the many who voted for George Galloway's Respect party? All we have seen so far is derision for the maverick MP and his followers. But we are asked to put ourselves out to "understand" potential BNP supporters, comfort them with racist policies to placate their mean little lives, which are based on generations of resentment and loathing of "outsiders".

There are two relevant dictionary meanings of the term to "understand". It means either to "grasp the meaning of something, to be able to explain to yourself the nature of somebody or something or the meaning or cause of something" or "to recognise someone's character or somebody's situation, in a sympathetic, tolerant or empathetic way". Sorry, I can describe their condition, but I cannot provide understanding for the BNP and its new flotilla of fans.

There can be no excuse for anyone living in the UK in the 21st century to surrender to xenophobic fantasies; this is a time of furious economic activity, self-motivation and global opportunities. If a stuttering Lithuanian decorator can come to London and make a small fortune to take back within three years, or a Polish nanny can use her income to retrain to be an architect - I know both - why can't the English in Barking make something of their lives too? Instead of competing fairly with the striving immigrant they want to destroy the possibilities of our lives as hard-working incomers. And I am supposed to understand this?

Yes, there are areas of terrible deprivation and unprecedented ethnic tensions in our society. By turning itself into a faux Tory party, New Labour has disenfranchised many millions of ordinary peoplewho have an income lower than the hairdressing bill of our First Lady. But that calls for a remaking of a cross-racial, working-class political power base, not the ugly and useless politics of nigger-baiting and Paki-hating. Do the voters of Barking really believe that the future will brighten up for them only when all around them are white? If so, why do Newcastle and Glasgow suffer from the same social problems as the neighbourhoods of Hackney and Southwark?

There is a new tendency among the influential to enjoy the degradation of the underprivileged in satires like Little Britain or Big Brother or to fear Asbo kids sweeping through our hallowed malls. And yet, simultaneously, they indulge and romanticise those among our indigenous working classes who lurch to the right, whose antecedents include unabashed support for Oswald Mosley's New Party in the Thirties and Enoch Powell in the Sixties and Seventies.

These bigots have never represented the wider labour rights movements or politics of socialism. They are only a small part of the 10 million British manual workforce. They are a disgrace to themselves, the nation and the remarkable history of class battles for real equality.

Yesterday I was at Stratford-upon-Avon to celebrate St George's Day and the greatest Englishman that ever was - Shakespeare - whose birthday it was. Both are used as emblems by British nationalists too stupid to know better. The former was a swarthy Palestinian and the latter understood perfectly the madness of anti-immigrant phobias. I leave you with a speech he gives to Sir Thomas More, who is arguing against the ill- treatment of Huguenots on these islands by some paranoid Old Englanders:

Grant them removed ...
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs, with their poor luggage
Plodding to th' ports and coasts for transportation,
What had that got you? I'll tell you. You had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
And by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians as their fancies wrought
With selfsame hand, self reasons and self right,
Would shark upon you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.