Leading article: We must stop exaggerating the threat of the BNP

A small far-right party is receiving far more publicity than it deserves

Share
Related Topics

The leaders of the Church of England have every right to pronounce on political issues. Like the other great monotheistic faiths, the Christian churches believe that faith must be lived out in the world and cannot be divorced from political debate.

Nevertheless, sincere though their intentions undoubtedly are, the content of the latest statement from the two archbishops of Canterbury and York, warning people not to vote for the far-right British National Party (BNP) in next month's European and local elections, must be counted a mistake.

Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu are playing directly into the hands of the BNP by whipping up yet more brouhaha over what is likely to remain a marginal force in Britain's political life. Quite inadvertently, they are feeding the party with the oxygen of publicity to a degree that must be delighting the party's leader, Nick Griffin.

The two archbishops are not alone in pursuing this unwise, counterproductive course. Representatives of the mainstream political parties have been queuing up recently to urge people not to vote for the BNP, planting in many people's minds a connection between the scandal over MPs expenses and voting for the BNP that probably never existed before they first raised the matter.

It would not have occurred to most of the electorate to register their disapproval of the conduct of certain greedy Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat MPs by switching votes to a party whose only real, substantive issue is an immediate halt to immigration. The argument being put forward in recent days by various MPs – that we must all continue to vote for the traditional parties or risk handing over the country to fascists – comes across as unscrupulous and self-interested.

The fact is that unlike in France, Italy or Austria, the extreme right in Britain has never made a significant breakthrough. The BNP has developed into a significant political force in only a handful of areas, mainly in a few troubled towns in the north-west of England that have experienced prolonged high unemployment as a result of the collapse of traditional industries and which have been under the complacent management of a single political party for decades. Outside these pockets, the BNP has made few inroads. And it showed no sign of becoming the principal beneficiary of public anger against the big parties over the business of expenses until the politicians and archbishops decided to give them a great deal of airtime. If, as this newspaper reports today, the party is now registering an unprecedented number of hits on its website, that is surely, at least in part, the unintended outcome of all this free publicity it has been receiving.

The way to contain the BNP is not to rail in a frantic and exaggerated fashion against the great "threat" that it apparently poses to British democracy but, where and when it is appropriate, to calmly remind people that the arguments it proposes are wrong, illogical and unworkable – as well as obnoxious. Voters should be reminded that we cannot become the insular, isolated state for which the BNP pines, nor should we wish to.

What we should not do is what we are in danger of doing now: grossly exaggerating the BNP's size and importance and so, quite possibly, handing it a great many votes that it would not otherwise have hoped to have gained.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Administrator

£10000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital agency is looking ...

Guru Careers: Financial Director / FD / Senior Finance Manager

Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company has been manufacturing high quali...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

No more big characters or Tory clowns like Boris Johnson. London desperately needs a boring mayor

Rachel Holdsworth
Cilla Black lived her life in front of the lens, whether on television or her earlier pop career  

Cilla Black death: A sad farewell to the singer who gave us a 'lorra, lorra laughs'

Gerard Gilbert
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen