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
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Day In a Page

 

Careful, Mr Cameron. Don't flirt with us on tax

Chris Blackhurst
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices