Tim has also written a strong anti-BNP piece in the Torygraph:
I have long believed that the best way to defeat the British National Party and other extremist groups was to deny them the oxygen of publicity. That belief was shaken when I talked to two people in Salisbury cathedral after Sunday morning worship. We were having a pleasant conversation about the state of the nation and they suddenly mentioned that they’d be voting BNP. My jaw dropped.
It quickly became clear that they had no idea what the BNP really stood for. They said that they liked its patriotism and opposition to political sleaze. They wanted to register a protest vote. I asked if they knew about the Nazi ideology that many BNP activists followed. I asked if they knew about the party’s preference for an all-white Britain. They didn’t. They were horrified and promised to find a different vehicle for their protest vote.
A cynical Tory might have stood by and let the BNP take votes from Labour: a short term strategy that might appear attractive to some. However, in the long run, all parties lose from a politics of racism. And, more importantly, a mainstream political party is, by definition, one that does not promote bigotry.
They’ve launched their campaign with this video:
The point is very simple. The BNP is a racist party. It has racism hardwired into in its very constitution. British people do not think of themselves as racist, and are horrified by racism. That is why support drops away for even the most popular of BNP policies, when voters learn that a racist party is pushing them.
Update, from below
Here are my thoughts as to why this campaign works:
– people don’t like to think of themselves as racist and by and large are genuinely not racist.
– most people in this country have a genuine love for this country, its institutions and the ideas for which it stands.
– that is, by and large, how most people I know who emigrated to this country feel. My parents. My neighbours. My colleagues. There was a fantastic progarmme on the other night about the Qatar schools debating team. There was a little 15 year old Iranian girl who had a picture of Cambridge above her bed – like a crucifix – because that was what she wanted to do more than anything else in the world. The idea of coming to Britain – to Cambridge – was what that motivated her.
Britain is therefore, like America, a country that is also an idea. It is an idea that most people in this country, from an immigrant background or not, share.
What makes this such an effective campaign is that it does recognise patriotism, and does not surrender it to a racist and fascist party. There are a lot of people who want to be standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial.
That is not the way that a significant section of liberal intellectual opinion feels about Britain. The effect, I think, has been disastrous. It has made it very difficult for liberal centrists to combat the BNP successfully.
In my experience that people from immigrant backgrounds are, much more often than not, very proud of Britain. But many liberal, centrist, and left wing campaigns against the BNP have been incapable of saying this – because many people who regard themselves as progressive believe that what is notable about Britain is its racism and its ’shameful history of imperialism’, and that the best thing that has happened to it is that it has now become ‘diverse’, and therefore less British. It has therefore been impossible to say that Britain is a great country, because it offers a strong of identity that people want to belong to.
I also think, incidentally, that the attraction of Islamism and fascism is a symptom of this failure. If you don’t acknowledge the pride that most British people – including most immigrants I know – place in their in their identity as British people, then those offering alternative “strong” identities will take your territory.