This is a sad day for all those in Britain who believe in equality and freedom. For the first time ever Britain has elected members of a fascist, racist party to a legislative body. The reasons for this are complex and complicated and in the past few weeks and months I have been expressing my concerns about the failure of the main parties (particularly my own party, Labour) to address the needs of many white working class men and women.
We have known for months that the British National Party has been busy exploiting the economic crisis and that it could end up winning seats in the European Parliament but our campaign lacked drive, focus and energy - for that we must all accept some responsibility. In the coming weeks we need to continue analysing the the reasons as to why so many traditional supporters abandoned the party and we need to start looking for practical solutions that will deal with the underlying problems that have caused thousands of ordinary working men and women embrace the far right. As predicted the BNP did well in some (in fairness not all) of the so-called “forgotten” white areas like Burnley, Barnsley and Leeds. Areas where erstwhile Labour supporters say they feel alienated from modern political discourse and that no one in the mainstream is listening to them.
The BNP's tactic was to target those who had traditionally supported Labour, but felt and feel neglected by this Government. Many of these people believed that last Thursday they had only two viable options: not to vote at all or to vote for the far right. Yesterday Gordon Brown spoke about the need for Labour to get back to its core values. He is right - the sad thing is that he did not choose to lead the campaign to counter the BNP's vile manifesto of hate. It is not too late. He would send out a powerful message to Labour’s core supporters if he threw his weight behind a call for a new “coalition of the willing”, constructed to blunt any further advance of the far right, by addressing some of the genuine concerns of white working-class voters, while forcefully challenging those complaints that have no factual or legitimate basis.The Prime Minister should back the creation of a multi-racial, multi-faith and cross-party movement that could help to unite the great majority of people in Britain who are repelled by the BNP’s rhetoric.
Brown should explain that the reasons for Labour taking on the bigots and the bullies of the far right are not purely tactical and strategic. He should make it clear that the values underpinning the Labour movement demand this be done.