EU Referendum

A point of agreement


Labour minister Phil Woolas delivered an impassioned plea in the Mail on Sunday yesterday, asking for voters to get out there and vote at the euro-elections – for anyone but the BNP.

He would prefer you vote to Labour but, if you are not supporting his party, he wants you to vote for one of the other main parties. If you don't, he says, the UK will have an MEP from the "far-Right" BNP. That would be disastrous, he thinks. For a start, they would be entitled to £1million of taxpayers' money to form a political grouping in Brussels.

Interestingly, he gets very short shrift from the readers of his piece, with 119 comments recorded, the overwhelming number hostile. Not least of the sentiment is that the Labour minister simply demonstrates that which many believe to be true – that there is very little difference between the three main parties, especially on EU issues.

Be that as it may, there is one thing on which we can agree with Woolas. "Those who say we should not mention the BNP are naive and in denial," he says. "Mainstream politicians can't pretend it doesn't exist."

Certainly, BNP is here to stay and – as Woolas himself acknowledges – the chances of the BNP gaining one or more euro-seats are extremely high. It seems, therefore, that the ostrich policy is no longer valid – if it ever was.

On the face of it, none of the mainstream parties should have any problems. An overview of BNP's policies suggests a degree of political naïvity which borders on the absurd. Without addressing the party's core issues, even its defence policy (illustrated by a Spitfire) tells you the direction of travel. In part, it reads:

We will close all foreign military bases on British soil, and refuse to risk British lives in meddling "peace-keeping" missions in parts of the world where no British interests are at stake - a position of armed neutrality. We will also restore national service for our young with the option of civil or military service.
If halfway mature politicians cannot shred that policy, and the many others, they should not be in business. There is no need to play the "fascist" bogyman card. This is a party which is a political lightweight, with policies which do not even begin to address modern realities. It should be easy to dismiss as a joke.

Unless they deal with the BNP before the euro-elections, though, they are going to have to deal with them afterwards, when they will be an altogether tougher nut to crack. Ganging up and sending a message of "anyone but BNP", therefore, is the wrong tactic.

On the other hand, the reluctance of the mainstream political parties to take on the BNP possibly says more about them than their rival. If they lack either the confidence or the ability to deal with such a lightweight opponent, then the success of the BNP will be of their own making.