Paul Canal: The BNP must be confronted, not ignored
I suspect the BNP were probably reluctant to share a platform with the party of Damian McBride. However, Labour's stance, replicated elsewhere, has denied electors the opportunity to question and assess local candidates, arguably threatens the democratic process and does nothing to counter the rise of the far right.
The "non engagement" policy has been a dismal failure in Dagenham and did little to counter the BNP in Swanley. With the BNP polling roundabout 6% across London, they are in danger of winning a seat in the European elections. With the BNP drawing votes from both Labour and Tory supporters, all parties need to re-examine their approach.
Ignoring the far right is no longer an option. We need to rebut their rhetoric with facts; we may agree that their policies are socially repugnant, economically illiterate and morally vacuous, but if they are achieving vote shares of up to 40% in some areas we are not getting that message across.
It is also absurd that one candidate, from any party, can withdraw and sabotage the whole process whilst the rest look on impotently. If the hustings are arranged in a fair and transparent manner, they should go ahead, despite "posturing" withdrawals. The idea that a debate may only proceed on terms acceptable to Labour, or anyone else, is another step along the road towards the supra-state, where we are told what to do and what not to do, what to eat and what not to eat, what to think and say and what we cannot think or say.
I would far rather engage the odious far right - and far left - in robust debate than leave them unchallenged to propagate their lies and foment social unrest. If Labour can tolerate Islamic radicals, they should tolerate all views. It will then be up to us to strip away the rhetoric and reveal the BNP to be the hollow man.
Wanstead Conservatives are holding an action day this Saturday, 18th April, in support of Alex Wilson, the Conservative candiate at the by-election. Anyone wanting to help should meet at Wanstead station at 10am or email Paul Canal for further details.