Maurice Cousins is Editor of the Nothingbritish.com blog. He has worked as a Research Assistant at Conservative Friends of Israel and previously worked for Douglas Carswell MP and the Centre for Social Cohesion. He is interested in Islamic and far-Right extremism, US-UK special relationship and the Middle East.
There’s a moment in some taxi journeys when the driver starts banging on about “them immigrants” when you decide whether you’re going to wade in or zone out. When it comes to the BNP and the General Election, many politicians have decided to sit back in their seat and hide behind their newspapers.
It is the same message I get from many (though not all) Westminster politicians, including some top Tories. That is, we should not tackle the BNP because no one in the country is under any doubt about which party would be tough on immigration and a row just gives the BNP the oxygen of publicity.
One example (of many I could relate) was David Cameron's comments earlier this week to London’s Metro newspaper: that it is counter-productive to confront the BNP and their issues directly:
“The one thing you must not do with the BNP is run towards them. Don’t play their game. You’ve got to show people that you care and listen – don’t change your policies and react to the BNP.”
Which is a shame because Conservative politicians are missing a political opportunity that I would have thought they would instinctively understand.
Let’s first quickly update ourselves. Tackling the BNP is no longer about a crass policy bidding war and the distasteful "dog-whistle" politics that set a nasty tone in the 2005 election. No reasonable campaigner is suggesting that.
Tackling the BNP is about recognising that there are hundreds of thousands of hard-working families in northern mill-towns, the once-smokey bits of the Midlands, blue collar estates in the Thames estuary and pockets of post-industrial Britain around the country who feel let down by the Establishment and are turning to the only party that talks about their concerns (Incidentally, they aren’t necessarily core Labour voters, they are mostly long-standing, fed-up non-voters).