Michael Howard's call to tackle the BNP needs to be answered with a strong message on immigration
Talking to Radio 4 yesterday, Michael Howard challenged the mainstream parties to do more to challenge the BNP. These were his words:
"I think I am still the only party leader who went to Burnley and devoted an entire speech to confronting the BNP and saying that we've really got to take them on and we've got to take their arguments on. I don't think we can afford to be complacent. There are one or two constituencies where they are said to be a potent threat. I think you have to take them on, you have to confront them and you have to expose the appalling evil of their arguments."
I completely agree with the former Tory leader and that's one reason why James Bethell and I established the cross-party 'Nothing British About The BNP' campaign.
A key reason why the Left is failing to combat the BNP is that it won't discuss issues of importance like immigration. Senior left-wing activists have even said (ludicrously) that to discuss immigration is to hand the BNP a victory.
David Cameron has turned down the volume on immigration since succeeding Michael Howard but there are good reasons why he might like to adjust the dial upwards in the next few months:
- The BNP need to be marginalised. Margaret Thatcher marginalised the National Front in the late 1970s and it is the duty (yes, duty) of a right-wing party to do the same again today. Labour's deceitful record on immigration means they lack any credibility to speak with authority on this issue.
- The Tories have sensitive spokespeople who can appeal to moderates within the electorate. Despite his family's personal history Michael Howard did not always reassure on immigration. David Cameron will find it easier to do so and in Chris Grayling, Damian Green and Sayeeda Warsi he has pitch perfect communicators.
- It is now harder to accuse the Conservatives of being 'anti-foreigner'. It was an unfair charge in the past but the Conservative commitment to protect the international aid budget now makes the Tory manifesto more balanced and harder for critics to allege that we want to pull up the drawbridge and shut our hearts and minds to the world's most desperate people.
- The cost of immigration is proportionately greater during tough times. Research from MigrationWatch last week showed that the NHS had been registering a migrant "every minute".
- The average voter supports a much tougher message on immigration. That's not a bad consideration in an election year!
The arrival of George Bridges at CCHQ may mean that this message gets a bigger hearing at the top table of the Conservative Party.