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James Bethell: It is not enough to attack the BNP. More people are employed attacking the BNP than by the BNP itself, but the BNP continues to grow

James James Bethell directs

Free speech principles and democratic values were shaken but ultimately enhanced. Nick Griffin retired wounded but on his feet, fit to fight another day. The BBC can claim a victory today, but are left with questions about their handling of the event. The panelists have a story for their grandchildren. That's a summary of today's QT coverage.

But as people who will be fighting the BNP when the fuss dies down, where does that leave the Nothing British campaign? Three points:-

It was frustrating that Dimbleby stuck to the revolting but titillating bits. What we call the Bigot's Banquet. Anti-Semitism. Holocaust-denial. Homophobia. Misogyny. Nazi-obsession. White supremacy.

It is critical we hold Griffin to account for these revolting views. But this ground is very well covered and Griffin's stock answers, whilst inadequate, are well-rehearsed and get him by.

Many perfectly reasonable voters who abhor these values still support the BNP despite the sociopathic xenophobia of its leadership. The party speaks to them about issues they care about and claims to fight their corner. Dimbleby should have pressed Griffin on these points, as he would any other politician.

Take the BNP’s economic policies. Nationalisation of British industry. Socialisation of the housing stock. Cancellation of trade agreements. Termination of immigration. These would have a devastating effect on British jobs. It might not make such good telly, but it is time commentators Griffin as a grown-up and held him accountable for the country-wrecking policies he advocates.

Secondly, we are in the Remembrance Day season and, as Operation Stolen Valour exposed this week, the BNP machine seeks to use associations with Britain's military honour and the memory of fallen heroes to gloss over its record of corruption, violence and incompetence.

We must not let the post-QT BNP-exhaustion take our eye of the ball.

Through initiatives like "Soldiers off the Streets" (the BNP's bogus "Help for Heroes"-style charity),  Griffin's ubiquitous poppy and an anti-war march in London planned for St George's Day, the BNP are seeking to tap into the anger we feel about the government's treatment of our armed forces and the growing public scepticism towards the war in Afghanistan.

Lastly, it is not enough to attack the BNP. More people are employed attacking the BNP than by the BNP itself, but the BNP continues to grow.

We must ask ourselves why so many are so angry, so frustrated that they are prepared to listen to such a man?

As Andrew Roberts, the historian, told a Nothing British policy meeting yesterday, the failures of successive Labour governments leaves a legacy of fascism in our society. Throughout modern history it is the role of incoming Conservative governments to address the problem.

Tim Montgomerie told the same meeting that there was room in the Conservative agenda for compassionate policies that addressed the growing pessimism amongst those voters who have missed the prosperity of the Blair Boom and have lost hope in the future.

That's why Nothing British is launching next week a new initiative to bring centre-right policy-makers together to formulate affordable ideas for address the concerns of hard-working families in the heartland of Britain who are tempted by the BNP’s racism and extremism. Families that have lost their jobs to off-shore developing economies and hard-working, better-trained migrants. That are losing out in the competition for public services. Who no longer feel at home in their own country. Whose living environment has deteriorated during a time when the rest of Britain has got better.

The ideas are out there. We are asking organisations like ConservativeHome to help us to bring them together.

Diane Abbot told the Politics Show last night that Labour has abandoned its core vote and let in the BNP. It's now up to Conservatives to clear up the mess.


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