Tebbit attacked over call to boycott main parties

By Leon Symons, May 21, 2009

A call by Lord Tebbit for voters to boycott the main political parties in the forthcoming European elections as punishment for the MPs’ expenses scandal has been strongly attacked this week.

Ben Barkow, director of the Wiener Library, Britain’s leading Holocaust archive, said: “There are great dangers in what he said. One can see from other European countries like Austria, where far-right parties have become involved in mainstream politics, which has been bad for the country.”

The Wiener Library, created in 1933, is one of the world’s leading and most extensive archives on the Holocaust and Nazi era.

Mr Barkow added: “My main concern is the big effort the BNP is making with regard to European elections. They are clearly set to capitalise on the disrepute that politicians have brought on themselves at the moment. Lord Tebbit’s remarks have not helped that.

“For people who are having hard times because of the economic crisis, the natural tendency is to look for someone to blame. The BNP is running a campaign to exploit this in the most ruthless and unscrupulous way.”

Lord Tebbit, now 78, was right-hand man to Margaret Thatcher during her 11 years as prime minister, ending as party chairman. He almost lost his life in the 1984 IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, in which his wife was permanently disabled.

He stressed that he was not saying people should vote for the BNP, which, he said, he “abhorred”.

He said: “It’s very clear the three main parties need to be taught a very sharp lesson as soon as possible about the ethical behaviour of many MPs. I would rather they boycott the European elections rather than the general election, which is a much more serious matter.”

Under Europe’s proportional representation rules, the BNP may need as little as eight per cent of votes to win a seat on June 4. Lord Tebbit said: “What a lesson it would be if the BNP won a seat to those who think proportional representation is the magic cure for all our ills. It would remind us that it is the nastiest, smallest, most aggressive parties who have most to gain. I certainly don’t want to see them represented, but if people understand that, it is important.

“There is a way out, as there are many other small parties for which people can vote. You can be sure that I thought very carefully before I said what I did, and I did emphasise at the time that people should not vote for the BNP.”

The push to get people registered to vote in the European elections has spread to New York. The London Jewish Forum and the “Your Voice or Theirs” campaign sought the help of the main Jewish Community Centre in New York and through them, discovered that 1,000 Jewish families could be registered to vote.

Last updated: 11:19am, May 21 2009