In two months’ time, the country will go to the polls to elect members of the European Parliament. The British National Party has high hopes that it will register its first Euro-election success at these contests, building on its recent local election victories and the election last year of its first member of the London Assembly.
The party has experienced a surge in support in recent times. At the local elections nine years ago, it fought a handful of seats and polled just 3,000 or so votes. Last year, it fielded 650 candidates, who secured, overall, around 300,000 votes. At the forthcoming Euro-elections it is likely to do well in the South East, London and the North West, where party leader Nick Griffin is standing.
In response, the Board of Deputies has launched a nationwide campaign — “Your Voice Or Theirs” — against the BNP. Over the next few weeks, the Board will apparently distribute 1,000 “kits” consisting (I understand) of balloons, posters and leaflets, with the aim of persuading as many voters as possible to turn out on polling day (June 4) and vote for what is termed a “mainstream” political party. The theory is that the higher the turnout, the harder it will be for the BNP to succeed in securing representation at European level. But the Board’s approach strikes me as crass at best and, at worst, likely to be dangerously and needlessly counter-productive.
To begin with, I very much doubt that the release of balloons or the display of posters bearing the logo of the Board of Deputies of British Jews will play any part in persuading voters who might otherwise be minded to stay at home to journey to their local polling station and record a vote for a “mainstream” party.
In some localities, where Islamist sympathies are strong, such propaganda is very likely to be counter-productive, and might actually increase support for parties or candidates hostile to Jewish interests.
Then we have to ask what exactly is meant by a “mainstream” political party? Does Plaid Cymru come within this definition, or the Scottish National Party, both of which have well-documented anti-Israeli track records? And if the answer is that we really need not consider these parties in the context of the present discussion, then we must surely consider the track records of other mainstream parties as well as of individual candidates within them.
For example, having perused the website of one of the three Labour MEPs for North-West England, Brian Simpson, I am not sure that I could recommend any fellow Jew to vote for him. Three years ago, Chris Davies, the lone Lib Dem MEP for the North West, was forced to resign the leadership of the Lib Dem group at Strasbourg after reportedly comparing Israeli policies to the Nazi Holocaust. A current posting (dated March 6) on his website, discussing the British government’s grant of £30 million towards reconstruction in Gaza, includes the following nasty comment:
“The European Commission reckons that 60 per cent of money given for Palestinians is spent in Israel, and the bombing of the Gaza economic infrastructure must increase this dependence. Israel destroys Palestinian property. The EU pays for humanitarian relief and restoration of the damage. Israel makes money in the process. Nice little scam, and EU citizens pick up the tab.”
Mr Davies is actually top of the Lib Dem list for the forthcoming Euro elections. Is the Board of Deputies really saying that it would rather that he were elected (again) than a member of the BNP? Come to that, given the present stance of the Lib Dem party towards Israel, is the Board saying that it would be happy for any of us to support a Lib Dem candidate on June 4, just to prevent a BNP victory?
The BNP is an odious organisation, whose policies I deplore. I have in the past refused and will continue to refuse to share a platform with any BNP member. But if it does well in June this will have been due to the failings of the present Labour government and to the failure (perhaps even refusal) of the Labour and Conservative parties to address genuine and widespread concerns, primarily about immigration and employment.
If the Board of Deputies wishes to play a constructive part in the defeat of the BNP, it should be lobbying the “mainstream” parties on these issues, not wasting its time and our money on the distribution of posters and balloons.