Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Lord Astor and Nottingham Labour play the BNP card

The Labour Party in Nottingham does not want the city to have a directly elected mayor. As part of their campaign in this week's referendum they issued a leaflet that begins:
The racist BNP & EDL want a £1M Extra Mayor. That's the only way they can win in Nottingham...
It features the BNP and EDL logos prominently, but does not mention the Labour Party at all.

Lord Astor (David Cameron's father-in-law) does not want the House of Lords to be reformed. In a speech in the Lords today he said:
"In fact Ukip could have more peers than the Lib Dems. Ukip stand to gain most and, the rather frightening thought, the BNP might for the first time be represented in Westminster. One would have thought that was the very last thing the coalition would want."
This use of the BNP as a bogeyman is unwise and dishonest. It is dishonest because, as things stand, there is no prospect of a BNP mayor being elected in Nottingham, as the Labour Party there well knows.

Perhaps the BNP could win seats in the Lords under a proportional system, but that is democracy. The way to beat the BNP is to take them on in argument, not to rig the electoral system against them.

And it is unwise because such tactics are the BNP's best recruiting sergeant. I remember working in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets by-election on the Isle of Dogs in 1993. It was the second by-election in the ward in short order caused by a Labour councillor's disqualification for not attending meetings.

To overcome this handicap, Labour hit upon the idea of running a scare campaign: vote Labour or the BNP will get in. But the voters were understandably out of patience with Labour and in those days the Liberal Democrats ran the council so were not a home for protest votes. So having been told that the BNP had the best chance of beating Labour, many voters went for the BNP and the party won the seat.

I don't suppose anyone listens to the ramblings of Lord Astor, but Labour should beware of talking up the BNP in Nottingham. These stupid tactics may be its only hope of making an advance in the city.

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