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Mick Temple’s Blog

BROWN DOWN, EXTREMISM UP

25-04-2008

With the local elections less than a week away, Professor Mick Temple of North Staffs University takes the temperature of Midlands voters. He sniffs some upsets next Thursday.

It can’t be much fun being a Labour councillor facing re-election at the moment. Think about just some of the obstacles in their way.

An increasingly inept leader, who this week succeeded in making John Major’s premiership look resolute. Opinion polls which suggest David Cameron can start planning his triumphant progress up Downing Street past adoring party hacks. Rising food prices which are starting to hit even the moderately affluent. Falling house prices affecting almost everybody.

And now, the first national teachers’ strike for 21 years.

Thursday’s Daily Telegraph said we seem to be returning to ‘an earlier political age, dominated by fear of economic decline and industrial strife’.

OTT? Maybe not.

All we need is for flares to make a comeback and it could be the 1970s all over again. And no Labour politician wants reminders of winters of discontent – any more than I want to be reminded of ‘Disco Duck’ by Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots.

One other spectre which dominated the 1970s might also create electoral problems for Labour. Racism.

The BNP has nearly 700 candidates standing in the local elections. They may not win many seats, but their very presence in such numbers indicates something significant is happening in British politics.

On the fortieth anniversary of Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech, race is poised to become a central topic in political debate. We’ve swept it under the carpet for too long – an open debate would have exposed the moral vacuity of the racist argument. If the BNP have performed any useful function it is to channel the frustration of many voters who have felt ignored and vilified.

In Birmingham, 40 BNP candidates are contesting every ward, without too many expectations of a significant breakthrough. But elsewhere, the BNP seems to be targeting mostly those disaffected Labour voters in marginal seats.

Most worryingly for me, in Stoke-on-Trent, half the 20 seats have BNP candidates -including two real examples of Pond life – and they have a very good chance of winning at least three of those seats to add to the six they hold. The impact this will have on my city’s public image horrifies me.

So – Labour are doing badly and the BNP are poised to take advantage of it. Quelle surprise. When people feel insecure, unheard and threatened, extremism thrives.

Whatever those with rose-tinted specs believe, Britain today is a far better country than 30 years ago. We’re a more tolerant and intelligent country. And we may now be ready to have the debate on issues of multi-culturalism previous generations were too frightened to have.

Give the BNP and their ilk the oxygen of publicity – expose their fallacious ideas to examination. We can take it.

Discuss it on The Stirrer Forum.

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