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A depressing day for our democracy
08/06/2009 08:39:00

I was at work until about 2.30am last night analysing the results of the European elections.

They didn't make great reading for any of the main parties. The Conservative Party managed to increase its vote share compared with five years ago, which given the backdrop of the revelations about MPs' expenses is no mean achievement, but ultimately we can't be that happy with 28 per cent of the vote.

They were certainly catastrophic results for Labour, relegated to third place behind UKIP.

But the most depressing news of the night, even if you are a Labour supporter, was the election of two BNP MEPs, the first time they have won Parliamentary seats.

Who's to blame?

Some people will blame the people who voted for them, dismissing them as bigots. But in my experience most people who are considering voting BNP don't share the views of hard-core BNP activists. They have been taken in by the BNP's image makeover and think (wrongly) that the BNP has changed. And they are angry with the state of the country and believe that voting BNP is the best way of showing the mainstream parties just how angry they are.

Most of them are former Labour supporters. And certainly Labour must share some of the blame - not just for ignoring its core supporters, but for its approach to immigration and for introducing an electoral system that allows a party that gets less than 10 per cent of the vote to get an MEP elected.

But all the mainstream parties must shoulder some of the blame. Yes, most of the people who voted BNP were former Labour supporters but we were unable to convince them to vote Conservative.

There has been a consensus among the mainstream parties that the BNP are best ignored, that attacking them just gives them publicity. That strategy has failed. We need to engage with the people who are voting for them and show them that mainstream parties will address their concerns. And we need to expose the BNP for what they are - people who believe you can judge someone's worth by the colour of their skin, not the way they behave.

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Gavin Barwell, House of Commons, SW1A 1AA, Tel  020 8660 0491      © Gavin Barwell  2017       Promoted by Ian Parker on behalf of Gavin Barwell, both at 36 Brighton Road, Purley, CR8 2LG