BNP Victory Shock Sept03

Last week's shock by-election victory in Thurrock (Essex) for the extreme right wing British National Party (BNP) should shake us all out of the apathy which seems endemic in voters. BNP victories in Oldham, Bolton and other northern towns and cities are often attributed to tension between immigrants living in ghettos and the local indigenous communities. The BNP’s victory in rural East Anglia is a shock for all those who have worked hard to build good community relations.


While the BNP seems to be making ground in working class urban areas at the expense of Labour voters, all three main parties have to be on their guard. And here's a warning signal for us all in West Suffolk. The BNP is targeting rural areas because it claims to have a solution to all the problems we are facing  - rural depravation, the loss of key services such as transport, shops and health care, and the future livelihoods of farming. Don't be fooled!


The BNP might sound convincing, but underneath its new found polices mask a pernicious set of extreme views centred on race, immigration and asylum. The BNP has neither a comprehensive manifesto covering all aspects of the national economy nor any sound policies to manage the social fabric of modern Britain.


I don't believe for one moment that the voters of Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury, Brandon, Newmarket and Haverhill will be fooled by the BNP but my Conservative Party as well as Labour and the Liberal Democrats have a duty to expose the BNP and to come up with policies which overcome the anxieties of ordinary people.


I believe that most people of Suffolk and East Anglia are supporters of the three major political parties. Their choices depend on the party’s ability to govern and to deliver quality public services such as health, education, social services, law and order. Most people wish to live harmoniously in their communities and they are tolerant of the vulnerable and the unemployed amongst them.


This Labour Government has failed to formulate and implement an asylum policy that is based on strict control of those who may apply and vigilance at our borders. Sadly, this failure has lead to a number of voters looking for an alternative in the extreme right.


There is, as yet, no sign that the BNP is actively forming local branches in West Suffolk, or that it is intending to put up council candidates. The next elections for St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath will be in 2007, but before that there are the European elections and a General Election.


In the 1999 European elections, I was elected as Member of the European parliament in Brussels to represent East Anglia, including Suffolk. The detailed voting analysis from the returning officer show that the BNP polled 204 votes in the Bury St Edmunds constituency and 126 in the West Suffolk constituency, out of a total vote for the party across the East of England Euro constituency of 9,353.


All three major parties must now ensure that they spell out their policies to the rural and urban voters in Suffolk and beyond so that there is no room for extreme parties such as the BNP to divide and destabilise our local communities.