Friday, 8 May 2009

Taking on the BNP: be careful but not too careful

George Packer in the FT this morning reports that parties have begun to discuss a counter BNP strategy at a very senior level. The most useful aspect of this is actually the intelligence sharing. What the BNP are saying on the door-step matters as it is often very different from what they put in their leaflets. On that front, if anyone does hear of anything that they are saying then please feel free to let me know.

In the european elections it is better that each party concentrates on persuading people to vote more generally. In a short campaign the thing to prevent the BNP securing their first seat in the European Parliament is motivation rather than conversion. If enough good people vote then the BNP will be stopped regardless of whether they vote Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Green (depending on the region.)

The one comment I slightly disagreed with in the piece was that of Lord Rennard. The parties should not make joint statements because we are competitive and that looks too much like a cosy club which will play into the hands of the anti-politics line of the BNP. So I agree on that count. But I don't buy the 'oxygen of publicity' argument anymore. The BNP have all the oxygen they need. Where oxygen is lacking is in communicating to people who don't realise the threat and are not planning to vote. To deny talking about the BNP is to hamper your ability to communicate to those people.

There are far more people who would be horrified at the thought of being represented in Brussels by the BNP than will vote for the party. An overly zealous attempt to deny the BNP oxygen means that the message of their threat may not be communicated. It has to be done carefully and tactically. But it has to be done.

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