Returned from toil today to find that Dan Hannan has wondered to himself on his blog about whether the challenge to the mainstream parties from, as Hannan reminds us one Norman Tebbit describes as "Labour with racism," aka the BNP, can actually materialise.
He writes, lucidly:
While a tiny number of people might be attracted by the BNP's racism, and a handful more by its Left-wing populism, the party's main appeal was always likely to be as a stick with which to belabour Labour. Whenever I heard Harriet Harman or Tessa Jowell saying "Whatever else you do, please don't vote BNP", I winced. Some voters, I thought, might say to themselves, "Right then, if that's the thing you bastards are most frightened of, I'll do it".While I thoroughly agree with this, it's the second article Hannan has penned which appears to fail to take into account the impact of the expenses scandal on voting intentions. Instead of considering the effect of the deepening sense of alienation felt by Britain's massive swell of housing estate, undereducated, welfare-dependent (all thanks to Labour) vote fodder (for Labour), he prefers to float off on some sort of merrie England reverie - conveniently conflating England with Britain - wistfully drawing dubiously favourable comparisons between the UK and some 1930s style, jackbooted Europa.
We don't get excited about uniforms and shiny boots and führerprinzip: we leave that sort of thing to foreigners. Above all, we understand that our country is defined by a civic, not an ethnic, sense of nationality.This is simply not true (as the internal irony of this quotation itself suggests). Further, it's clear that Hannan is attempting, in vain I feel, to distinguish the Tory party from the BNP in a way that is actually unnecessary: by doing exactly what Labour does and demonising that which needs no demonising ('fuhrerprinzip' for heaven's sake!). Beyond saying that, on the evidence of history and the strength of their own words, it is clear that movements like the BNP are basically evil, any extra negative analysis of their moral turpitude is counter-productive. It's overkill.
And yet the Tories seem desperate to head off Labour's smear (viz Denis MacShane, Guardian, May 4th, for an example of this arch smearist's work and the smear itself 'in action') that they, ridiculously, are to blame for the rise of the far right. It's a particularly ugly smear because the intention is to cause people to associate - and thus apportion guilt by that association - Conservatives with the historical 'far right'. As Labour smears go, therefore, this one is especially filthy.
I do not think the smear will work, incidentally, simply because Labour's previous hate campaigns over the years on the housing estates demonising the Tories at every opportunity have been so successful. The Tories are simply not on anybody's radar any more in those areas (apart from as 'the evil Tories'). It's a straight fight between the BNP and Labour, which also speaks volumes about how hate campaigns tend to backfire.
But what annoys me most is that not only are Labour pissing in the wind on this issue, the Tories are now too. Labour are the ones who have played and are playing an incredibly dangerous game. I fear that now Shahid Malik has been forced to stand down from his role - and I think as a public servant who has been compromised by greed, this man has a case, probably criminal, to answer - the BNP agitprop will go into overdrive in that Labour-dominated 'heartland': Labour sleaze has thrown the nationalist socialists a lifeline.
Dewsbury is where this former minister, fired now for venality, is Labour MP and 'enjoys' a majority of around 4000. That makes it a marginal these days and it will be heavily targeted by the BNP - and that means trouble. The blame is so utterly Labour's in every way possible that for them to hold their heads above the parapet and even suggest there is any connection with Conservatism would be so outrageous it would merit a lawsuit!
So better Dan Hannan and Tim Montgomerie stop worrying about the Labour smears and propaganda regarding a headline grabbing fringe group Labour can't handle - and even though the smears stink.
Rather they must concentrate on how the Conservative Party can work harder and harder to convince the people on the estates that Labour have abused for so long and betrayed with their exploitation and money-grubbing that a Tory government will make their lives better. It's a big ask, but it's better than ducking the issue with displacement activities, which is frankly what the two have been doing today.
As for Mr Hannan: greatly admire him as I do, I feel he needs to venture beyond the Home Counties now and then before he tries to offer opinions on a subject about which he is seemingly informed more by his imagination than his extraordinary intellectual powers. Pity he hasn't already.