This article from The Independent makes very important reading for all those church people who want to 'stop the BNP'.
[...] Look at the BNP's literature and you'll find that, on occasion, it points to some inconsistencies in the stance of "politically correct" liberals that are indeed hard to justify. For example, by coincidence, only a few days before going to Rotherham, I had been interviewing the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton and he had mentioned how the organiser of the English Music Festival received no Arts Council funding "because of the word English". Yet a festival of virtually any other national culture would be funded. Even if the frequency of these sort of cases is overstated, there has been an inconsistency between the acceptability of asserting Englishness compared with other national or ethnic identities.
Things may now be changing in this regard. But if it is the case that minority cultures have sometimes been given greater respect than the majority one, then it is easy for people to believe that this is symptomatic of a wider bias against what the BNP calls the indigenous British population.
Patriotism, if not allowed to express itself, will gravitate to wherever it is given a home, which right now is in nationalism. Of course, this has been a worry for some years, which is why Gordon Brown, among others, has been trying to reclaim patriotism for the Left. So far, it has not succeeded; in part, because no one has found a way of promoting national identity that is genuinely inclusive yet not utterly banal.
Those worried by the nationalist success in Everytown should take heart from the fact that everyone seems to agree that, whether they loathe the BNP or love it, most people in Maltby are not racist. The most incredible testimony of this comes from a woman who is remarkably well placed to judge such things.
Brenda Abou El Ola has lived in Maltby most of her life and married a Palestinian man in Lebanon. She's writing a book about what happened when they went back to live in Rotherham and confronted the reality of being an immigrant in Maltby.
"Put it this way," she told me, "we are perfectly happily married, but I am now living on my own in Maltby, and my husband and the two lads are renting a house in Eastwood for the simple reason that it wasn't working in Maltby."
One incident in particular explains why. "One night, my son, who was born and bred in Maltby, was walking home and a 15- year-old boy came out, drugged up or whatever, with a knife, threatening my son about my situation – 'Why don't you get you're mother to take her black Bs back to where they came from?' – and various threats on his and our lives."
Her son went into his flat and called the police, who didn't initially come, but his mother was not so retiring when he called her. "Me, being the person I am, and against my husband's and stepson's recommendations, went out on to the street to ask what was going on. He came towards me with the knife saying the same comments, and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor."
The attack broke her jaw and the next day her face was bruised and swollen so badly "I didn't want to leave the house for days, it looked so shocking". The attacker got off with nothing more than a "severe talking to", having said that he was sorry.
Despite this and racial harassment of her two stepsons at school, Abou El Ola chooses to stay in Maltby. "I like it here. I brought up my first family here and I feel at home." She thinks most of the people are good and decent, and that those who voted BNP did so for the main reason that they "have had enough of Labour and want something different".
So are the mainstream parties, and Labour in particular, ready to learn the lessons of the nationalist successes in Rotherham? It won't be easy. As Denis MacShane put it: "The difficulty is that you have to see that part of the argument that has some validity. Just because a BNP guy is saying that many people who are born and brought up here feel that there's too much foreign in Britain doesn't mean to say it's untrue. The question is how do you react to that?"
The answer, he believes, includes swifter return of asylum-seekers whose claims are unjustified, promotion of the English language, and construction of "a set of rules we expect people to abide by".
Whether he's right or wrong, to dismiss as racist the tough questions that he and others are now asking would be to repeat the mistakes that have led the BNP to victory in South Yorkshire. Unless mainstream politics finds a way of responding to the fears and desires of the voters who feel disenfranchised and afraid in a changing world, nationalist parties can look forward to even more success in the future. Read more
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