Monday, 8 June 2009

What now?

May I start by explaining that I never intended this blog to be a platform for my political views. I still don't think that it is really; I haven't really detailed what I believe, just what I object to. However, recent events have stirred the slumbering political beast that lies within me. So, here goes...

Well. It has happened. Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons have become the first members of the BNP elected to the European Parliament. For the first time ever, the British electorate have chosen to be represented by a party that is founded on principles of racism - albeit thinly veiled in promises of protecting the rights of the 'indigenous Briton' (see my posts below if you're at all interested in what I think about that) against the onslaught of immigration. In a manner that is like a diet version of the inter-war rise of fascism in Germany - 3rd Reich Lite if you will - the recession, a feeling of injustice and disillusionment and a need to turn inwards and away from the influences of the others that are the phantom cause of all our ills, far right politics is now firmly on the menu of Britain's political dinner party. I've considered the views of the BNP, tried to understand them and listen to the people that vote for them, but I've always found them to be incredibly flawed, ill-informed, half explained and understood even less. They always come back to plain old bigotry. I even heard Andrew Brons on Radio 2 claiming that he didn't know why non-white people weren't allowed into the party as he had only been in it for four years and he didn't make the policy. He is an elected representative of the party, and yet even he cannot explain why he thinks what he thinks. Is it just me, or isn't that just a teeny-weeny bit farcical? If Brons, a former school master, can't explain or justify what he believes, what hope do the voters he is supposed to represent have?

I'm not entirely sure if I'm being hysterical in saying that this country will never be the same again. The question I'm pondering is whether this will eventually turn out to be a good thing. Obviously, I don't think that it could ever be a good thing to have fascists representing you and me in any kind of democratic assembly, but perhaps the shock - the stomach turning horror of seeing such people and such negativity and hatred given any kind of power - will provoke something very positive.

When it comes down to pointing the ineffectual giant finger of blame, I feel that my generation and demographic has a lot of explaining to do. I simply cannot believe that people would protest the abuse of expenses by MPs or the recession by voting for a party that judges people's rights by the colour of their skin. How could you move from the left-centre politics of traditional Labour to the far-right stance of the BNP? Surely the problem is not a shift in voting loyalties; I think that the problem is with the apathy and laziness of the kind of people who voted for Labour - namely me. I have always voted at every election. I have always made the effort to get down to the polling station and put the cross next to the name that stood out to me. However, could I honestly say that I have taken the time to look into the political landscape into which I am about to walk? Have I done my research? Do I know, really know, if I'm voting for something in which I believe in?

I am a practicing Christian. This means that I believe in things that have far greater power than any politician. It also means that whatever political affiliations I have now depend on the issues of the moment rather than a traditional association with a party. My dad, for example, is a traditional Scouse socialist: he has voted Labour since he was 18 and will probably vote for them forever. When I said to him that I had voted Liberal Democrat in one election, he asked me if my "arse hurt from sitting on the fence". It's good to have loyalties and strong principles, but I think politics has changed now. If I'm honest, I don't see much difference between the centre-left of Labour and the centre-right of the Tories, aside from some differences of opinion on Europe and the economy. I could honestly say that if the Tories were elected tomorrow, my life would not be impacted greatly. However, I believe that if I am to align my faith with a political persuasion, it would probably look more socialist than right: a desire to help the poor; to treat the sick with compassion; in the equality of all men and the prevention of selfishness and greed at the expense of others. Looking at the manifesto of the BNP is like looking at the negative image of these values.

My faith also means that if there is one thing that is not an option, it is inactivity. Standing on the sidelines and claiming "I told you so" is simply not allowed. It doesn't change anything. It merely makes one complicit to the problem, almost as blameful as the perpetrators themselves. Shame on those who stayed at home and didn't vote as a protest: how can someone claim that by not voting they are protesting? If you don't like the way MPs behave, vote them out. Or spoil your paper. Staying at home - a mass display of apathy - merely confirms that the powers that be can get on with things on their own because we're not really interested. How can we suddenly pay attention when it suits us? And how strange that we demonstrate our anger at the system by doing absolutely nothing, en masse?

Whatever: the BNP stand for nothing good. It is apathy that has opened the door of power to them, albeit the slightest of an amount. It will be apathy that keeps it open. So it is imperative that we get out of our comfortable armchairs of casual outrage and start registering our feelings about whatever is going on in demonstrable, effective ways. Doing nothing could perhaps no longer be an option. Therefore, maybe those fascists getting into the European Parliament could result in being a positive thing. I really hope that's the case. The alternatives could be very unpleasant indeed.

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