In the light of the BNP getting their first councillor outside of London in the south east of England, maybe we should look at who is voting for the BNP and why. First of all, let's have a look at the results in Swanley:-
Sevenoaks District - Swanley St Mary's: BNP 408, Lab 332, C 247.
(May 2007 - Two seats Lab 462, 420, C 208, 197, Ukip 165). BNP gain from Lab. Swing 10.5 per cent Lab to C.
Turnout for the election was 31.3 per cent.
As far as I can see the most important figure was the turnout. It seems rather likely that the Labour vote stayed at home. I trust that the 54 Labour voters who voted last time but didn't bother this time are reflecting on their decision. It would seem to be a fair assumption that the UKIP vote shifted to the BNP.
I'd not heard of Swanley before this story broke, so I've no idea if there was a local reason for the vote, but in my experience the BNP vote can be classified as follows
A) Hardened BNP activists
B) Right leaning voters who don't like immigrants/foreigners - would vote Tory/UKIP
C) Disaffected working class voters - previously voted Labour
D) Local issue voters - Vote BNP because they've cottoned on to some local issue & exploited it - often don't normally vote
Now as a Labour supporter, my view of how the Labour Party should address these issues are as follows
Hardened BNP activists. These are never going to vote Labour. It should be a priority to ensure that where these people are active, they are challenged. I would never advocate a violent response, opposition should be by force of argument. If they are canvassing, then the labour Party should make it a priority to counter this by ensuring Labour supporters are also canvassing locally and people taking BNP leaflets should be engaged in conversation about why they shouldn't vote BNP, not in a patronising or hectoring manner - just on the basis that the BNP have policies which could destroy the prosperity of the UK. I'd suggest that it should be pointed out that the NHS and the transport system in London would collapse if immigrants were deported. If all migrant workers were deported and every job was filled by those out of work (assuming they had the skills/training which is unlikely) there would be a million jobs not getting done.
Right leaning voters. Again these are unlikely to vote Labour. If nothing else we should point out to these voters the downside to BNP policies which would result in economic collapse. Labour has been extremely bad at pointing out the benefits, economically and socially of immigration and immigrants.
Disaffected Labour Voters. For these voters, the Labour party should be explaining it's successes. Improvements in the NHS, increased prosperity since 1997, new & better schools. These are tangible things which people understand.
Local issues. It is vital that Labour gets out of it's ivory towers and out on the street. If people are complaining about local issues, then Labour should address these. This doesn't mean bending over to the right, it means ensuring that groups aren't left behind or ignored.
Statements like "British Jobs for British Workers" are petrol on the BNP fire. Labour should have a "fairness and justice" agenda. People want jobs and security. Where these are perceived as being neglected, the BNP will thrive.
The most important thing that Labour should be doing is ensuring that the vote turns up. If all the Labour voters who voted in 2007 had turned out in Swanley, the BNP would have lost. This must be the lesson.
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