Within a couple of hours we could have the odious spectacle of Nick Griffin & his suited thugs revelling in a protest vote which has partially gone their way. The grotesque irony of fascists being elected just a day after the D-Day commemorations will be lost on no one. Who's to blame? Contrary to the impulses of some, the answer is messily complex & unsatisfactory.
Labour certainly has to accept a good deal of responsibility for the rise of the far-Right in recent years. When faced with the spectre, their response has been by turns complacent & arrogant. A combination of both was evident on Hilary Burrage's blog (http://www.hilaryburrage.com/2009/06/critical_choices_4_june_09_eur_1.php ):
"In the 2004 European elections the BNP got 6.4% of the vote in the NW [North West] of England region, but no seat. This time they could need as little as 8% to gain one.
"It has been calculated that only a strong vote for the Labour Party candidates...is likely to ensure the critical 8% level is not reached."
She adds later in her post:
"If you prefer other, non-Labour candidates, that's absolutely your democratic choice; but everyone needs to know that not voting (or indeed voting -- however ernestly -- for small parties which cannot realistically win a seat) may end up with just the same result as actually voting for the BNP."
In the following paragraph, Burrage kindly declares her own Labour Party membership.
Such arrogance & complacency is breath-taking. As for Burrage's warped perception that a vote for other parties amounts to a vote for the fascists, I've rarely read such an offensive & imbecilic remark.
You may not be surprised to know that Burrage is honorary chair of Liverpool Riverside Constituency Labour Party & honorary agent for Louise Ellman, the constituency's MP (http://www.hilaryburrage.com/2005/10/about_hilary_burrage_1.php ).
Burrage would have done well to read a Comment is Free piece by the Guardian diarist Hugh Muir, headlined "Who opened the door to the BNP?" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/05/bnp-labour-conservatives-voters ).
Muir refers to Labour & Tory policies on immigration over the years. Both parties pandered to racist, xenophobic sentiment, he contends. Muir continues:
"And yet, in truth, what we are hearing from both sides is yah-boo stuff. It's irritating because they know the problems involve both of them. This situation hasn't appeared from nowhere. It is the result of negligence. The architects of New Labour did not see the need to involve ordinary working people. They focused their attention on the limited numbers of seats and on the limited demographic they identified as necessary to get the party elected: Daily Mail readers and voters in the marginals. They cut the cord with the unions and the activist left, both of which were seen as a drag on their ambitions. But both provided grassroots links, connections with communities and foot soldiers. There was nothing to take up the slack."
Mandelson, Draper, et al used to sneer, "Where else will they [the working class] go?" when challenged about New Labour's "intensely relaxed" [Mandelson's quote] attitude to the super rich. We may, sadly, know in the next couple of hours.
It would be welcome if Hilary Burrage "got it". Can't see it happening, though.
For the record, I voted Green.