Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, looked smart in his suit, and his brief speech was like a Room 101 check-list of everything Joe Public hates about modern political life. Snouts in the trough, PC politicians, Big Brother-style microchips in your bins. When he talked about you the voters, it was in appealing, flattering terms. Decent people, real people, were the BNP's target audience in its party political broadcast on TV this week.
A couple of BNP councillors stood self- consciously in front of the cameras detailing minor local battles, such as on CCTV cameras and meals for the elderly, which they had won. And not a black face in sight. Maybe it was unintentional. Maybe Griffin happened to pick the whitest thoroughfare in modern Britain, but everybody who walked past the camera's gaze looked just like him. Decent people, no doubt. Real people. Not like that other lot.
These are high times for the protest vote parties. Disillusionment with Westminster has never been greater; disenchantment is widespread. But when is a protest vote not a protest vote? The answer: when it is cast in elections for the European Parliament.
This is an EU-run show, you see, and operates under EU rules with proportional representation. So an angry cross put in the box of some addled BNP nutter as a protest vote does not get washed away by the major party tide as it would under the first-past-the-post system. In Euro elections, all votes count. So, this time, vote fascist, get fascist.
For example, in a recent council by-election in Moston, north Manchester, the BNP took 23 per cent of the vote (coming second to Labour) and a lot of people felt jolly pleased to have given mainstream politics a bloody nose. Repeated on June 4, however, it would also place a generous smattering of extreme Right Neanderthals in Brussels, stomping around the EU Parliament on behalf of Britain.
The BNP works on projection and fear. In times of economic recession, this centres on the anxiety that immigrant labour is going to undercut and steal your jobs.
Leaving aside the fact that if a shoeless Somalian asylum seeker with no English can do what you do, it probably isn't worth doing and you really should have paid more attention in school, how can this be? Similarly, if you have skill and a real talent, how can you be replaced by a Romanian squeegee woman?
There is no queue of heart specialists outside University College London hospital, bemoaning the fact that the Poles have come in and replaced all the best surgeons on the cheap. For that matter, there isn't an angry mob of bank tellers in the High Street, either. And try to get a good British plumber or skilled carpenter at short notice...
What we should be voting for is not a party of myths and scare stories, but one that will construct an education system that is not producing another generation reliant on the minimum wage and menial occupations. And then we would be getting somewhere.
There are four BNP councillors near where I live. I used to think I understood. Maybe I still do if I think of an old boy on the front line of Britain's racial politics, who needs our help but feels alienated and invisible. Not out my way, though, where a vote for the BNP - certainly one that is going to count - would be a spiteful, thoughtless, gesture.
It is too easy to absolve blame by pointing a finger at Labour policies or Conservative ineffectuality. There are a lot of things that are Gordon Brown's fault, but a vote for fascism is not one of them.
BNP would like to style itself the party of decency. Of course, race issues were not mentioned in its broadcast, beside an oblique reference to 'PC minority projects'. The party's website, though, is a little different. Great White Records, books called Immigration Invasion (How Third World Immigration Is Destroying The First World And What Must Be Done To Stop It), and gollywogs.
Oh, they do love a gollywog at the BNP. Golly display plates, golly mugs, golly coasters, golly toys, golly fridge magnets, golly key rings, golly snow ornaments, seated desk golly, golly pens, golly badges. Anyone would think they were trying to be offensive were they not such decent folk and all.
The modern BNP wears suits, and tries to make young women its public face, but nothing else has changed. Repatriation is still part of the creed and all asylum seekers are either bogus or unwanted. Oppose and, one presumes, you are not a real person. Maybe there will be a repatriation scheme for you one day, too; or a camp.
Spoil a ballot paper, set fire to it for all I care, or use this as an opportunity to find out who is your best candidate rather than be corralled on party lines; but do not vote for the BNP. It isn't big, it isn't clever and it certainly isn't any way to protest.
You want to change politics, then stop hiding behind the skirts and suits of a bunch of fascists.