There is nothing British about suggesting to a black child who was born in Britain and loves this country that he's not welcome here, writes Tim Montgomerie.
I have long believed that the best way to defeat the British National Party and other extremist groups was to deny them the oxygen of publicity. That belief was shaken when I talked to two people in Salisbury cathedral after Sunday morning worship. We were having a pleasant conversation about the state of the nation and they suddenly mentioned that they'd be voting BNP. My jaw dropped.
It quickly became clear that they had no idea what the BNP really stood for. They said that they liked its patriotism and opposition to political sleaze. They wanted to register a protest vote. I asked if they knew about the Nazi ideology that many BNP activists followed. I asked if they knew about the party's preference for an all-white Britain. They didn't. They were horrified and promised to find a different vehicle for their protest vote.
The no-oxygen strategy was successful only when the route to publicity was more or less monopolised by a few TV channels and national newspapers. Without any attention from the mainstream media, and because Conservative governments pursued firm immigration policies in the 1980s and 1990s, support for racist parties declined.
It's different today. The most popular political party website in Britain is owned by the BNP. Its most watched YouTube videos receive many times more views than any videos put out by David Cameron. The ether is buzzing with pictures of Gap-style line-ups of young BNP supporters attempting to normalise their party's brand. Without a hint of embarrassment their leader, Nick Griffin, even talks about learning the lessons from Barack Obama's online campaigning.
This use of the internet has contributed to a comeback by the party. It has been winning council contests and, helped by the introduction of proportional representation, it won a seat on the Greater London Authority. Now, most experts expect the PR electoral system to help them win seats in the European Parliament on June 4. If victories are achieved, it will be the biggest story of the election and Britain will no longer be able to proudly say it has kept fascists out of high office. The BNP will have a new platform – funded generously by European taxpayers. Support for the extremists has grown because of failures by the Labour Government on jobs, welfare, housing and immigration. Its support has also grown because of cosmetic change. The skinheads and boots are gone. Suits are in.
But by not contesting the ground we are giving them a walk-over on the critical playing fields of the internet. That's why I'm supporting a new online campaign to expose the party's true beliefs. The Left already have websites that target the BNP. NothingBritish.com is the first attempt by the centre-Right to offer a critique. It's a very focused campaign at present, but we hope it will grow into a very substantial resource that will ensure all moderate opinion shuns the BNP.
There will be those who argue that this campaign gives the racists the attention they crave. However, they already have got the attention. The BNP wants to define itself. It's vital that decent, mainstream Britons define it instead – before it's too late.
The main difference between the BNP and other parties is their determination to deport, one way or another, the non-white population of the UK. Most Britons want to reassert control of our borders. They want fairer allocation of housing. They want more jobs. The BNP wants you to think it shares those aspirations. But they are not the party's core motivation, which is still a belief in a largely all-white Britain.
There is nothing British about suggesting to a black child who was born in Britain and loves this country that he's not welcome here. There's nothing British about the BNP's core beliefs.
Tim Montgomerie is part of the NothingBritish.com campaign against the BNP.