May 09, 2007

No room for the BNP racists

The party’s local election disaster is a credit to student activism

Despite fielding a total of nine candidates for election to York City Council, far-right party the BNP managed to gain only 3582 votes and failed to win a single seat. To put this result in context, the anti-BNP organisation Unite Against Fascism has reported that the BNP fielded a record 750 candidates in the recent council elections with Yorkshire and the Humber being a major target area. After large increases for the party in both votes and council seats won in the past couple of years, the most recent elections have yielded the BNP only one extra council seat.

The failure to gain popular support in our local area is highly encouraging given efforts by the BNP and associated fascist website Redwatch to make their presence known. Attempts by members of both these organisations to intimidate York University staff and students have been reported recently by Nouse. It’s therefore good to see these bullying tactics are gaining all the success they deserve.

The BNP’s spectacular failure to perform at the ballot box shows that vigilance pays off. We should be proud that students at our University are willing to make it be known that we are not impressed by underhand tactics and thinly veiled threats, nor will we stand by as racists and extremists try to spread their pernicious political views by masquerading as a voice from the mainstream.

A national press officer for the BNP has compared YUSU to the Marxist Communists of the Soviet Union “who stifled debate and free speech”. This rather bizarre characterisation comes from an organisation which is still free to speak, free to contest elections, but has failed to win the debate and persuade people that it is right. That they are railing against student organisations shows that we, as students, must be doing something right in combating their rhetoric. The same press officer also expressed frustration that students are too ready to accept the idea that diversity is a wonderful thing. Enough said.

With overall turnout at only 41.8% and even lower at 37.2% in the overwhelmingly student-based electorate of Heslington ward, there is a clear lack of interest in local politics among students, and very little desire to turn out in support of the major political parties. Such a high level of apathy is definitely a worrying trend that needs to be addressed, but it is good to see that, in York at least, this is not translating into a protest vote for parties like the BNP.

Student politics currently has a problem in working out [what] it ought to fight for, but at the very least the politics of intolerance is something we can all agree that we must fight against. There was no room on York Council for the BNP this time around. Let’s make sure it stays that way in the future.


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