Tim Montgomerie is one of the few Conservatives around I have any time for. He is a man of sound opinion and strongly voiced principles, unlike many of those who comment on Conservative Home, whose idea of principle is support our party or else you are a traitor to the cause, even if they cannot quite understand what the cause is. Mr Montgomerie does know what the cause is and he sticks to it, whatever the Conservative leadership might say or do.
However, I fear he has made a serious error of judgement in his latest undertaking, governed as it is from the best motives. He has started a new website with James Bethell, who has written an article in the Daily Mail to explain why he is “launching an online fightback against the poison of the BNP”.
Some people have criticized the pair for giving the BNP extra publicity (which they are) but Iain Dale is not alone in thinking that the BNP must be taken on. In other words, the Conservatives have finally admitted to themselves that it is not only the Labour Party that is going to lose votes to the BNP and have upgraded that party to the position of enemy no 1, just as UKIP seems to be steaming ahead in the polls.
The site is called “There is Nothing British about the BNP”. Some of the information like the details of the BNP’s economic policy is very useful though I wouldn’t call “hard line socialist economic policy” un-British. Stupid, dangerous and counterproductive, yes; un-British, no. It is not that different from similar policies in the past and even attempts to introduce them by Labour governments. Plus there are quite a few very British people who seem to like them. Being British does not mean you cannot be spectacularly wrong.
The list of various BNP members, activists or supporters who have criminal convictions is moderately useful as the crimes are of varying magnitude and, in any case, does not affect the leadership. Yes, there are pretty unpleasant people in the BNP but are they all more unpleasant than all the members of all the other parties? (By the way, a word to the wise: to list among criminal activities something that is not proven yet [my emphasis] is libellous.)
At this point I had better point out that anyone who has ever heard me or read me on the subject knows that I detest the BNP and all, but all, its policies. Nothing in the world would make me vote for them, support them, or even have a good word to say for them. But I do not happen to think that this sort of carry-on is sensible.
The most important part of the website is a petition. Readers of this blog know that I am not a great believer in politics by petitions. We have, I feel, moved on from the early Mediaeval monarchic government under which the benign (or not) ruler was petitioned by his humble subjects to remove grievances.
In any case, a petition should be addressed to somebody and be asking for something to be done. What is this petition doing? So far as I can make it out this petition is addressed to the people of Britain with the signatories asking them not to support the BNP.
We have this thing called an election, which is free and fair (give or take those postal votes but they are irrelevant in this case) and the best way of not supporting the BNP is not voting for them on June 4. Indeed, as Lord Tebbit, whose grasp of political niceties is far surer than most Conservatives’, has said, the best way of showing one’s dislike of any party is not voting for it.
(I see Libertas are also attacking the BNP, having spent a great deal of ammunition on UKIP yesterday. Given the growth in UKIP’s support, this may not be the best sign for those who do not like BNP. Nor am I too impressed by a party that wants to meld Britain’s once strong democracy into some kind of pan-European polity talking about the death of democracy. If it is dying, it is being killed by the europhiliacs. They have been far more successful than the BNP.)
None of these attacks seem to want to deal with the main question: what is it that is attracting people to the BNP? Some clearly like their brand of old corporatist socialism and racist attitudes but others are determined to vote for them despite those things. Instead of mounting petitions, it would be a good idea to tackle that problem.
To be fair to Tim Montgomerie, he has called on the Conservative Party on numerous occasions to produce policies, to show the electorate that they stand for something and that something is conservative (with a small c) principles.
I hear a lot of people moaning that the expenses scandal will drive people to the BNP (or to UKIP though not, apparently, to the Greens). Well, yes and no. The expenses scandal does not help but what has been driving people to the BNP is a far more general dissatisfaction with the main parties and their politicians.
There is, let us face it, a stench of far greater corruption around all three parties than just the penny-ante stories that have been coming out in the last few days. They are merely the symptom of what many of us have known for a long time and others of the electorate have felt, perhaps less coherently but equally accurately: we have a political class that does not fulfil its duties, does not even know what those duties are, and when challenged lies to the electorate in a comprehensive fashion. That, dear readers, is why people are attracted to the unlovely BNP though I can’t help hoping that they will be more attracted to UKIP who, with all their faults, have more attractive policies.
What does the Conservatives' ever more hysterical campaign against the BNP consist of? It is not that different from their previous hysterical campaign against UKIP: vote for us because otherwise those nasty people will get in. But why, I keep asking, should we vote for you? What exactly are you going to do when you get in apart from grandstanding a few times and claiming your expenses? (You think Westminster is bad? Have a look at what the Toy Parliament does.)
Answer comes there none for there is no answer. They will do nothing; they can do nothing; there is nothing the Toy Parliament can do to change anything in the European Union. And even if there were anything, the Conservatives would shy away from taking the opportunity. So, we are left with one thing only: everyone else is so nasty, you must vote for us. Very unsatisfactory. Sorry, Tim.