Former Labour MP Kitty Ussher writes in response to the BNP Question time debate which has attracted much comment on the Beehive this week:
I was the MP for Burnley until this election and also used to be the PPS to Margaret Hodge, and spent a couple of days with her in Barking during the election campaign. She ran a brilliant, energetic and positive campaign and has also attracted a reputaion locally as a hard working constituency MP, particularly in her campaign to get the maternity unit at Barking Hospital open which I am sure explains much of the result.
But I also heard with my own ears many people telling me that they were voting Labour because they did not want Nick Griffin to be their MP. They simply wanted to drive him out of Barking and were prepared to lend their vote to Labour in order to achieve that.
In Burnley we gained a council seat from the BNP last week, again because people responded to our very well known local candidate.
In general, although the BNP has substantial support in Burnley, particularly in the ward of Hapton, they are nowhere near as fashionable as they were eight years or so ago.
I thought it was a great idea to have Nick Griffin on question time, because he is the leader of a legal political party in our country and so it prevented him from being able to say he had been banned from appearing and looking like a martyr.
And because his policies are so ill-thought through and opposed by all the other parties and the mainstream media his appearance on Question Time meant he was roundly ridiculed, which also meant it became less fashionable to support him on the street. I do think this affected the mood music around the BNP, in a way that was negative to them, even if it did at the same time increase awareness of their existence.
The turnout argument doesnt stack up. When the BNP does well they tend to manage to get people out to vote who normally don’t bother: turnout is high when BNP win council seats. This time those same people came out for Labour. Its quite simple: some people who had voted BNP in the past, chose instead to support Labour.