Friday, April 21, 2006

BNP Against The World

Today is a day of celebration in Great Britain - it's the Queen's 80th birthday. And there is little doubt that she is a genuinely popular and respected monarch.

Otherwise it's politics as usual. Conservative leader David Cameron has been to Svalbard to show that he cares about global climate change. And Gordon Brown is making the rounds in Washington as part of both the IMF meetings there and his preparations to take over after Tony Blair.

But otherwise it's the run-up to the local elections on May 4 that are attracting increasing attention.

I'm not thinking about the obvious question of how well the newly re-styled Conservative party will do, although that will obviously be of some interest.

The real storĂ½ seems to be the rise in support for the ultra-nationalist and xenophobic British National Party. Some recent opinion polls indicate that up to a quarter of the electorate could consider voting for the BNP this time, although the actual figure will probably stay below ten percent.

That's still a horrific number. And mostly it seems to be traditional Labour supporters in traditional Labour areas that are contemplating to give their vote to the BNP. Less, I would guess, because they wholehearthedl support all in its program, and more in order to send a signal on these issues to Downing Street.

Great Britain is among the most open and tolerant European societies. London is the most global city of Europe. The diversity has been an enormous advantage to the development of the British economy and society.

Among wide sectors of British society this is both recognized and appreciated. Not the least the urban middle class has appreciated "its curries, carnivals, Ukrainian nannies, Bosnian cleaners and cut-price Polish plumbers."

And still there is the risk of a serious backlash in the local elections. Primarily in the rural areas or in the formerly solid working-class areas.

It's still not there, and hopefully the debate that the opinion polls have generated can reduce BNP support down to more marginal levels.

But it is a warning sign.

Our open world and our open societies can never be taken for granted. Their values must constantly be defended and anchored in every sector of our societies.