The election of extreme right MEPs in the recent Euro elections was a disaster, but these forces can be defeated with honest debate, argues James Gill
In a society becoming increasingly pluralistic and representative of a natural multicultural state, one becomes used to news of breakthroughs for representation of the many facets of British society.
Two months ago, however, we saw a breakthrough of the worst kind, the accession of two BNP MEPs to the European Parliament, having won seats within Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West of England – the antithesis to our multicultural nation.
And it wasn’t just Britain that saw this devastating rightward shift. The entire continent was ablaze with numerous hard-right sweeping Europe off its feet in a pool of bigotry and insecurity, and towards a fast-changing world.
For a country and continent that have simultaneously preached pleasing rhetoric on multi-ethnic inclusivity, reconciliation and understanding, these elections were a wake-up call for an apathetic generation that has let racism sneak in, under the silence of ignorance.
BNP: no yolking matter
BNP's Nick Griffin
With BME communities in Britain, who are barely informed about the European side of British politics, I feel it is time to address the issue of participation in Europe.
The European Union (EU) was borne out of the devastating violence of World War Two, a conflict instigated by the evil, racist brutality of Adolf Hitler, who succeeded in capitalising on voter apathy and disillusionment in the same way that the BNP does in contemporary Britain.
After intense fighting, people realised the need to build a Europe united in the common interests of peace, cooperation and tolerance. This translated into the formation of the EU, initially the European Economic Community (EEC), of which Britain’s membership, ratified in 1975, symbolised a fresh start for the former colonial power.
Those arguing for membership included the then Tory leader, Ted Heath, who had courageously sacked Enoch Powell as a policy spokesman after his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, and Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson with fellow ministers, Jim Callaghan and Roy Jenkins, who had signed the 1968 Race Relations Act.
Accession was bitterly opposed by bigots Powell, Alan Clark (who later described Africa as ‘Bongo bongo land’) and anti-Catholic demagogue Ian Paisley. It was a clear choice where the European dream lay.
However, that joy and promise seems to have been forgotten in modern times. Although Hans Gert-Pottering, the former President of the European Parliament, spoke of the need for cultural understanding between Europe and its external neighbours, notably the Islamic world, it is clear that reality demonstrates there is remoteness in Europe from ideas of racial and cultural equality. There still remains a cultural distrust for Islamic culture, focused in most centre-right parties’ unwillingness to accept Turkey into the ‘Christian’ club (human rights notwithstanding).
Prominent political figures continue to make daft to inflammatory comments, ranging from Silvio Berlusconi describing Barack Obama as having a very good tan, to the likes of Nicolas Sarkozy, who whilst Interior Minister described the predominantly black members of a banlieue (ghetto) as ‘scum’, and Geert Wilders who compares the Koran to Mein Kampf.
Then there’s Michal Kaminski, the Polish MEP leader of David Cameron’s new European Conservatives and Reform Parliamentary Group, was quoted as saying that Barack Obama represents the end for white civilisation, not to mention their homophobia and anti-Semitism.
These attitudes show a stark contrast to the dream fought for by Heath, Wilson, Callaghan and Jenkins 34 years ago and the enthusiasm shown by Labour and Liberal Democrats to a continent as part of a modernising Britain.
It is also testament to the apathy of the general public to the European political body, especially that of ethnic minorities, when such public figures can get away with such despicable deeds.
The turnout at June’s European election was 43% for the entire continent and 34% for the UK. Out of the 72 MEPs sent to Brussels, only four – Syed Kamall, Sajjid Karim and Nirj Deva (Conservatives), and Claude Moreas (Labour) – are from BME backgrounds.
The commentary and debate on Europe and all the senior figures within the public bodies and MEPs groups, are overwhelmingly white.
Voter registration and participation literature is common for domestic elections, and often reminds ethnic minorities to actively make their voice heard. Yet, with racists and fascists in ascendance all over Europe, as well as the two BNP MEPs, surely there should be a European-focused message too?
Shouldn’t Britain, as a leading member of the EU, with clout on economic and diplomatic matters as well as negotiating treaties, make a concerted effort to stimulate the European debate more, and set an example to other countries which have characters that are openly racist?
The EU is such a vital part of our political system and livelihood. For example cross border efforts between police forces, options to form common foreign and defence policies, a convention on human rights, two courts of justice and human rights, intergovernmental councils of ministers and the largest parliament in the world, elected under the fairest electoral system of proportional representation.
The capacity for cross border mobility and economic cooperation is immense, including the Erasmus exchange scheme for UK-Europe universities, and free mobility for workers and residents in any European country to move as they freely wish to do so, irrespective of nationality.
If members of BME communities and activists take advantage of this vast political entity where our country harbours a great deal of influential power sharing, then the European dream of Heath, Wilson and Jenkins will return to conquer the reality of Wilders, Berlusconi and Kaminski.