Wednesday, May 13, 2009
British Labour versus British National Party
Labour MP Denis MacShane blames 'xenophobic' Tories for rise of far-right BNP
By James Chapman
Last updated at 11:34 PM on 04th May 2009
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Denis MacShane says the Tories will be to blame if the BNP performs strongly in European elections
A senior Labour MP has prompted outrage by claiming that the Conservatives had 'prepared the ground' for a surge by the British National Party.
Former Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane said the Tories''xenophobic' attacks on the EU would be to blame if the far-Right party made ground in next month's European elections.
But his extraordinary claim was attacked by the Conservatives, who argued it was Labour's failings which had caused a disillusionment with mainstream politics.
Mr MacShane's analysis also appears at odds with warnings from senior Labour politicians that Government infighting risked allowing a BNP breakthrough.
There are mounting fears the party could win as many as six seats in European Parliament elections on June 4.
That would transform the BNP from a
fringe participant in local elections to a national organisation, with up to £2million of EU funding.
Mr MacShane, Labour's former Europe minister, said: 'Slowly, the European election is coming to the boil.
'It was the Greens in 1989, UKIP in 2004, so perhaps in 2009 it will be the BNP. The Tories have prepared the ground with their constant xenophobic attacks on Europe.'
But Baroness Warsi, Tory community cohesion spokesman, accused Mr MacShane of a 'lazy cop-out'.
'It's much easier to blame somebody else than address the failings and shortcomings of the Government, which means some voters feel that a fringe party is an attractive alternative,' she said.
Ken Clarke exposes Tories' Europe divide with claim leaders are 'less Eurosceptic than in the past'
'Labour either shout and scream that everybody who votes BNP is a racist or they try to blame us for raising legitimate issues to which they have no answer. It used to be immigration, now it's Europe.
'Most people who vote for the BNP aren't racist. I accept that they feel so frustrated by the sort of politics they see today that they feel the only way to be heard is to vote for a racist party.
'They would never want to have them in power. It's their way of giving the other parties a kick up the backside.'
And she claimed that the biggest issue concerning voters was Labour's reneging on its pledge to hold a referendum on the revived EU constitution.
Her comments came as former Labour leader Neil Kinnock warned that continued squabbling within the party risked handing seats to the BNP.
'We need to present a united front and not keep in-fighting which will hand victories to the BNP,' he said.
'Discussions of leadership challenges are ludicrous and damaging.'