This is an appalling result for Labour, not least since disaffected Labour voters – those who stayed at home as much as those who put a cross against BNP – are the chief cause of Nick Griffin’s modest success (he actually lost votes in the north-west).
Using the same kind of rhetoric of struggle against oppression, exclusion and victimhood, fringe parties of both left and right – and right across Europe – have targeted voters who have suffered most in the recession and are most offended by the MPs’ expenses scandals because they struggle to pay their bills.
Europe is in crisis, a crisis triggered by excesses of capitalism, yet the mainstream left does not thrive. Yes, I know some people regard Labour as centre-right (a mistake David Cameron will be in a position to rectify quite soon) but the French, Italian and German centre left also got whacked. Xenophobic nationalism gained ground. As I have been saying here for months, it’s nationalism, not nationalisation, which we have to fear.
A great tag line, and one which the remains of New Labour would do well to pay attention to at long last. They stopped paying attention to the traditional white working class and have paid a humiliating price. I’m not justifying the vote for a moment – Nick Griffin makes me physically sick every time I see his face or hear his voice – but it happened for a reason, and it’s been a long time coming. It’s also hardly surprising that some people should be desensitised enough to vote BNP, given that this government decided that forced destitution was deemed a suitable weapon to attack ‘failed’ asylum seekers with, that imprisoning them, imprisoning their children was considered just, and that legal aid didn’t have to apply for them. Pander to the BNP and reap the whirlwind…