Sunday, 1 March 2009

Resist racism for Lent

The BNP is putting up a candidate for the council by-election in this ward later this month. Turn out at the last two elections has been under 30% and this time there are five candidates who could split the vote, so it is theoretically possible that someone could be elected with as little as 450 votes.

I think it is the first time it has contested this ward so I’ve no idea what level of support it might actually receive. On one hand it put up the same candidate for Parliament at the General Election when he only gained 4.1% of the wider vote, and it isn’t long ago that a large number of local people were campaigning in favour of a local asylum seeker whose children were attending one of the Primary Schools in the ward. On the other hand there is clearly a low grade perception among some people that the access of local workers to contract work across the whole EU isn’t of value and the non-negotiable Christian commitment to the alien and stranger in one’s midst isn’t a promotion of ‘traditional values’.

The choice of phrase comes from yesterday’s Independent. As the candidates for our by-election were being announced, it happened to feature BNP members canvassing for a similar by-election in Cumbria. They weren’t that sold on people like me (‘The Church of England is all Marxist rubbish with no traditional values left at all’) and had a wonderfully surreal take on our multi-faith society (‘I’m not really a religious person but the fact that we can’t celebrate our own religion in our own country annoys me’).

Other recent news stories about similar by-elections have included situations in which local clergy have publically discouraged people from voting for BNP candidates, which hasn’t made them any more impressed: ‘the clergy should really keep out of trying to influence the local electorate and instead minister to their dwindling flocks’ and ‘they are cosseted against the current economic climate and don’t have any real fears over losing their jobs’.

To be disparaged by the BNP is to stand in good company. I’ll have to think about whether to say something and what, where and when to do so.

Meanwhile, this window is part of the understated Arts and Crafts influenced decoration in the early twentieth century Methodist Church in our neighbouring village of Healing where I led a Quiet Day yesterday.

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