Mark Thomas blames Labour for the BNP

Blair and co helped to create the hysteria over asylum-seekers. Now they insist the only way to beat

The far right in Britain, in its present guise as the British National Party, likes to promote the idea of "racial purity". Yet, if you ever meet party members, the words "racial purity" are not what come to mind. What comes to mind is the word "inbreeding". The BNP candidates look as if there isn't one of them who couldn't do with a decent dollop of Kosovar asylum-seeker's blood just to widen the gene pool. And surely it must count as a bit of an own goal to hate foreigners and then stand in the European elections. No one seems to have pointed out to them that Europe is, shock horror, foreign. So if the unthinkable happens and they do get a seat in the European Parliament, they will have to go abroad and hang out with a load of foreigners, which should piss them off no end.

The BNP tries to cloak its racism in respectability, claiming that it is not anti-black, merely pro-white, which is about as believable as Adolf Hitler claiming that he was not anti-Semitic, merely pro-foreskin.

Not surprisingly, the BNP is not really interested in local-authority politics. Having got 17 seats last time around, it is worth looking at how it has fared since. Out of the 17 councillors, according to the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, Luke Smith resigned from Burnley Council after attacking a man with a bottle; Maureen Stowe left the party claiming the BNP "did not care for Burnley at all"; Robin Evans, a Blackburn councillor, left too, amid claims that drug dealers and football hooligans were in his branch; and John Savage, BNP councillor in Sandwell, was so bewildered by council debates and voting that he ended up supporting a pro-asylum-seeker motion. That surely has to be a first - a BNP councillor so stupid that he couldn't even be a proper racist. Many BNP councillors have not attended council meetings and those who have, rarely - if ever - speak there.

BNP councillors have done nothing but sit on their arses, claim their expenses and mutter occasional rubbish. There is not one ex-member of the House of Lords who was as lazy and arrogant as that. Surely this can't have gone unnoticed. So if the BNP does get returned or increases its vote, it could underline the message that many anti-racist activists have been getting in places such as Burnley and Blackburn - that voting BNP is done out of anger with Labour.

And why shouldn't they hate Blair and his chums? Much of the Labour Party membership does, a sizeable chunk of the cabinet does, and even Tony's wife has given him some funny looks of late.

Tony Blair doesn't care about the working-class poor. The Labour election machine has long ignored the poorer regions, expecting them to turn out to vote automatically, while concentrating on the battleground of Middle England. And in the melee of PFI, privatising and invading Iraq, some of the poorest wards in Europe have seen little or no improvement to their lives from a pro-big-business government.

One ex-miner I met at the Miners' Gala in Barnsley on May Day was handing out anti-fascist leaflets. He told me: "They [the BNP] wouldn't have dared stood when the pits were open and the NUM [union] were strong: we'd have kicked them out." Where once there was a community with the values of working-class self-reliance and improvement, and of strength in the unions, there is now nothing similar: neoliberalism and the free market have left in their wake nothing but devastation - fetid ground for the BNP to grow in.

The Labour government's bellicose delight in creating increasingly draconian immigration and asylum laws has only helped the BNP. It was Mike O'Brien and Jack Straw at the Home Office who loudly proclaimed most asylum-seekers to be "bogus" while the Daily Mail cheered them on.

The Daily Express's reporting of EU enlargement has reached new levels of hysteria. Hordes of immigrants are waiting at Calais. It is like the start of the London Marathon over there, with some even dressed in bear costumes and carrying collecting buckets, ready to invade. At the same time, Labour starts its own infamous campaign: "Kick out the asylum-seekers from our council homes."

Labour has helped to create the asylum-seeker witch-hunt hysteria, and then it has the cheek to say that the only way to beat the BNP is to vote Labour. It is asking us to beat racism by voting for a little bit less racism.

As the European elections are run on proportional representation, people can vote against the BNP and Labour by supporting the Greens or Socialist candidates and not split the vote. But in some northern wards the local election will be a straight run-off between Labour or BNP.

I only hope that in those areas where the BNP is a genuine threat, it gets beaten - but I also hope that in every other ward the voters punish Labour's racism and its love of big business.