FOLLOWING the disturbances of 2001 the BNP had its first election success in Burnley.
This was not a flash in the pan or something that came out of the blue. As with the disturbances, it had been brewing for a number of years. Poor decisions made by the then ruling Labour Group left many of the majority of the white population believing they were second class citizens in their own town.
This fuelled a frustrated resentment which needed little to trigger an explosion but it could all have been avoided if there had been some way for the marginalised majority to have their voices heard. For many that opportunity was given to them by the BNP and the election successes that followed amply demonstrated the seething unrest that had hitherto been suppressed. It was not the BNP nor its policies that brought the people of Burnley into racial conflict, it was the intransigence of a political and ecumenical elite who insist upon the imposition of an ethnically diverse society.
The election of BNP councillors forced the establishment to rethink their approach to a whole raft of policies surrounding race relations. Throughout the ensuing years initiatives were developed where BNP councillors and activists were invited to meet representatives of community groups, faith groups, official bodies and the police to discuss points of conflict. It is difficult to quantify the benefits that may have come from these meetings and although BNP councillors have declined in number recently I believe they had a positive effect on the way race relations have been handled since 2001.
It is, therefore, something of a disappointment to read Face to Face (December 14th) where the Bishop of Burnley appears to claim it is his own auspices and initiatives that have brought Burnley from those “dark days of hatred and street violence.”
This from a man who extols the virtue of overcoming prejudice and intolerance through dialogue but has repeatedly displayed his own prejudice and intolerance by refusing to ever engage with BNP representatives. With that refusal the good Bishop would deny that many hundreds of Burnley people who voted BNP their democratic right to be heard. Similar contempt for freedom and democracy has in the past fuelled the fires of unrest and will do so again if a dogmatic minority c ontinue to pursue without challenge their delusional vision of a multi-racial utopia.