Farooq Siddique: We all have a duty to challenge extremists
It was predictable, it was expected, and it was, frankly inevitable; the BNP won two seats, their first ever, in the European Parliament.
It is a platform from which they can do some serious damage to race relations in our country.
For me, it is heartbreaking.
In the North West, where the BNP won one seat, the number of votes for the party were actually less than in 2004, a little scrap of comfort, but then the other BNP winner in Yorkshire and the Humber won 10 per cent of the votes cast.
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In Bristol too, the BNP managed to cobble together more than half of the votes that Labour managed.
So are all these voters, who thought it a good idea to vote for the BNP, racist? I mean everyone knows what the BNP are, right? The electorate is disenfranchised or disengaged perhaps, but not stupid. They knew what they are doing when they put a cross next to the BNP. They must be racist, right?
I'm not so sure.
In the current context of voter disenfranchisement, a recession and the knock-on concerns around immigration, (you know the mantra; "those people are taking our jobs" etc), the success of the right-wing parties was almost assured, especially considering the low voter turnout. It was a success repeated across Europe.
Whenever extremists, of whatever persuasion, are given airtime, the publicity, the door to door leaflet campaigns, you find that you may not necessarily agree with the detail but you tend to agree with the overall concern espoused.
Add to that cocktail a mistaken belief that no one else is addressing those concerns, and, shazaam!, you have a mix of flavours that independently might have tasted good, but when mixed together, leave rather a nasty taste.
We can sit here all day and pass judgement on who voted and why, but there is a now a new reality. The centre right is already on the rise; the far right, are not far behind. The question is what do we do about it. And the emphasis must be on the "we".
When the BNP gained their first seat in Tower Hamlets for example, people experienced first hand what the BNP was really about. They lost that seat at the next available opportunity.
We must all tackle the extremists in our own midst that thrive on the extremists of the other side, eventually serving only to tear our society apart.
A few months ago, remember the handful of Muslim extremists in Luton that hurled abuse at returning British soldiers from Afghanistan? The BNP thrived on the actions of those idiots.
Last Friday, when that same band of Muslim extremists set up their stall again, they were confronted, in the street, by the majority of the Muslim community, after Friday prayers. The community had had enough. Scuffles broke out as the extremists were physically chased away.
The local imam later said: "We had asked the police to move these people away from here, they did nothing. We took the matter into our own hands and chased them away ourselves. We are tackling the extremists in our midst. Now I appeal to you to challenge the extremists in yours".
It is a challenge that we must all take up.