So 25% of voters "might vote" for the BNP. So what?
The media have obviously had a field day with this story over the weekend - any story where the media can draw comparisons with the Nazi's and foresee the demise of British politics is obviously going to be too big an opportunity to miss. Cue plenty of commentators rallying against the BNP, and pointing out that it probably shouldn't be blown out of proportion.
The thing is though, I would actually like to see the BNP having more representation, because I support PR. Whilst I think the 'findings' by the Rowntree Trust are utterly pointless, I do accept the fact that the BNP do represent the views of some sections of the electorate, and, like many small parties, these views are not aired adequately under the current system. At the moment, we deal with the BNP in the ways mentioned above - rubbish them as little threat, remind everyone they're just the National Front in smarter clothes, ignore them and their followers.
As Mat has discussed in length here, this is not the way to deal with extremist parties like the BNP. Personally, I think we can be quietly confident in the ability of the BNP to fail all on their own if given the proper pulpit from which to preach. Bring the party out into the open, let everyone really see their views rather than tarring them as some criminal or otherwise shady organisation. Yes, this may gain them a few more voters, but hopefully it will also bring to light the lack of focus on real political issues and the party's real lack of credentials. You never know, engaging the party in mainstream politics may even temper them a little, and make them more palatable if they realise that they will need to be less antagonistic to gain votes.
What we don't want to do is scare everyone into locking up their daughters by trying to make out that a quarter of the population might vote BNP at the local elections. Let's face it, the majority of the people questioned in this survey wont vote at all if previous local elections are anything to go by. And obviously it's one thing to say 'vote BNP' on your doorstep and quite another to vote BNP at the ballot box. British politics is littered with occasions where even the bigger parties have heralded surveys and exit polls as showing a clear win for their party, only to be dashed when the real results are revealed. If only we could have a little less sensationalism in the reporting of voter intentions - it might make good copy, but it sure doesn't make good politics.