I suppose we should have seen it coming a while back when the British National Party’s leader described Stoke-on-Trent as the jewel in his party’s crown.
Nick Griffin was bound to darken our door with an election looming, particularly given the BNP’s success at a local level here in the Potteries.
Cue the predictable demonstration from idealistic university students and a small number of people who believe in using loud-hailers to espouse their vision of a multi-cultural utopia.
Some people would have you believe that all BNP supporters are fascists.
Others will tell you that the far right party is an affront to democracy and that its members shouldn’t be given the oxygen of publicity. It’s all cobblers.
The fact is, as offensive and reprehensible as the views of some of its supporters may be, the BNP is a legitimate political party and its members have every right to peddle their ill-informed manifesto.
In many ways, letting them do just that is the best way of tackling any threat they pose.
Just look at what a mess Mr Griffin made of his controversial appearance on Question Time.
It appears that you don’t need to challenge the bloke to expose him for the muppet that he is – you just have to let him speak.
Credit where credit is due, however.
The BNP’s leadership may be wrong about many things, but they aren’t shy of broaching subjects which bring other parties out in a cold sweat.
Take immigration, for example, or the European Union.
There is no doubt in my mind that a public debate needs to be had about immigration and the failure of this (and previous) UK Governments to implement a coherent strategy to deal with the fact that our borders have become so porous.
Unfortunately, all of the main parties seem afraid to tackle an issue that continues to exercise many people in this country.
Then there is the thorny issue of this little island’s membership of the EU. Weren’t we promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty? Again, no dice.
Is it any wonder that voters are turning their back on Labour and the Tories?
I’m not bothered in the slightest about Nick Griffin launching the BNP’s national election campaign here in North Staffordshire.
I’m more concerned about the fact that some supporters of the mainstream parties, and indeed some politicians, seem to blame the party’s recent success on the media rather than looking a little closer to home.
Does anyone honestly believe that it is the fault of journalists that the BNP has secured a bunch of seats on Stoke-on-Trent City Council?
I suspect the truth is actually that voters in some areas of the Potteries were so disillusioned with the usual suspects who have made such a pig’s ear of running the city in the last 20 years that they sought an alternative.
They perhaps just wanted a hard-working councillor who answered their phone calls and replied to their letters – and they didn’t much care about his political affiliations.
This disenchantment with politics and mainstream politicians is mirrored nationally.
Indeed, in the wake of the expenses scandal I dare say MPs are now more unpopular than estate agents, traffic wardens and, er… some journalists. So is there much chance of the BNP’s first MP being elected in Stoke-on-Trent later this year?
I doubt it.
Someone once said you could dress a monkey in a suit and pin a red rosette to it and people would still vote Labour in Stoke-on-Trent. I doubt this General Election will be any different.
Thus Nick Griffin’s visit was probably little more than an interesting sideshow ahead of the main event.