The election success of the far-right British National Party (BNP) does not signal a major shift to the right in British politics, according to former British Labour MEP Richard Corbett, who lost his seat to the BNP in last weekend’s European election.
Richard Corbett is a former Labour MEP for the English constituency of Yorkshire and Humber. He lost his seat to the British National Party (BNP) in last weekend’s elections.
What were the reasons behind the result in the UK?
In the UK, the entire attention of the media and the public was on the Westminster expenses scandal, and there was hardly any European content to the debate at all, and that hit all the major political parties. But it hit Labour more because we are in government.
It is not that there has been a big surge in support for the BNP. In absolute terms, the BNP vote was only up about 1% from last time. It was not that they moved forward, it was the decline in the Labour vote. We need to get twice as many votes as them to avoid losing seats.
You are someone who is known as being very strong on European issues both in Brussels and at home. You lost your seat in Yorkshire and Humber to the BNP. Do you think that you were affected more than others by the intensely national focus of the campaign in the UK?
Yes, I think if the campaign had focused on European issues, rather than domestic scandals in a completely different parliament, we would have done much better.
Libertas was completely obliterated and its leader Declan Ganley was blown away. Does this bode well for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty?
I hope so. I think the results show that people have seen through Declan Ganley. It would suggest that the Irish people won’t be taken in a second time by his lies and innuendo.
Is the rise of the BNP in Britian something temporary, or is this something you see as having a more permanent effect on the British political landscape?
No. I hope very much that it is temporary. As I have said, there has not been a surge in their vote. It was the dip in the vote of the major parties, particularly Labour, due to the major scandal, that has helped them.
After that issue has been addressed – and we will address it, we are addressing it – we will rise again, and the BNP will disappear; or at least they will lose their seats in the next European Parliament election.
Why have establishment and government parties fared so badly in Britain, when the opposite occurred in other parts of the European Union?
The campaign focused on the scandal – day-in, day-out it was on the news. That’s what people asked about when meeting people on doorsteps.