The warning follows a strong showing for the party in the recent European elections. In the early hours of Monday morning it was confirmed that BNP leader Nick Griffin had been elected as an MEP for the North West region – the party’s second seat of the night.
The results caused much hand-wringing across the media and political spectrum. Tory leader David Cameron described the party as ‘completely beyond the pale’, while Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg called the BNP a ‘party of thugs and fascists’.
But a number of senior comms practitioners argued this week that the BNP won votes not because it won the debate – but because no debate had ever taken place.
Darren Murphy, MD of APCO and a former adviser to Tony Blair, said: ‘Political parties can not avoid issues of race and immigration. They have to communicate and have effective policies in place to deal with people’s concerns. They must tackle this below the radar politics and it is a challenge for all the parties, not just Labour.’
Simon Francis, head of public sector at Band & Brown, said: ‘Politicians have refused to comment and give the BNP credence, but doing this has created a vacuum that the BNP has filled by campaigning locally.’
Nick Lowles, editor of anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, said he was exasperated with the response by mainstream politicians. Searchlight is working with Barack Obama’s online strategists Blue State Digital on a campaign targeting the BNP.
Lowles said: ‘Ignoring the BNP does not work. Politicians need to stop talking banal nonsense and address the public policy issues.’
Blue State Digital director Matthew McGregor said: ‘The campaign had a big impact, but there are fundamental policy issues that need addressing that no amount of effective campaigning can overcome.’
In the wake of the BNP's electoral success, Hope Not Hate has launched a 'not in my name' online petition against the party. Almost 50,000 people have signed up since Monday.