Luke Mackenzie, a Tory candidate in a British National Party (BNP) target ward in Basildon, was accused of peddling scare stories by suggesting that people who wanted to stop asylum-seekers being given council houses should vote Conservative.Well, yes. I can see why that would upset the Tories. It's not true, for a start.
David Cameron faced calls to disown the candidate last night, but the Conservative Party avoided immediate action, saying that it would examine the election leaflet this week. This contrasted with the swift action last month to dismiss Patrick Mercer from the Tory front-bench after he referred to “black bastards” in the Army.
A Tory spokesman said: “We encourage all councillors to confront the BNP and not to pander to them.”
Mr Mackenzie, who is standing against the local council’s only ethnic minority councillor, told The Times that he did not believe that his remarks would inflame racial tensions because “people were aware of this anyway”.
People are aware of many things that politicians prefer not to think about. Mr Mackenzie will have to learn to keep his mouth shut, and only say things that would go down well at a Hampstead dinner party, if he is to progress in Cameron's Conservatives.
The leaflet, headed “Conservatives: We’re on your side”, refers to being on the “front line” in a “battle”, talking about local people “getting organised” and “fighting back”.
It says: “I support Conservative policy of giving council housing to Basildon residents and not [of it] being used to house asylum seekers. There is a shortage of homes, but at the same time the Labour Government is encouraging record levels of immigration.”
Opposition politicians said that the remarks were highly inflammatory and echoed the message used by the BNP in other parts of the country.
Just because something is inflammatory or, horror of horrors, sounds like something the BNP might say, doesn't mean it's not true. But, of course, political correctness trumps truth every time.
Mr Mackenzie, a 21-year-old politics student at Westminster University, is standing in the local elections against Labour’s Swatantra Nandanwar in a ward where the BNP took 22.7 per cent of the vote in 2004. The party’s record for the area is 25.3 per cent in the Fryerns ward last year.
This year the BNP is contesting 11 of the 14 seats up for election in Basildon, part of a remarkable surge of activity across the country. It is to field 655 candidates, double the number who stood last time. It currently has 49 council seats.
Mr Mackenzie denied accusations he was stoking up racism. “At the end of the day it’s [the main parties] not saying things like this that is encouraging racism tension because the only place people can turn to is the British National Party.”
Perhaps the real cause of racial tension is that this country is experiencing unprecedented levels of mass immigration, and that this is changing the country, and not for the better. Of course, the fact that our politicians like to pretend that everything is wonderful and good probably doesn't make people more favourable towards them.
He said that there was strong feeling among residents that people from outside the area were causing a housing shortage.
“They blame the influx of immigration [as one reason for this], because there isn’t enough housing in the UK and you’ve got thousands of people coming from abroad.”
Asked what he thought Basildon residents felt about immigration, he said: “They think it’s entirely out of control.” He said that it was a view that he shared, adding: “The cause of this is that there is no real control over who is here.” It is already virtually impossible for asylum seekers to get housing in Basildon after the council changed the system to give preference to people who have been in the area a long time.
Whether immigrants are or are not given housing, they are still a bad thing, for a great many reasons. I would suspect that the main reason that 68% of people feel that this country has too many immigrants is, not so much to do with jobs and housing (important as those are), but to do with the massive cultural changes immigration is wreaking on our society.
Jon Cruddas, a Labour MP and deputy leadership contender who campaigns against the BNP, said: “This dangerous exploitation of people’s fears is a gift to extremist organisations such as the BNP. Peddling myths about immigrants pouring into a town or about asylum seekers supposedly being given council housing ahead of other residents is incredibly unhelpful. If David Cameron is serious about fighting racism he should disown this candidate straight away.”"Myths about immigrants pouring into a town". Well, I can't speak for Basildon, but there are certainly immigrants pouring into the country. One a minute, actually. So, hardly a myth.
However, I would agree with Cruddas that people like Mr Mackenzie are the problem with the Tory Party. Unlike Cameron and his acolytes, they are actually decent people, who want what's best for Britain, and are prepared to speak the truth, even if that makes them unpopular with the PC brigade. These are all excellent attributes. The problem is that they lull people into believing that the Tory Party itself is like that. If you see your local Conservative candidate telling the truth about immigration, or crime, or the EU, then it's reasonable to suppose that he is reflecting the views of his party. But the truth is that a Conservative government would be just as soft on immigration, crime, and the EU as the current Labour one. Possibly softer, even. People like Mr Mackenzie are the unwitting, and well-meaning, agents that induce people to waste their votes on a Conservative Party that is really indistinguishable from Labour or the Lib Dems, under the delusion that they're voting for a genuinely patriotic, right-wing party. And in this way, a lot of damage is done to the country.