Question Time is in Stoke on Trent tonight, where the BNP have 9 councillors on the local council. One audience member has vigorously defended his support for the BNP in a recent election by talking of the politics of frustration. I don't know the local situation, and he wasn't the most articulate of speakers, but he did express the general antagonism that he, as an ordinary voter (and given the BNP success, presumably a representative ordinary voter) felt for the established parties. In Stoke on Trent, struck with economic difficulties and high unemployment, the directly elected Labour mayor seems well supported by Labour, Liberal and Conservative councillors - so where, asked our frustrated BNP supporter, is the opposition to come from? He claimed to repudiate the BNP's racism, and he may well be telling the truth; the fact is, when established parties become so cosy in their collaboration that they fail, in times of hardship, to provide an adequate choice for voters, then in the flailing around for a party to protest with, fringe parties who are good at disguising their unpalatable side will start to benefit. If the main parties are identified with a political elite no longer responsive to the people's will, then eventually the democratic deficit may be paid back in alarming ways.
The main party spokesmen, incidentally, steered well clear of direct responses.