In yesterday's county council election I cast my vote based on what I believed was a 'credible alternative' to the BNP rather than the candidate I would ordinarily have chosen. At one point yesterday a lovely black guy was taking timbers off the roof of the former chapel whilst a car saying 'vote BNP' sat opposite. I could have wept. I studied the list of candiates, thought what happened in the district council elections two years ago, and voted for the person I thought was most likely to stand a chance of being elected - I was right, she came second, but we still ended up with a BNP councillor, and I am very much saddened.
Yes, I believe in freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, but I also believe in truth, justice, freedom, mutual respect and responsibility. I know there is an Anglican church at roughly D-1 with vocal BNP sympathisers, and both my Anglican collague and I have from the pulpit called on people to vote responsibly and avoid being beguiled by the lure of extremism (without breaking any laws of course!). Even at our churches together meeting we touched on this topic.
Tonight I am sad. I am sad for my Barbadean church member (though thankfully he doesn't live in this ward). I am sad for the black guy who works so hard next door. I am sad for the Chinese folk who run the takeway round the corner, the black TA at school and the Poles who work in the meat factory. Above all I am sad for the 27% or so of those who voted who were beguiled or bewildered enough to vote as they did.
Now that our representation on both district and county councils is by extremists we find ourselves essentially silenced: the churches (rightly) tell us not to engage with these people, but who know can speak for us at council level?
Lord have mercy upon us all.