Archbishops urge voters not to support the BNP

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have jointly urged the public not to vote for the British National Party in protest against the scandal surrounding MPs’ expenses.

In a joint statement, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu asked disillusioned voters not to vote in favour of the BNP in the upcoming European elections.

They warned that the party’s views “are the very opposite of the values of justice, compassion and human dignity which are rooted in our Christian heritage”.

“Christians have been deeply disturbed by the conscious adoption by the BNP of the language of our faith”, the Archbishops said.

They added: “This is not a moment for voting in favour of any political party whose core ideology is about sowing division in our communities and hostility on grounds of race, creed or colour”.

It emerged yesterday that the BNP’s website has become more popular than those of the three major parties, though it has been emphasised that this does not reflect their share of the vote.

Dr Matthew Goodwin of Manchester University and co-editor of The New Extremism in 21st Century Britain said the BNP is “sidestepping a hostile press by delivering its message direct to the desktop”.

Commentators have suggested that though well-intentioned, the Archbishops’ statement could backfire by ‘talking up’ the threat of the BNP.

The Independent warned yesterday: “Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu are playing directly into the hands of the BNP by whipping up yet more brouhaha over what is likely to remain a marginal force in Britain’s political life. Quite inadvertently, they are feeding the party with the oxygen of publicity to a degree that must be delighting the party’s leader, Nick Griffin.

“The two archbishops are not alone in pursuing this unwise, counterproductive course. Representatives of the mainstream political parties have been queuing up recently to urge people not to vote for the BNP, planting in many people’s minds a connection between the scandal over MPs expenses and voting for the BNP that probably never existed before they first raised the matter.”