Star comment: Time the BNP gave up the fight

The British National Party continues its blinkered, racist, ill-conceived opposition to the opening of a new Muslim centre in one of Shropshire’s largest towns.

Having failed to mobilise mass opposition to the plans despite an aggressive publicity campaign, it is now trying to play the political guilt card. The far-right organisation’s latest grumble is that the decision should have been taken at an open, transparent, public debate rather than by planning officials behind closed doors.

More than 70 people wrote to Shropshire Council to object to plans by the local Muslim Society to develop a 19th century former Presbyterian church in Oswestry, while around 40 penned their support.

This is hardly a case of the local authority trying to steamroller through a planning decision against an enormous groundswell of public outrage – despite the BNP’s best efforts in canvassing opposition by delivering provocative leaflets through the letterboxes of some 2,000 nearby homes.

The BNP’s view is that the council showed political cowardice over a ‘culturally significant’ planning application for the building, most recently used as a furniture warehouse. The only real cowardice here is the BNP’s refusal to acknowledge that it does not have the public on its side.

Officials cite the planning decision as another example of the political establishment going out of its way to appease the Muslim community, while disenfranchising other sections of the population at the same time.

Would the party have been making such an incessant song and dance if the plans had involved turning the building into a church where other religious groups, like Methodists or Catholics would worship?

Of course not.

If the BNP wants to bring the discussion round to electoral accountability, they would do well to also remember that they do not have a single councillor in Shropshire, and are not likely to see that position change in the near future.