A Tory MP has presented David Cameron with the first real test of his pledge to create a more tolerant Conservative party. Philip Davies claimed voters were turning to the BNP because political correctness had left white Britons afraid of being 'sacked or locked up' for expressing their feelings on race. Davies said politicians were failing to debate asylum and immigration enough, prompting voters who felt ignored to turn to the far right. And he cited the suspension of a university lecturer who suggested whites were cleverer than black people, plus the unsuccessful prosecution of BNP leader Nick Griffin for allegedly inciting racial hatred, as incidents that caused voters to reject mainstream politics.
Davies, the MP for Shipley, North Yorkshire, said he would 'obviously' like his own party to talk more about the issue, but added that he believed Cameron agreed with him that tough immigration policies were crucial to good race relations. 'People feel nobody is standing up and talking about [asylum and immigration] issues. This whole thing about political correctness is a key driver of that. They feel the only way they've got now to express their opinions is to put a cross in a secret ballot for the BNP,' he told The Observer. 'The fear is if you are white and you say something that may be considered derogatory by somebody about an ethnic minority, you are going to be sacked or locked up.'
Labour MPs demanded the Tories disown Davies's views. 'If David Cameron wants to show that his party has genuinely changed, then he needs to take action against the extreme right wing in his own party,' said Martin Salter, the MP for Reading West. A Tory party spokesman said Davies was 'entitled to his views' but added: 'We don't accept that we haven't really dealt with immigration.'
Davies's intervention follows an agonised debate within the Labour party over the BNP, after the Employment Minister Margaret Hodge warned that eight out of 10 white voters she canvassed in her Barking constituency in east London had at least flirted with backing the extremist party - citing competition with asylum seekers for homes as a flashpoint. Some colleagues accused her of unwittingly worsening matters by publicising the BNP threat.
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett said it would have been 'slightly more helpful' to have debated the issue well before next month's local elections. He conceded people were 'confused' about how council housing was allocated, telling The Observer: 'Over the last 20 years, we have moved away from the time-based entitlement for public sector housing to a points-based system or even a bidding system. That has confused people in terms of who is entitled to what.' Blunkett also called on judges to consider the political consequences before making decisions such as overturning restrictions on so-called bogus marriages or ruling that Britain must house jobless people from other countries, including those recently granted asylum. 'Far from giving people rights, it's more likely to give people justification for voting for a party or parties that would take away rights,' he said.
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