There’s blue skies in between the random outbursts of hail here in Sheffield, and that can mean only one thing: Spring is on its way.

And that means that political activism is hotting up.

I’ve just had an email – which will have gone out to every member of the NUS – about a group called “HOPE not hate“. Apologies for the strange, unnecessary capitals, but it wasn’t me that thought up the name.

In their own words:

“HOPE not hate is Searchlight’s campaign against the British National Party and other racists and fascists. HOPE not hate recognises that people, communities and society as a whole face problems, but the BNP is not the answer and would only make everything worse. We work to expose the truth about the BNP and, by democratic means, to prevent it gaining electoral success. Our current campaign aims to increase turnout in the European election on 4 June 2009 so that the BNP’s percentage vote falls short of that needed to win seats.”

And Searchlight?

“Searchlight opposes racism and fascism in Britain and abroad. It was founded in 1962 and now has three components: Searchlight magazine, Searchlight Educational Trust and Searchlight Information Services.”

Now, I didn’t even know that the European elections were coming up. But if there’s even a modicum of a chance that the BNP might get in, we need to be voting, because a nastier group is hard to imagine since Robert Kilroy-Silk stopped heading  UKIP.

Bear in mind, it is the BNP whose London Assembly candidate, Nick Eriksen, was last year outed as a blogger who said things like this:

“The demonisation of rape is all part of the feminazi desire to obtain power and mastery over men. Men who go along with the rape myth are either morons or traitors.”

And, closer to home, Mark Collett, in Barnsley, was filmed at a meeting saying this:

“Next thing: the treatment of women.
Now, I like women [muffled cheers]
If I want to drive through Leeds on a sunny day and look at women walking down the streets in low-cut tops, that’s a pleasure. I don’t want to see those women being spat at and abused, for simply choosing to wear clothes, that these people who’ve been here five minutes [muslim immigrants] don’t approve of. [loud clapping]
And this isn’t just my opinion. This is Western culture. Look back, as far as you want to go – the Rennaissance, Roman sculpture, Greek art – central to all those things was the depiction of the female form. It is part of our culture, our heritage.
It even goes beyond human rights – it’s part of what we are. It’s part of what we fought for, part of what our ancestors died for, and these people want to take it away from us.”

In all honesty, it’s quite a shock to find the BNP mentioning women at all, given that a search for “woman”, “women”, “girl” and “female” in their 2007 manifesto turned up… absolutely nothing. Women are also not mentioned in their policies tab, and nor are any of their leaflets specifically about women (although unsurprisingly, they are given a fleeting mention in the “Islam issue” leaflet). Why, if I didn’t know better, I could almost think that they didn’t really care about women!

Sarcasm aside, this is important. The BNP are a serious threat, specifically because they don’t hide the fact that they’re a party comprised of just about every “phobia” you can imagine. I’ve put up a link to the HOPE not hate campaign in the sidebar, in the form of a pretty picture, because I’m a sucker for happy-looking graphics.

Less fluffily, this is my call for everybody who can vote in the European elections, to vote. Please. I seriously don’t care who you support, as long as it isn’t this lot of fascists. Or UKIP, of course. Please register to vote. Please don’t let the BNP get in.

The HOPE not hate campaign has a number of local groups, which you can find here. Yorkshire seems a little less well represented than I would have hoped, but they do have a HQ in leeds, and there are email addresses for some other cities. The email address given for Sheffield, however, leads to Barnsley, so I assume that there isn’t a Sheffield-specific group at the moment.