The Canary in a coal mine
This one is for political anoraks only.
Stuart Wilks-Heeg has written an academic study, with support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and published in "Parliamentary Affairs" into the progress of the British National Party in local elections in England.
His argument is that votes for the BNP in council elections tend to be a danger sign, as when a canary in a coalmine succumbs to poisonous gas, of a dangerous lack of health in local democracy.
I don't agree with everything he says but I do think he is right that the number of people involved in local politics is dangerously low in many parts of the country, that this is bad for the health of local democracy, and that one side effect of this is the potential for extremists of many kinds to have an impact out of all proportion to public support for the things they actually stand for. (Which is not necessarily the same as the things they claim to stand for.)
This point could be applied to a number of extremist organisations on far right and far left alike, and not just the BNP.
Hence it is extremely important to get more normal people with a wide range of views involved in mainstream politics at every level. Not just to defeat the BNP - to make democracy more effective as a means of protecting the interests of ordinary people.
You can read the article "The Canary in a Coalmine? Explaining the Emergence of the British National Party in English Local Politics" by Stuart Wilks-Heeg here. It is a 22-page article, and as I inferred at the begining, will probably be a cure for insomnia for any reader other than those people who are very interested in politics.