The Guardian newspaper ran an interesting story this morning about the relationship between BNP council election victories and hate crimes. Evidently hate crimes are generally down, but in English wards where the British National Party won council elections, hate crimes spiked upward. Labour's culture and tourism minister, Margaret Hodge, currently in a tight reelection race, argues that the statistics "cast doubt on police assurances that there is no link between racially motivated crime and a BNP presence."
Those who suggest this link believe that "Voters have been emboldened in their racist views by seeing the BNP in power and that could have led to the increases in racist attacks in some areas."
There could be a link, of course, but it is more likely that the feelings of anger and hopelessness that prompt people to commit hate crimes are higher in areas where voters feel compelled to vote for the BNP.
Ethnic nationalism is all about context and the article really needs to delve more fully into the socio-economic make-up of the wards in question. The explanation for this up-tick in violence is probably more complicated than a direct causal link between the BNP and hate crime; the BNP is almost certainly a symptom, not a cause.