How to tackle the BNP effectively.
This time round, the scare is probably as close to being justified as it has ever been. The BNP, despite having its membership list published online at the end of last year, is finally getting its shit together. Helped along by the economic situation, a backlash against "uncontrolled" immigration which has never been properly explained to the public, let alone the economic and political case argued for, the feeling of victimhood which followed the glee with which the leaked members list was greeted in some quarters, and the old grievances which the party preys upon, namely the immigrants/ethnics are talking all the jobs/houses/women then twists and fabricates further, support for the party seems to be growing exponentially. 800,000 apparently voted for them at the last European elections, while 238,000 crossed their box in the 2006 local elections. According to the email missives which regularly land in my inbox, after I signed up on the BNP website to argue with a knuckledragger who was linking here, BNP supporters have raised £300,000 for the European campaign, enabling them to send a flyer to every home in the country, as well as preparing a backroom staff more associated with the "major" parties. That's still £100,000 less than the Fuhrer himself, Nick Griffin, called for, but is hardly a figure to be sniffed at.
The latest to sound the alarm, as it always seems to be, is a Labour politician, even if Peter Hain has a well-established pedigree when it comes to battling against the far right. He worries that the BNP could win up to six seats at the European elections, which while hardly transforming British politics overnight, would mean that the party could claim up to £2 million in funding from the EU. That sort of money definitely would transform the party. At the moment, the BNP is restricted to running a mainly internet based insurgency: like organisations which, ironically, defend Israel, such as GIYUS, threads and comment pieces dealing with racism or mentioning the party are swiftly set upon, further giving the impression that there is a groundswell of opinion heading the party's way. Emails are sent out asking supporters and members to complain to newspapers which run articles the party decides are either inaccurate or which it simply decides cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged; one recent such campaign against the Independent resulted in the Press Complaints Commission receiving the most ever complaints about a single press article. The latest send out concerned the fear that the News Shopper was about to blame what even the BNP described as "major carnage" in Old Bexley on St George's Day on the party, which naturally, the party assures its subscribers "is utterly ridiculous and completely unfounded". According to this forum thread, the "carnage" occurred outside a known BNP pub, but was between football fans. In the event, the newspaper's article did not place the blame on the BNP.
While Hain is right to be concerned, he ought to know by now that members of the ruling party can only make things worse by writing such articles. Admittedly, the whole tackling the BNP policy is fraught with conundrums: does "no platform" mean that you don't just refuse to argue with them, but also completely deny that they even exist? However, this doesn't apply when it comes to the Labour party, and especially either ministers or former ministers. The example of what not to do was set by Margaret Hodge a couple of years back: don't predict the BNP is about to make a breakthrough, not only because such prophecies can become self-fulfilling, but because they alert the media to the idea, who descend upon said area, and even further potentially alienate the local population, especially if cack-handed idiots start asking whether they think they're racist as they're contemplating voting for the party. All it does is result in further publicity for the party.
The challenge in fighting the BNP has, instead, to be left to the grassroots and those who cannot be linked back directly to the Labour government. While the BNP seems likely to pick up some votes at the European elections from UKIP, whose vote seems likely to collapse, or at least plummet, Labour has to face up to the fact that the most defections will come from their supporters. This is not because, as some right-wingers love to argue, that the BNP is left-wing, and QED that means that fascists are also lefties, but because the BNP more than any of the other parties are prepared to get down and dirty with the actual voters themselves, reassure them that their concerns are not prejudices and that they will fight for them personally rather than the "outsiders". This is politics of the old school, in all senses, and it's what the other parties have increasingly abandoned. The white working class, for various reasons, feels this abandonment most acutely. In fact, the working class as a whole, regardless of colour distinctions, feels much the same. Labour promised them much and has not delivered sufficiently, and now they're the ones suffering the most while the others who benefited have far more resilience. The argument against the BNP then has to be made not just on policy grounds and on exposing their true, still disgustingly racist views, as shown by last week's party leaflet, but on the other facts: that the BNP make for the most part dreadful councillors and politicians, as the record conclusively shows. They also have to be personally argued against: the no platform policy has completely failed, and is now not principled, it's simply cowardly.
All this said, the BNP probably won't get those six seats, and if they do they'll only get them because of the European parliament's PR system, the same reason why the Greens will also win seats, and why many who would normally vote for the main three parties will switch their support. The BNP is not about to win parliamentary seats, which really would be a breakthrough. The party will remain one of the least successful relative far-right forces in Europe, and this country will also remain one of the most tolerant, least racist and least prejudiced in Europe. All of that should be remembered before we throw the baby out with the bathwater.