Is Britain about to be engulfed by a race war promulgated by white, dispossessed, millennialist fantasists? No, of course not, don’t be so stupid you fat oaf, is the right response to this suggestion. But a survey out this week concerning the supporters of the country’s far-right parties suggests that a certain appetite for interracial violence is present and possibly growing.
Intriguingly, the electoral failure and consequent political disintegration of the British National Party may be one of the causes of this unwanted development. There is evidence that those on the far right feel betrayed by the political system and are prepared, hypothetically at least, to take the law into their own hands to defend what they see as ‘the British way of life’ against an onslaught by non-whites and, particularly, Muslims. Whereas once the BNP offered a legal, democratic and, for a while, semi-successful conduit for these aspirations, its stunning collapse in the past two years has seen a sort of split emerge: some have toddled off to join the new right-wing kids on the block, the English Democrats, or Ukip (which is ploughing an increasingly anti-immigration furrow); whereas some of the others seem to have retrenched into a position of antipathy to the political process and resignation that some sort of war sho’ is gonna come, bubba.
The survey of more than 2,000 affiliates of the BNP and Ukip was carried out by Dr Matthew Goodwin of Nottingham University and Professor Jocelyn Evans of Salford University. It is, the authors stress, merely an exploratory piece of work, more indicative than definitive. Its principal conclusion, according to Goodwin, is that there is a tranche of supporters within the far right who are ‘clearly expecting violence and indeed planning for violence’. Indeed, some 90 per cent of BNP supporters or members polled agreed, strongly or otherwise, that violent confrontation was ‘inevitable’. Again, within the BNP affiliates, almost 40 per cent thought that preparing for some sort of armed conflict was ‘justifiable’ and more than 50 per cent believed that preparing for interracial conflict, presumably in some other way, was justifiable. The figures for supporters of Ukip was markedly smaller on both of these counts, but larger than you might have imagined.
There is evidence emerging that while Ukip once drew from the disillusioned middle-class Conservative right, and the BNP from the shaven-headed-tattooed-proletariat-with-snarling-dogs-called-Tyson Labour vote, Ukip is now broadening its church and acquiring supporters from both bases. Ukip supporters these days seem to think that immigration is a more pressing concern than membership of the European Union: they may well be right, but this is a change of emphasis, of priorities.
Goodwin thinks that the deliquescence of the BNP is at the very core of the problem; the ballot box strategy has apparently failed and so the far right finds itself at a crossroads. The BNP ‘sucked otherwise violent individuals into a political system’, but that political system has badly let them down. Supporters of both parties — but again, particularly the BNP — have a percentage support for the way in which parliamentary democracy works which can be counted on, appropriately enough, two fingers. There is, out there, on the wilder fringes of British political opinion, an enormous sense of disillusionment. It may not be the sort of disillusionment which ends in the thrilling drama of a race war, but it is the sort of disaffection which can, in extremis, end with lone maniacs stocking their basements with weedkiller and grenades, or wandering off on an alfresco shooting trip. As we have seen.
It seems almost incontestable to me that electoral support for the BNP seeped away with every occasion on which it was afforded publicity. For Nick Griffin and co, publicity — by which I mean exposure — was cyanide, not oxygen. Their party was at its most potent when it was effectively barred from our television screens and airwaves by the cretins who demanded ‘no publicity for fascists!’, not realising that the more the party revealed itself, the more people deserted it. When it was able to portray itself as a rump of decent, white British people who were the victims of a conspiracy by the political establishment and the media, its support soared. But in every area where it gained electoral success — the former milltowns of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire, for example, and Barking and Dagenham — its support very rapidly crumbled as a consequence of the concomitant media scrutiny. Spectacularly so in Oldham, Burnley and Barking and Dagenham. But this seems to have left a sort of void which neither of the politer brethren of the English Democrats and the Ukip have quite filled. Within the dwindling band of BNP members — now below 5,000, since you asked — there is a fury and a sense of resignation. This is not a good thing.
A few caveats about this study. It is, as the authors admit, simply exploratory. I suppose Ukip might well cavil at being lumped in with the BNP and the unreconstituted football hooligans who comprise the bulk of the English Defence League (who also figure in the survey). Still, though, when it comes down to brass tacks, the chief difference between Ukip and the BNP is the former’s more classically right-wing economic policy, whereas the BNP still retains a sweet affection for Strasserism, collectivism, guilds and the like. On most of the touchstone issues — Muslims, political correctness, immigration, Europe, capital punishment — there is not much between them.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated March 10, 2012