So, why the great shock? Why the hand-wringing? It’s not as if they weren’t warned. Why all those metropolitan journos disembarking at Barnsley station on the 11.47 from King’s Cross and gingerly approaching the local Untermensch with a sort of disgusted awe: what is it about this ghastly place that resulted in 17 per cent of its benighted inhabitants voting for Hitler’s bastard offspring, the British National Party? It must be simply that they don’t like the local darkies, think that there are too many of them and, poor dumb creatures that they are, feel threatened. Not racist, as such; simply lacking an education.
But this approach to explaining the BNP — the geographical anomaly/thick northerners paradigm — is running out of fuel. Five years ago it seemed to work when the media could point to racial tension in Burnley (with its no-go areas for whites) and Oldham and Bradford; a reactive vote, spurred by dumb, inchoate anger. But not now, surely. Because it isn’t just Barnsley. It’s Coalville and Shepshed in Leicestershire, where there are comparatively few immigrants; Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, where there are close to none, and Doncaster, where the BNP scored 12 per cent.
The first act of Doncaster’s mayor was to withdraw council funding for a gay pride march — a decision which horrified the London media and political elite but which was, I suspect, supported by about 85 per cent of the British people. Why should local people fund a march by homosexuals telling everybody that they’re glad they are homosexuals? If they are that glad about it, can’t they pay for it themselves?
There’s the lesson: if you media monkeys want to find out why the BNP did so well, then forget Barnsley, Stoke and Rotherham and start probing the attitudes in Islington, Notting Hill and Westminster. It is those opinions which are anomalous, even if the three main parties cheerfully subscribe to them. An overwhelming majority of the British population wish to see an end to mass immigration. An overwhelming majority think that there are too many immigrants in Britain now. Almost 50 per cent believe that the people most discriminated against in this country are white people. The majority believes that white people are discriminated against on such things as social housing. The main parties do not believe in any of that stuff: they think it’s racist and therefore, de facto, wrong.
There are so many misconceptions about the BNP’s successes in those Euro elections that it is hard to know where to begin. But let’s start with the assertion, first advanced by the BBC’s otherwise excellent political editor Nick Robinson and subsequently cleaved to by the rest of the press, that the BNP’s success has been overstated. Thesis: the party did not improve its vote that much and it was on a low turnout, which always favours minor parties with a fanatical following. Nonsense. The BNP’s success has been hugely understated. Most of those million people who voted for the BNP on Thursday are not fanatics at all; instead they are drawn from that section of the electorate which is least likely to struggle down to the polling booth, namely the largely unskilled, low-paid working class.
Further, the BNP is a much smaller party than any of its competitors and thus much less well equipped to get its vote out. The party also had to put up with a relentless barrage of odium flung at it by the established parties, the media and the church, and was the only party which faced demonstrations from organisations dedicated solely to vilifying it. And secret collusion between the three main parties ensured that candidates were put up wherever BNP candidates were standing.
Finally, the far right in Britain is a fractious and petulant place: Nick Griffin campaigned against a backdrop of continual sniping from even more fabulously whacko right-wing opponents — some of whom set up a website called Griffinwatch dedicated to undermining his leadership. He only recently won a challenge to his leadership from people who considered him ‘too dictatorial’ (an odd complaint, you might think, from a bunch of fascists). A short while ago, the BNP was beaten in a local council election in Essex by a candidate sponsored by the National Liberal Party — which is not, as you might think, a convocation of leftish bearded mung-bean munchers, but another far-right ensemble supporting the quasi-fascist Third Position which Griffin himself once subscribed to.
Given all this, you wonder what sort of vote it might have got if the playing fields were level and the far right a little less divisive. The reason it did so well is very simple: on a range of issues it entirely reflected the views of those who voted for it — and, given that opinion poll I quoted, actually represents the views of an enormous tranche of public opinion which did not vote for it for reasons of either squeamishness or through the suspicion that underneath the smooth rhetoric the party contains a rich vein of unadulterated carpet-biting, swivel-eyed, shaven-headed madmen. Griffin may yet succeed in dispelling that suspicion, although it will take one or two more expulsions, I reckon.
Then there’s the racism business; the mantra trotted out by every mainstream politician, correspondent and pundit interviewed after the poll — that the people who voted BNP were not, of course, themselves racist. This was repeated robotically, ad nauseam, akin to a child in the back of a car forever pleading ‘are we there yet?’ The metropolitan elite is clinically obsessed with racism, almost to the exclusion of everything else. The public — black and white — is not. And yet the liberal elite cannot quite define the term ‘racist’. The answer is that the people who voted BNP are racist if your definition of racism includes people who think they are being racially discriminated against, i.e. the white working class. As opposed to my definition of racism, which is to hate someone because of the colour of his or her skin.
The BNP took votes almost exclusively from the Labour party for the straightforward reason that the Labour party does not even pretend to represent the interests of the white working class any longer, and particularly the provincial white working class. It considered its support a given, and in any case electorally insignificant. Not any more, on either count.
But still they will not address the problems. Labour — and Tory — politicians insisted, as one, that the BNP votes should not simply be dismissed by the mainstream parties, but ‘taken seriously’. But they will do nothing about it, because the ideology to which the BNP voters (and millions of others) object is an almost ineradicable constant not just in the Labour and Tory parties, but within local councils, social services departments, the police, education departments, the courts, the media and every EU institution. They could not simply stop immigration, even if they wanted to, which they don’t. They cannot change the way council housing lists are drawn up, or do anything material to improve the lives of those who feel they have had their communities taken away from them and replaced with something ‘alien’. There is nothing the major parties can do about schools where 50 per cent of the kids don’t speak English and burkas are part of the uniform. Alistair Darling was right when he blamed Labour for the rise of the BNP (much as the ideological retreat of the Conservative party has allowed Ukip to survive) — but this realisation will not change anything. Can you imagine a Labour politician refusing to fund a gay pride march, or insisting that violent street crime is a particul
ar problem within our black community?
Nick Griffin is one of the two successful BNP MEPs — the other is a chap called Andrew Brons. I wish there were more space here to discuss Andrew’s fabulously whacko political background, because it’s good for a laugh, if nothing else. The old allies who went off to form National Socialist parties, mingled with terrorists or supported the bombing of synagogues. Economically, for example, Andrew was — perhaps still is — a Strasserite, a follower of the economic principles outlined by Gregor Strasser, Hitler’s gauleiter of lower Bavaria, and which the Fuhrer found a shade too extreme, a bit too radical.
I suppose both Brons and Griffin might reasonably argue that they cleaved to these sorts of views at about the time that Peter Mandelson was a member of the Communist Party and John Bercow was demanding Nelson Mandela be hanged. My guess, though, is that Brons, at least, has not markedly changed his views — and that’s what we now have representing us in the European parliament. The only people prepared to articulate the views of a huge swath of the British public.