Fraser's piece on the BNP is well worth your time. Parts of it were eerily familiar as I had the feeling that I'd been down this road before. That's because I have: the BNP's strategy is pretty much the same as that employed by Sinn Fein in the Republic of Ireland. There wasn't much talk of Marxist economic theory or the urgent need for a United Ireland when Sinn Fein was out canvassing Dublin housing estates. No, it was this sort of stuff:
Certainly, Mr Dunne could scarcely be more different from the stereotype of the tattooed thug. Besuited and softly spoken, he talks about taking his family to Kew Gardens and says that he wants to serve locals — ‘black or white’ — as best he can. It is a racially mixed estate, and there is no telling what the ethnicity of the voter opening the door will be. But the first, a young white man in his thirties, is a quick success. ‘You’re the guy who sorted out the rat infestation for us,’ he tells Mr Dunne. ‘You’ll get my vote. I’m BNP, and so is everyone I know.’
This is the first important point to note: there is no explicit talk of race, immigration or the death penalty (which the BNP supports). Just rats. This chap had a problem; his councillor fixed it and secured at least one vote. This is a significant and new aspect of the BNP’s strategy. Just as Lib Dems talk about holes in the road, not holes in the nation’s finances, the BNP (in spite of its nationalist identity) focuses relentlessly on the local. It targets councils with huge (normally Labour) majorities which have, for whatever reason, lost the will or capacity to campaign and govern well. The BNP then seeks to make itself useful: most recently, by sending squads to clear litter in strategic locations. It is a devious ploy: distracting public attention from the racist reality of the BNP by presenting itself as the ‘helpful party’. So, the lesson to Tory, Labour and Liberal councillors is pretty simple: do your job. But the Sinn Fein comparison (in the Republic, not the North) is also helpful: yes, it is horribly troubling that this kind of thuggery can gain ground but one ought not, perhaps, overstate the significance of their advances. These people can - and will - be beaten, but only if the other parties keep their eye on the ball while also remembering to play the man.
On the other hand, I was also struck by this line in Fraser's article: "Research shows just 20 per cent of working-class Brits believe that being white is an ‘important factor’ in being British." Maybe this isn't a surprising statistic and perhaps I've spent too much time living in rural Scotland or multi-coloured cities respectively but I'm not sure I'd have used the word "just" in relation to this depressing statistic.