How the BNP moved into the political mainstream
The reluctance of the three main parties to tackle sensitive issues that matter to many voters is driving people into the arms of extremists
Last week, the BNP were cock-a-hoop at taking a seat on Sevenoaks district council. It was, their candidate said, a breakthrough, even if it was one prompted by vigorous canvassing on a classic BNP issue – allocation of council houses to asylum seekers. There are though, growing signs that the BNP's message is gaining ground.
But how is it that a party that wants its 12,000 members to be sufficiently "Norse" and whose constitution uses the word "folkish", is edging closer and closer to the political mainstream? Why are so many people voting for the BNP?
In the centre of Durham, one recent Saturday, I walked past a Trotskyist stall, manned by undergraduates, and a BNP one, run by men in early middle age, all with accents from no further than five miles outside Durham. While the Trots were ignored, the BNP was swamped.
Many in the North-East are concerned about a loss of sovereignty
How come? There are no asylum seekers in County Durham, and visible ethnic minorities account for only one per cent of the population. At the last census, the district of Easington was found to be the least ethnically diverse area in Britain.
No, the reason why the BNP inspire such interest is because neither Labour, the Tories, or the Lib Dems are talking about the issues that worry people here.
Many in the North-East, and, indeed, around the country, are concerned about a loss of sovereignty, whether to the European Union, to the United States, or to global capital. And about the practical consequences of this loss, from the Common Fisheries Policy, to the Iraq War, to the credit crunch.
They are concerned about a new working class whose members understand no English except words of command, know little or nothing about workers' rights here, can be moved around the country at will, and deported if they step out of line. Deference to Islam is another complaint.
A lot of people really are worried by these things. I am. So why aren't the three main parties? Proper Labourites, or Conservatives, or Liberals would be.
Otherwise, people are talking about the erosion of the traditional family and its values, not least on the airwaves; about lap-dancing clubs; about the deregulation of drinking and gambling; about how the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have effectively legalised cannabis and lowered the age of consent to 13; about the Police not patrolling the streets, soft sentencing, and indiscipline in schools. Again, the BNP is the only party that has responded.
They are also talking about the real concern that the white working class has been left behind. And that no one ever mentions manufacturing, which still accounts for more than twice the GDP of the entire financial services sector, never mind the bailout-begging City.
Far from being racist, BNP concerns are strongly shared with ethnic communities
Meanwhile, because the powers-that-be are unable to distinguish between the respectable working class and the characters from Shameless, council and housing association tenants now face having Shameless characters moved in next door to them, or even in place of them.
Many people are also concerned that Scottish devolution has never been supported by the majority of eligible voters in Scotland; that a mere 26 per cent of the electorate ever supported devolution in Wales, where it is being used to entrench the rule of those in English-speaking areas who speak Welsh as a cordon sanitaire; that the government of Northern Ireland has been carved up between a fundamentalist sect and a terrorist organisation; and about how badly England has been treated.
These are the issues that the BNP advertise on their leaflets, and discuss when they campaign door-to-door. This is what they were telling the Durham public at their stall that Saturday afternoon. Far from being racist, these valid and well-founded concerns are strongly shared with ethnic minority communities. I am, myself, mixed-race. Far from being necessarily right-wing, these concerns are felt most keenly by traditional Labour supporters, who now abstain in enormous numbers, and could put the BNP third in numerous seats and second in quite a few. The BNP is far more of a threat to Labour than UKIP ever was to the Tories.
Yet neither Labour nor the other two parties are addressing these concerns. So the BNP is filling the vacuum. The terrible truth is that they are now the only force even pretending to share and articulate numerous perfectly mainstream and reasonable fears and grievances. Ignorant of and unfaithful to their own traditions, and scornful of the people whose worries these are, the main parties simply refuse to do so. Thus are people drawn into a world of racism, thuggery, and Holocaust denial. ·
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