BNP: Death bed performance
Back in the real world, writes Eddie Ford, it was the BBC that ‘did’ Nick Griffin - not Unite Against Fascism or Hope Not Hate
Time for an autopsy
With absolute predictability, the British National Party got wiped out in the May 22 European elections. There was no need to vote Green (or whatever) to ‘keep the BNP out’, as some comrades foolishly insisted, since the BNP never had a chance of winning a seat. In the end, it ended up with just 1.14% (179,694 votes) - losing its deposits in each of the nine English regions and Wales where it stood. This was markedly down from the 6.3% in the previous European election, which saw the BNP win two MEPs for the first time - it had won three local council seats in Lancashire, Leicestershire and Hertfordshire.
So Nick Griffin was booted out of his job as MEP for the North West, securing only 1.87% (32,826) - though perhaps he will be slightly cheered up by the fact that outgoing MEPs get severance pay for another six months - their annual pre-tax salary currently stands at €96,246.36 (£78,000). Griffin, of course, was the BNP’s only MEP following the resignation in 2012 of swivel-eyed loon Andrew Brons, who went on to help form the British Democratic Party on the grounds that his former organisation had become “watered down” and “corrupt”.1 Slightly humiliatingly, the BNP got fewer votes than An Independence From Europe (1.49%), which was only set up in November by Mike Nattrass after his departure from the United Kingdom Independence Party - he claimed that his new outfit was “to the left” of the host organism.2 Also unsurprisingly, the BNP splinter group, Britain First - which seeks to protect “British and Christian morality” - did even worse on 0.13% of the vote.3 Neo-Nazism, it seems, is not the key to electoral success.
The BNP’s local election results were equally dismal, though it is hard to get an exact breakdown of the figures - the BNP’s website is certainly no help. However, we do know that it retained one councillor in Pendle, Lancashire, who scraped through by six votes, though the latest issue of Socialist Worker claims - so far not collaborated by any other source - that a Catherine Duffy also won in Charnwood, Leicestershire, which, naturally, shows that the “fight against the toxic BNP is not yet over” (May 27).
Appearing on Sky news, Griffin put on a show of bluster to disguise the humiliating defeat. He conceded that many BNP supporters had switched their allegiance to Ukip (and its “racist policies”), which was now the “protest party of choice”. But he insisted that the BNP will be back because it had “set the agenda”: it was the BNP that had broke the “taboo” about immigration and allowed Ukip to do as well as it did. But when people see that Ukip cannot deliver, he continued, its vote will “crumble”; he darkly noted, not entirely accurately, that Ukip “want to keep out white Poles, but let in huge numbers of Pakistanis and Africans”. He also took comfort from the “good news” about the Front National victory in France. Yes, he said, whilst the FN is “nearly as soft” as Ukip, such votes show that people are finally “waking up”: the downtrodden British nation is stirring. Indeed, in a post on the BNP’s website, he sounded positively upbeat - either that or was exhibiting signs of complete mental disintegration. Right now, he stated, “untold” thousands of people who have been turned on to politics by “naive enthusiasm” for the Ukip “safety valve”, will be trawling the internet and starting their “personal journey of self-radicalisation”. In fact, he concluded with a flourish, Google is now a “conveyor belt of awareness” - the “ladder of revolutionary consciousness”.4
Reassuringly or not, Griffin vowed he would use his golden goodbye payments to keep campaigning in the north-west, principally through a scheme to fund and set up food banks for “indigenous Brits only” - the victims of the cosmopolitan liberal elite and rootless finance capital.
Who did it?
At the height of their success in 2009 the BNP had 58 councillors, nine of them in Stoke on Trent alone, and party membership stood at a high of 12,632. It also set up BNPtv, its own online video outlet, a student wing (Student BNP) and the Young BNP (British Nationalist Youth Movement). The party’s financial resources had also increased and things were looking rosy. Surely they would experience a soar-away increase in membership, pick up councillors by the bucketful, even get an MP or three. But now the BNP is on its death bed, for all Griffin’s enthusiasm about the “revolutionary” potential of Google. What accounts for the collapse?
The Mirror, for one, has an answer - it was the Hope Not Hate campaign. In an article written the day before the elections by Alison Phillips, former editor of the Sunday Mirror, we come across the following headline: “Secure our children’s future by making your European vote count to eradicate the BNP”.5 We discover that “during the last decade” the Daily and Sunday Mirror have been “committed” to HNH and everything it stands for. Their involvement began, according to Phillips, because many of their readers were living in towns and boroughs where “some people were capitalising on creating divisions between neighbours”, and “our readers weren’t happy about that” - wanting the Mirror to “help do something about it”.
Phillips was particularly unhappy that Barking, near where she lives, had become a town “associated” with the BNP - for years “you couldn’t get off the train there without having BNP leaflets and pamphlets shoved in your hand”. When Hope Not Hate started 10 years ago, however, she could see straightaway that it was really committed to “changing this label” - not just in Barking and Dagenham, but also in places like Burnley and other towns where the BNP was gaining ground. “It has not been an easy job”, she muses, as it is possible to win support - and votes - by “attacking those regarded as different” rather than having a go at those who are “actually responsible for our economic plight”: presumably greedy bankers, etc. Therefore she gushes about how “we don’t want children growing up hating people for being different”, but to be “positive about everything and everyone around them” - a lovely idea. In a follow-up article the next day, we are told that we should not “play down” the “tremendous achievement” of HNH (and unnamed others) in defeating the BNP at “every turn” - on the streets, in the pubs, on the doorstep, and so on.
Of course, the SWP has an explanation too - it was us that did it. Or, to be more accurate, it was the SWP’s very own front organisation, Unite Against Fascism, which killed off the BNP threat. In a post-election bulletin from comrade Charlie Kimber, dated May 26, he informs his readers that the BNP’s “annihilation” was “mainly” due to the UAF’s “relentless” campaigning (and doubtlessly brilliant use of the no-platform ‘principle’). Similarly, Socialist Worker says the BNP vote has “haemorrhaged” over the years thanks to “consistent” campaigning by UAF - it proudly points out that in 2011 it was UAF that set up the Nick Griffin Must Go campaign and has always campaigned in towns and cities in the North West to “expose” the BNP as a Nazi party (May 27).
The UAF itself, naturally, issued a triumphant statement on May 26 declaring that Nick Griffin and the BNP were “defeated” by the “countless number” of anti-racist/anti-fascist activists delivering hundreds of thousands of leaflets door to door saying ‘Don’t vote Nazi’. The reason for the urgency, UAF explains, is because the BNP is not a “normal” political party - how dreadful - but rather a fascist organisation that uses “propaganda and untruths to pit one group against another”.6
The idea that Unite Against Fascism, or Hope Not Hate, is responsible for the BNP’s demise is, of course, sheer bunkum. In reality, the BNP was surely destined to collapse eventually - torn apart by its internal contradictions, which see it tossed backwards and forwards between its explicitly fascist/neo-Nazi past and the desire to become a successful rightwing nationalist party.
However, the reason why the BNP is facing extinction is obvious - it was targeted by the establishment. As we in the CPGB argued at the time, Nick Griffin was fatally holed by his disastrous October 2009 appearance on the BBC’s Question time, which is still popular viewing on YouTube and elsewhere.7 On that day the show ditched its normal deadly dull format to become a far more entertaining Let’s do Griffin time - and it certainly did. Before an audience which peaked at 8.2 million people - more than half of all those watching television at the time and around four times the number who usually tune in to Question time - Griffin was outed as a bumbling would-be ‘fuhrer’. For instance, he defended David Duke, the “totally non-violent” former Ku Klux Klan leader and, far worse, refused to answer a direct question concerning his views on the Nazi genocide (or “holo-hoax”, as he once called it) on the pathetic grounds that “European law” prevented him elaborating upon his position. Obviously a man of principle and courage. The BBC had turned him into a laughing stock.
Griffin himself later admitted that he had been the victim of a “lynch mob”, bitterly complaining that the way the programme had been produced was “unfair”, because it had been “altered” to concentrate on him and his policies - with all but one question focused on the BNP. Poor thing. Showing how dreadful Griffin’s performance really was, many BNP members gave vent to their dismay and embarrassment. Lee Barnes, the party’s legal officer at the time, raged on his blog about how Griffin should have stood up to these “whining, middle class hypocrites” that use the “race card for self-enrichment” and “thrown the truth right back into their fat, sanctimonious, hypocritical, self-serving faces”. From that day, Griffin was a dead man walking.
Crucially though, what did the UAF do during the Question time programme - cheer on the public demolition of Nick Griffin? Try and get one of its speakers onto the panel? No, madly, it protested outside the studios, cursing the BBC for rolling out the ‘red carpet’ to the BNP leader. In other words, they were against the BBC bosses giving Griffin the rope to hang himself with - it never would have happened if the UAF had got their way.
It is not so much that we approve of the “lynch mob” method employed by the BBC. But the incident proves beyond doubt that ‘no platform’ is a possible tactic, not a ‘principle’. The arguments put forward by the likes of Griffin can as easily be demolished by reason and working class principle as they can be exposed by mainstream politiciansl