Despite recent claims to the contrary, the vast majority of British voters find the policies of the BNP nauseating. In the run up to the 2004 local and European elections and again during the 2005 general election, all manner of people, organised in their respective groupings, mobilised against them, from the Labour and Conservative Party activists and the myriad left-wing groups, to student bodies, church groups and unions like the CWU who informed members that their “conscience clause” gave postal workers the choice not to deliver BNP material if they found it objectionable. Back in 2004, the anti-Nazi organisation Searchlight even produced 28 versions of a newspaper targeting the BNP election campaign and distributed 1.5 million of them in areas where the BNP were most active.
This time round, by all accounts, the panic is just as big. The BNP is allegedly as strong now than at any time since 1982, when it displaced the National Front as Britain’s favourite bone-head magnet, and is standing 364 candidates in this year’s local elections. A YouGov poll conducted by the Daily Telegraph last week suggests the BNP is set to make “significant gains” in the coming elections. The poll shows that 7 per cent of voters are ready to back the BNP and that some 24 per cent have considered voting BNP in the past or are thinking of doing so now.
In the wake of a huge election push by the BNP, The anti-racist group Searchlight now identiiesy 18 key “battlegrounds” where the neo-Nazis must be confronted. The BNP, capitalising on anti-Muslim feelings, believe they can increase their councillors by a third – they already have 20 councillors across the country. Ever the pessimists, anti-racist organisations believe BNP claims could be an underestimate and suggest that a 5% swing to the BNP could actually see them increase their tally of councillors to 70.
Back in 2004, the mainstream parties, as well as many on the left, panicked at the thought of widespread BNP victories and this clearly afforded the BNP media coverage which was out of all proportion to the size of their organisation. An eve of poll message from Nick Griffin, fuehrer of the BNP, on the BNP website of 9th June 2004, stated that they “were on course for a political earthquake”, that the BNP would be “breaking through with three or four Euro MPs” Yorkshire, the BNP claimed, was to be their "jewel in the crown.”
And so it came to pass that the BNP managed to gain four new councillors in Bradford in four wards. This ‘jewel’ was out of a record 101 candidates they fielded across Yorkshire.
Elsewhere, the BNP made a wee breakthrough in the south of England, taking three seats in Epping Forest in the local elections and gained its first foothold in Bradford. And in Burnley, the BNP gained one seat but managed to lose the other seven in which its candidates were standing. In the North East, where the party stood a full slate of 25 candidates in Sunderland, they failed to make any promised gains. The real winner this time round were the postal workers who, exercising their rights under the conscience clause, were able to take bags full of BNP leaflets home to use as toilet paper for years to come.
Leader Nick Griffin, who in April of that year had invited over the French Nazi Le Pen to plan how they could work as a team (or rather comedy duo) when Griffin became MEP for the north west of England, failed to take the seat he hankered after. No BNP candidate succeeded in getting elected to the European parliament and in the London mayoral elections the BNP ended up in sixth place and failed to secure the votes required to get representation on the London Assembly.
Regardless of how much these smiley-faced fascists claim to have changed their image, supposedly booting out the boneheaded troublemakers of yesteryear, they still represent the politics of hate - and their writings and statements still contradict the respectable shirt-and-tie image they try so hard to project.
Since late 2005, BNP’ literature has been portraying the coming local elections as a “Referendum on Islam”, linking the threat of Islamist terrorism in Britain to the Labour Government’s asylum and immigration policies and the war in Iraq. One BNP leaflet, handed out in the wake of the 7/7 bombings in London, declared: “If only they had listened to the BNP.”
Moreover, The BNP’s anti-Islam position has gained in prominence since Nick Griffin was acquitted of racial hatred charges at Leeds Crown Court back in February. It did not help that the judgment came at the same time as the hullabaloo over the anti-Muslim Danish cartoons and the consequent display by a handful of young Muslims dressed as suicide bombers and demonstrating in London - a coincidence that allowed the BNP to pass itself off as the champion of freedom of speech and all things British.
Overnight, the BNP moved further to the right in its anti-Moslem line of attack. Heartened by what they perceive as a lowering of tolerance for Islam, the BNP has become more obsessive.
Speaking to the Observer, 24th April, Simon Darby, the man BNP leader Nick Griffin has appointed to take over should an appeal to re-convict him go ahead, Said: 'We are giving voice to the concerns of ordinary people, Yes, part of it is still about race.' But particularly after 9/11 and 7/7, he says, 'things have changed: the new issue is Islam'
Two years ago the BNP were fortunate to ride a wave of patriotism—a tool they can use to great effect when it suits—in the run up to the election, with voters going to the polls as the 60th anniversary of D-Day was being commemorated and rammed down our throats every night on TV, and the English football team were gearing up to compete in Euro 2004 and when manufacturers were reporting sales of 4 million St George flags. This time round they can count on the nationalism whipped up by the World Cup taking place in Germany shortly as well as the patriotism created by the Queen’s 80th birthday celebrations. And neither is their raw branch of nationalism that unique in today’s climate where the UKIP and the Conservative Party can make huge gains in the European elections on a “say no to Europe” platform, proclaiming the merits of British sovereignty, and where the Labour Party is all to ready to send British troops off to far away lands to protect the interests of Britain’s ruling elite.
Furthermore, we can only wonder at the mainstream parties’ fears of a surge in support for the BNP. Considering the views of the Labour and Conservative parties on asylum (Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech springs to mind) and the former’s part in upsetting the Islamic world so much recently, their objections to the BNP do seem a little hypocritical. They may genuinely abhor the racists of the BNP but have been unsuccessful in confronting them where they have made political gains because to do so would mean acknowledging the shortcomings of a system they champion and which gives rise to the politics of race.
If anything the BNP are the product of the total failure of all the reformist parties to make capitalism a fit society to live in. And this is not the fault of the mainstream parties, for they are controlled by the system and not vice versa despite their claims and promises. When capitalism fails to deliver, when despondency and shattered hopes arise from the stench of the failed promises and expectations that litter the political landscape, is it any wonder that workers fall for the scapegoating bullshit of fascists and the quick fix they offer?
The hundreds of thousands of misinformed workers who fall for the BNP spiel are the products of the demoralising system we know as capitalism, deluded into thinking that one main issue - a total halt on asylum – would suddenly improve their miserable lives. In truth, a shortage of council housing and poorly maintained housing estates, low wages and pittance benefits are no more the fault of asylum seekers than is the hole in the ozone layer. At the end of the day the BNP promise voters little more than extra space at the trough of poverty and tens of thousands, their minds numbed by the politics of reform, want it.