James Bethell: Soon to be free of a racist membership policy, Nick Griffin must not have the opportunity to turn the BNP into a popular, nationalist party
James Bethell is Director of Nothing British.
The BNP’s decision to embark on the revocation of the constitutionally-explicit, utterly-revolting, whites-only membership policy marks the beginning of a new chapter in the politics of racism and extremism.
It gives Nick Griffin’s modernising wing a “Clause 4” moment that draws a clear line across the BNP’s bovver-boots and skinheads past, with all those associations with neo-fascism, Holocaust denial, sociopathic racism, criminality, violence and incompetence. Or at least Nick Griffin, newly flush with EU cash and a boost in the polls, will hope it does.
It opens up an opportunity for the Griffin-Barnes modernising wing to recast the British National Party into a popular nationalist party in the mould of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front Nationale. In other words, a party that is principally an anti-immigration coalition with patriotic, Anglo-centric bells and whistles including opposition to the war, secession from the EU and lots of flag-waving.
Certainly, this releases the BNP from its electoral cul-de-sac of borderline racists and chippy chavs, and opens up new opportunities in mainstream British political opinion that is virtually untouched by the major parties. For instance, only 12% of the public agree with the BNP’s overtly-racist view that non-white British citizens are not as British as white ones. But 68% agree that all further immigration to the UK should be halted, 44% think that the UK should withdraw from the EU and 56% are against local councils allowing immigrants to jump the queue (YouGov – The European Elections – 29th May / 4th June 2009).
The Equality and Human Rights Commission are calling the BNP’s decision a “coup”. Their critics say they have played into the hands of racists. Both miss the point. The EHRC have waited far too long to confront this nasty piece of racism – the sole remaining example of an overtly racist membership policy anywhere in Britain. It goes to show that, like bullies, racists crumble quickly when confronted. How have the 400 employees of the EHRC spent its £70m per annum budget if not dealing with this affront to British values, which is clearly publicised on the internet?
But it is also wrong to suggest that giving Griffin his moment is somehow a strategic mistake. The truth is that Griffin’s move into the mainstream was inevitable so long as the major parties ignored many of the issues that concern voters in the heartland of Britain: the sloppy immigration policies, the wrong-headed multiculturalism, the ill-considered Europhilia and the softly-softly approach to Islamism. It was inevitable once the recession exposed the effects of globalisation on a British workforce that has been left ill-equipped – mentally and skills-wise – to compete with better educated, harder-working workforces in the developing world and at home. And it became inevitable when life becomes little more than a competition with your neighbours for scarce state resources.
What’s the answer? Demonising them as fascist thugs clearly doesn’t work. This stigma meant little to the 947,000 voters who overcame their misgivings and voted BNP in the European elections. Nor will MTV-style appeals to young voters, egg-throwing, mobilising Labour voters or any of the other traditional anti-BNP tactics. After yesterday’s announcement and the inevitable abandonment of the white-only membership policy the BNP could be on track to win many more votes in future elections, if not at next year’s landmark General Election then at the next Euro election in 2014. These are patient men and women who feel history is on their side.
The answer lies in a new approach. We need to address the bona fide concerns of Britain’s hard-pressed working families. We need to give Britain’s pessimist-ariat – that group of mainly male (semi-)skilled working-class voters who are extremely pessimistic about the future and place little or no faith in mainstream parties and institutions – a new sense of hope. By giving them skills. By reviving the sense of enterprise that mobilised previous generations to better themselves. We need to address questions of national identity that leave many confused. We need to shake off the strictures of the liberal elite and listen to the oft-repeated concerns of middle Britain about immigration, sentencing, the allocation of public services and their living environment.
If we don’t the consequences of popular nationalism gaining, for the first time in British history, a foothold in our society is worrying. It creates a conveyor belt to violence for wierdos and misfits like David Copeland, the “Soho bomber”. Attacks on minorities becomes more acceptable. Racism will return to the playground and workplace. And a confrontational dimension to our politics and society, long-gone since the ideological 1970s and 1980s, will return.