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Allister Heath: The high price of life under the BNP

Allister Heath, Editor of City AM, introduces a new report from that exposes the economic illiteracy of the BNP.

Screen shot 2010-04-23 at 12.43.59 SUNLIGHT is always the best disinfectant, in politics as in everything else. The BNP’s calling card, its rabid dislike of immigrants, is well-known – but the party’s views on economics, which are equally pernicious, have until now barely been scrutinised. The authors of this paper are therefore to be congratulated for exposing the BNP’s breathtaking economic illiteracy; there can be no doubt that its policies would ruin Britain, trigger a dramatic collapse in living standards and – paradoxically – hit the hardest the working class communities it claims to defend.

Not only is the BNP nationalist in the nastiest, narrowest sense of that word, but it is also collectivist in its economic policies, a disastrous mix which has always defined authoritarian, fascistic parties over the years and across the world. The BNP opposes free trade, supports protectionism and tariff barriers, hates the City and finance, wants to wage war on the supermarkets and believes that the state can recreate Britain's erstwhile manufacturing glory. It is an anti-capitalist, populist and illiberal party which specialises in tapping into the growing disenchantment among large groups of the population with the international liberal economic order.

Roughly 6m adults of working age are on out of work benefits in the UK today, a scandalous waste of human potential in a country as wealthy as Britain. The problem is not so much material poverty – the UK spends more than ever on benefits – but a moral and cultural poverty which has robbed a growing minority of the population of its dignity. Elevated levels of crime and social decay have ruined the lives of millions. The problem started because the transfer of labour from old industries – doomed in an age of rapid technological change and globalization – to industries in which the UK has a comparative advantage did not proceeded smoothly; it was exacerbated by a faulty welfare system, insufficient entrepreneurialism, poor schooling and inadequate policing. Combine all of this with the recession, the financial crisis a growing sense of disgust at the political elites and it is no wonder that so many people – especially members of the old working class – are so disenchanted with the system.

But the answer to these severe problems is more, rather than less, capitalism; much better education; and a drastic reform of the tax and welfare system to incentivise people to work again and to stop discriminating against marriage. Protectionism, autarchy, state control and closed borders are not the answer. They would precipitate a financial and economic crisis that would make the Great Recession of 2008-09 feel like a tea party in comparison. Destroying the supermarkets, one of the BNP’s most absurd ideas, would deal a devastating blow to the poor; large retailers have done more than any government department to improve the quality of life of Britain’s poorest and least privileged citizens.

Yet it must be said that the mainstream political parties, all of which have become increasingly tempted by populist anti-capitalism, have inadvertently reinforced the BNP’s credibility. Gordon Brown did the world a great disservice when he called for British jobs for British workers. Hysterical banker-bashing from all three political parties has fueled the public’s inherent distrust and dislike of those who make money from money. Major reforms are needed to make the City a more robust and sustainable place; but a wanton demolition of Britain's financial services industry would be an act of collective suicide. The Tories’ constant criticism of the supermarkets has also been deeply unhelpful; tirades against Chinese goods have helped legitimise protectionism and the wrong-headed idea that low-value added goods should once again be produced in Britain.

The list goes on and on; it is imperative that the mainstream ceases to pander to atavistic anti-market sentiment in this way. But merely rejecting or dismissing the BNP’s appalling Mosleyite vision of the world is not enough. It is also important to fight a long-term war of ideas, an intellectual battle to try and explain to the public why capitalism, free markets and free trade are the only way forward. This must be accompanied by real reforms to tackle the poor’s quality of life, make work pay again via welfare reform and liberate the economy through supply-side tax cuts and deregulation to help kick-start growth and hence job creation.

As this excellent paper argues, the BNP’s economic policies are a manifesto for Britain’s economic destruction. They must be exposed, fought and defeated.

> Download a PDF of the report.


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