Monday, June 08, 2009

How Seriously Should We Take the BNP?

There is a great deal of angst being expressed over the airways at the moment about the BNP's two seat success in the European elections. I have heard several politicians - including the ever obfuscating Harriet Harman - explain that this is a terrible sadness, that it is a protest vote, that the BNP have managed to disguise their racism. Well, whatever else can be said about the BNP's success, it is not because they've disguised their racism. Their deliberate pitch has been to those Britons who are fearful of immigration and are open to a racist solution to that issue. There has been no disguising the BNP's standpoint.

But the BNP have gained their seats on a 6.5% share of one of the lowest votes - around a third of the population - ever cast. It is no surprise to realise that, in a couple of areas of the UK, a small minority of people believe in, and will vote for, racist solutions to a perceived failure on the part of the mainstream parties to deal with some of the UK's manifest problems. This is not a breakthrough. It is not a radical change of heart on the part of British voters. It does not portend a nasty, right-wing shift in the body politic (just look at the vigour with which the Tories and UKIP have both been attacking the BNP). What it does do is expose the frailty of a voting system which magnifies marginal discontent to a ridiculous degree, and it illuminates the general divorce of the public from the political classes, as evinced in their mass failure to turn out and vote. It might also offer an insight into just how seriously most Britons take the European Parliament.

We should never not take the ravings of a party based on hate seriously. We should not be complacent about the way in which such a party can seriously affect the society in which it operates. But the European elections have told us nothing new about the BNP. They have, on the other hand, told us a great deal about the health of both the national body politic, and its European counterpart.

Incidentally, two articles worth reading are on Conservative Home. Its editor, Tim Montgomerie, publishes this short attack on the Labour Party's role in the rise of the BNP, whilst former Tory Reform Group chairman Phil Pedley announces his conversion to the euro-sceptic cause. Pedley used to be a veritable missionary for greater European integration, so his change of heart makes for interesting reading. Also of great interest, the odds on upcoming UK elections are posted here.

4 comments:

Matt H-S said...

I for one am completely and utterly anti-BNP (which won't suprise you in the least, Giles) but this whole issue has raised an interesting ethical dilemma. How far can we defend democracy? Politicians were abundantly in favour of a democratic election in Palestine but when a Hamas government was democratically elected, nigh on all support for this democratic process was withdrawn. Can we (and by we i mean liberal democrats - not in a partisan sense - like myself) really justify throwing eggs at democratically elected officials? Or are there certain parties that do not and cannot adhere to democratic ideals and norms and thus should be removed from the election process?

I for one am unequivocally pro pelting Nick Griffin with whatever comes to hand, but it is an interesting question on democracy.

Anonymous said...

Anything on Griffin's pelting today Giles?

GM said...

Egg pelting politicians seems to me to be an obvious freedom of a liberal society. As for democracy, Matt, it works really well if you take the view that the electorate is uniformly comprised of intelligent, balanced, informed people. If you don't take that view, a plurality based representative election system scrutinised by a permanent house of experts isn't a bad compromise.

Ben Ross said...

If we attacked the BNP based on their policies and not their racism we would get a lot further. It doesn't take a genius to work out that their policies would result in mass unemployment for the working classes.