Monday, February 23, 2009

The resistible rise and rise of the BNP

Two significant BNP election results in greater Southeast London last week. In St Mary's in Swanley, the BNP gained a councillor, despite an incompetent campaign. I know St Mary's fairly well, and I think this interesting article in the Indy over-plays the importance of race in the election. For me, the real issue is class. St Mary's is one of the poorest places in the region, and this drives local anger far more than the presence of tiny numbers of non-white immigrants. The local comment highlighted here sums it up.

Closer to home for me, the Lib Dems beat off Nazi Tess Culnane in Downham, Lewisham. The BNP only came fourth, but they got a full 10% of the vote, so no grounds for complacency. Mary Honeyball rather tenuously manages to portray this as a victim for Labour. However, I would have to agree with her on this:
On the streets it was sad to encounter young voters talking about voting BNP, we need to tackle this and their vote of 10% seems to have come mostly from the Liberal Democrats. As I posted in my comments previously, my experience had been that Liberal Democrats in this part of Lewisham had been quiet happy to quietly pick up racist support. Good to see they ditched this approach in Downham by selecting Duwayne Brooks. I hope that principled Liberal Democrats like John Grieves can influence his colleagues who still turn a blind eye to this. Elsewhere in London the Lib Dems still play fast and loose with race for the sake of a few votes.
Incidentally, I would add local Lib Dem councillor Pete Pattison to the category of "principled Liberal Democrats".

I also liked these congratulations for Duwayne Brooks from Raedwald on the right.

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This is highly unlikely to be a factor in Swanley or Downham, but there is evidence that some Jewish voters are turning to the BNP and that its efforts to portrays itself as a mainstream Euronationalist party, akin to UKIP or Pim Fortuyn, have been partially successful. So, it is important to stress that, for all its slick presentation, at the core of the BNP is antisemitic conspiracy theorising fascism. The fact hardline Nazi Culnane can find a home there exemplifies this, as does recently released mosque firebomber Mark Bullman:
[Bullman] had left the BNP shortly before the fire bomb attack to form what he called the “1290 sect”, named after the year the Jews were expelled from England, and he wrote to me: “I only attacked the mosque because there is no synagogue in Swindon, and it was close enough for public consumption”. The fuse used for the fire bomb was a rolled up BNP leaflet.
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Also worth repeating, I think, that the pandering of the mainstream parties to the BNP's agenda, particularly in a time of economic crisis, fuels their rise. This is one reason why it is important for anti-fascists to articulate the arguments for the immigration. On this, see Matt S, on Greens and immigration.

8 comments:

Martin said...

Thanks for this Bob - an excellent and illuminating post, with some useful links. I lived in Swanley for a couple of years back in the 80s and I think you're absolutely right to see class and not race as the key issue here. I'll link to your post and add my own thoughts in due course.
Martin

ross said...

if an incompetent campaign results in them coming from nowhere to take 41% of the vote having previously never stood then i'd hate to see what a competent campaign could achieve! (questions have to be asked why the lib dems pulled out and did not contest that one also) - i bet there's hundreds of seats like this up and down the country that the BNP could pull off the same thing

paul golding is a fairly prominent person in the party and a capable organiser (despite his rather dubious past, i.e. being expelled from the BNP for physically assaulting a BNP councillor who was half turkish) and that along with help from the bexley branch who know a thing or two about doing well in elections result in it being a fairly competent campaign I would say, and no doubt a model that will be adopted for the future

re jewish support, the BNP also have a jewish councilor in epping forrest

BNP have had their best string of results for years since the release of their member lists, just goes to show you can't beat the BNP tactically like the uaf, searchlight and all of liberal anti-fascism keep trying to do, if there's not a political solution there's no solution, and even with all the evidence staring us in the face all we're getting from that wing is obama like tactics to try and raise the overall vote to dilute that of the BNP's without the slightest attempt at a political solution

Sue said...

Dave Hill has also been commenting on the Labour tactics in the Downham campaign. I was horrified when I saw the one Labour leaflet. Horrifed that they had decided that the most important issue to focus on was getting the union jack flying more often over the town hall. Nothing to say about the economy, housing, health, education, the environment etc? It did all seem rather dog-whistle to me. They ran a nasty campaign to try and avoid getting hammered and it didn't really work.

Would have preferred it if the Indie hadn't printed the results, including our rather pitiful 2.3% in it's full glory, but nevermind - we'd only been expecting 2% ;)

BTW, was that you I saw the other week when I was mountaineering up Bexhill Road with London Green News?!

max said...

"Many people are beginning to think of this election as a referendum on getting our flag over the town hall and sending a message to the softies who are ashamed of our union jack"

That's class.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yep, for a person that totally doesn't grok British politics it's a good one.

Re another matter - the links you mentioned - this is indeed true that a lot of posts from SJ link to BFB and other blogs linked from SJ via the My Blog List widget. A very useful one, besides giving a boost to blogs I link to.

Cheers.

max said...

"Yep, for a person that totally doesn't grok British politics it's a good one. "

Well, it was delivered to all letterboxes in Downham so a few sophisticated political analysts must have been caught in the net but I'm not sure that that was the target audience.

It's the "softies" that does it for me.

bob said...

Thanks Sue. Dave Hill's posts (one, two) and the comments are very interesting. I'm quite conflicted. On the one hand, as one of the "softies", I have no time for nationalism of any sort. To have any integrity, and to beat the BNP in the long-term, the non-fascist parties need to articulate the arguments against fascism, not pander to it.

On the other hand, I think that Sunder Katwala and Chris Paul are right to say that the left should just leave patriotism to the right: there is a crucial difference, as Orwell, Rudolf Rocker and others noted, between patriotism and nationalism. Middle class liberal attempts to paint patriotism as a thought crime fuels the right-wing discourse that the BNP tap into.

On the 2.3%, I thought Ms Honeyball was rather mean-spirited picking on the Green vote. Yes, the Greens are strong in the west of the borough, but the political culture in the south of the borough (as in Deptford) is very different, and the Greens were never going to be strong there.

Mountaineering on Bexhill Road? That's my manor, and I have been known to mountaineer it myself, so that's a likelyhood.

Martin, I didn't know you were connected to this part of the world (did I?). Look forward to your post on this and Scruton.

And, finally, who does grok UK politics?

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