by Mark Collett

The big story of the European Elections has been the rise of the so called ‘far right’ across Europe. Several remarkable results saw the FN top the poll in France, the Freedom Party top the poll in Austria and the Danish People’s Party top the poll in Denmark. All of the aforementioned results are quite remarkable and all are illustrative of a larger, European-wide, anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment.

In Britain the big story – and the big winner – was UKIP. UKIP topped the polls in nearly every region of the UK and shocked the establishment by coming first overall and ending up with 23 MEPs, making them the largest single party representing the UK in Brussels.

One of the big losers in the UK was obviously the British National Party (BNP). The BNP’s vote collapsed – they saw a drop of over 80% in raw numbers of votes. More shockingly, the BNP’s share of the vote in some regions actually fell beneath their 1999 share of the vote – essentially recording the worst ever results for the party in the European Elections.

Many BNP stalwarts have been quick to lay the blame squarely at the feet of UKIP. UKIP have been called a ‘safety valve’ party, a state set-up and establishment stooges by numerous BNP members and supporters. Whatever the truth behind UKIP, one thing is certain – they have only been allowed to grow because of the BNP’s failure to modernise.

In places like France, Austria and Denmark the nationalist parties have been quick to modernise, clean up their image and occupy a position in the political spectrum that is more attractive to the voting public. The FN is a notable example of this. Marine Le Pen has done her very best to make the party more electable and less prone to the damaging smears that are levelled at nationalist parties by the mainstream media.

While the BNP stalled and imploded...

The BNP however has failed to do the same thing. Whilst wild conspiracy theories are being thrown around by bitter opponents of UKIP within the BNP, the truth is far less interesting. It might make for interesting reading to concoct tales of state plots, Special Branch intervention and back room deals – but buying into such nonsense actually prevents proper discourse and stops nationalism from developing and moving down the correct path.

The real blame for the rise of UKIP is not the media, it isn’t the ‘state’ and it certainly isn’t Special Branch. It is quite clearly the inability and refusal of Nick Griffin to take the BNP down the moderate path that forward thinking nationalists such as Marine Le Pen have done with their respective parties.

As the Tories have moved further toward the ‘centre’ of UK politics in order to try and capture the mythical ‘middle ground’ (and they hoped everything to the ‘right’ of them) it really opened up the field. Moving toward the ‘middle ground’ has caused the Tories to abandon any notions that they may be anti-immigration or anti-EU. With these policies now being ‘up for grabs’ and rather importantly appealing not only to ex-Tories but also former Labour voters too, there were rich electoral pickings to be had.

As the BNP grew rapidly between 2002 and 2009 it was clear that there was a glass ceiling that the party could not break through. That glass ceiling is obviously there for every party, as no one party ever gets 100% of the vote. However the BNP’s glass ceiling was much lower than it could have been. Whereas its contemporaries on the continent were accepting members who were originally of immigrant descent, reaching out to new voter demographics and seriously overhauling their image – the BNP never quite made the right number of steps in that direction.

The electoral reality is clear: there are now many people living in Europe of immigrant descent who have assimilated to European life. These people have been accepted by the vast majority of the population even though a huge proportion (77% in Britain) is against further unchecked immigration. But despite being anti-immigration, the vast majority do not want to see established and assimilated immigrants being discriminated against.

Thus, it is clear that whilst an actual majority (coloured and white alike) would be willing to vote for an anti-immigration party, few would be willing to vote for a ‘racist’ party. In France Marine Le Pen has effectively shaken all serious allegations of ‘racism’ and has polished her party image so not only can descendants of immigrants happily vote for her, but more crucially white people with coloured friends or family can too – and do so with a clear conscience.

The mantra on the continent is clear and concise – if you love France, if want to contribute to France and if you wish to abide by French law and French sensibilities you can vote for the FN. The FN’s message is a simple and understandable message that doesn’t get bogged down in the semantics of ‘race’ and who qualifies as ‘French’.

Here in Britain Nick Griffin is still getting bogged down in a convoluted argument of what classed as ‘British’ and thus who and who couldn’t be accepted by the BNP. The problem is this argument doesn’t just offend those people that Griffin once battled in the High Court to prevent joining the BNP, but also their white friends, families and work mates. It stopped people voting BNP because they felt they couldn’t do so with a clear conscience.

When UKIP stepped into the anti-immigration debate, they did so without the accusations of racism. They took the same stance as the FN, the FPO and the Danish People’s Party. That if you were living in Britain, speaking the language, working hard, abiding by the laws and most of all were proud to be British – you could vote for them. UKIP attracted candidates and supporters from all racial and ethnic backgrounds who were willing to join them on an anti-immigration ticket.

Thus, despite the media trying to level accusations of racism at UKIP, these fell on deaf ears as the public could see that voting UKIP didn’t carry the same implications as voting BNP.

The ground swell of anti-immigration and anti-EU feeling that swept through the UK was always going to see one party reap the rewards. But unfortunately for the BNP, it was UKIP that saw the gains.

Had Nick Griffin took the party down the same route as Marine Le Pen did with the FN, the BNP would have met the public ‘half way’ and would have dominated the political ground left open by the Tories. By refusing to take that stance, the gap in the political spectrum was left wide open and Nigel Farage was the man to profit from it. He skilfully steered UKIP into a position that could tackle the big issues of the day without getting bogged down in the semantics of ‘race’ and who could and couldn’t vote or join UKIP.

UKIP walked away as the winners, but they did so largely because they were left unchallenged and were allowed to dominate a huge section of the political spectrum. Had the BNP modernised when it was rapidly growing between 2002 and 2009 there would have been no room for UKIP to grow. But instead Griffin and his stooges kept the BNP on the fringe of UK politics with hard line talk, media gaffes and political decisions that stopped the party stepping into the mainstream. This created a vacuum for a popular, sensible and electable patriotic party, that vacuum was ably filled by UKIP.

Hops not hate: Griffin's nemesis sinks another pint.

No comments:

Post a Comment