Defeating the BNP through challenge and debate

Lord Taylor of Warwick

Nick Griffin is one man who is happy to have egg on his face. Last week the BNP leader attempted to hold a press conference outside parliament. Anti-racist groups threw eggs at him.

As I watched the television pictures I could see him smiling as the eggs made impact. He is shrewd enough to know this provided excellent publicity for his party’s fascist, racist cause.

The press conference followed the BNP winning two seats in the recent European Elections, in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber. Griffin and Andrew Brons are now the first BNP MEPs.

How seriously should we regard this point in our political history? Historically, we have been able to laugh at far-right political parties as goose-stepping clowns and bone headed thugs. BNP has had councillors and won a London Assembly seat in 2008. But this is the first time they have won at national level.

There are probably many reasons for their “success”. They won mainly at the expense of the Labour party support, which collapsed. Some voters were clearly angry at all the mainstream parties over the expenses issue. They also benefited from the bizarre proportional representation voting system in the European Elections.

On the other hand, the BNP failed miserably in London. Overall, it won fewer votes in the two Euro regions it now represents – 43,600 – than it did in 2004. Indeed, far right parties in the Netherlands, Austria and Italy did better.

So, what are the BNP all about? Over recent years the BNP has taken off its braces and bovver boots and replaced them with suits and ties. Griffin is a Cambridge University graduate. But that sophisticated image belies the truth. I first experienced the activities of racist groups during my time as the Conservative Party Parliamentary candidate in Cheltenham in 1992. So I am very used to seeing racism packaged in camouflage.

The evidence for me is clear. Griffin has previous criminal convictions for inciting racial hatred. Brons is a former Chairman of the National Front, which openly campaigned on a racist agenda. BNP membership is not open to black or Asian members. I have to admit I am not keen to join them!

It is sad that the BNP victory happened in the same week of the D-day celebrations, when brave man and women died to defeat fascism and protect us from racists. What about the future? Does this mean that we will see BNP MPs at the next general election? Griffin boasts about contesting a dozen parliamentary seats. I believe this is unrealistic, not least because of the Westminster first-pass-the-post system, which will make it harder for them. It is also clear that when people experience local BNP councillors they find them to be ineffective in meeting their needs.

We have to take the BNP seriously. Having two elected MEPs, will give them more profile and access to funds. But throwing eggs at them is simply a waste of good protein. It is far better to defeat their ridiculous arguments through challenge and debate.

12 comments for “Defeating the BNP through challenge and debate

  1. Croft
    16/06/2009 at 12:42 pm

    You suggest the best way to deal with the BNP is to defeat their argument but that is precisely what is not happening. The political classes collectively have broadly taken an approach that involves refusing to debate against them. Even worse there is scant attempt to actually engage with the issues or hard policy. Attacking them as you did with ‘fascist, racist cause’ or ‘bone headed thugs’ is ineffective.

    I would agree with your two suggestions explaining their success; obviously a Labour recovery and the expenses scandal dying down will significantly ease the largely soft BNP vote. However I’d add, I suspect, far more crucial issues: employment, housing and immigration. It’s grievances around these issues and the perceived lack of any response from the major parties that has helped the BNP vote. The mainstream parties need to address real solutions to head off these tensions. Rhetoric just won’t be enough if you want to shift the soft vote back to the mainstream.

    On your point about BNP membership I believe the government is proposing to ban them from selecting their candidates in such a manner which is just another gift to the BNP in publicity terms. It makes you despair if that is the best they can come up with to address the BNP

  2. Bedd Gelert
    16/06/2009 at 4:04 pm

    “It is far better to defeat their ridiculous arguments through challenge and debate.”

    This ain’t going to happen.

    1/ Most ‘Guardianistas’ have lost their ability to debate and argue by the fatuous ‘No Platform’ policy they drank with their mother’s milk at the NUS School for Career Politicians at Uni.

    2/ ‘Challenge and debate’ is not on the curriculum at school these days, and ‘Debating Societies’ are seen as passe and elitist. How much easier just to ban views and opinions one doesn’t agree with, or are ‘politically incorrect’. Debating skills are taught just as much by speaking in favour of, say, euthanasia, the death penalty and fox-hunting as making the argument against. But would one be allowed to do that in state schools these days ? I somehow have my doubts.

    3/ The scale of this problem is regularly under-estimated by people and politicians who can’t be bothered with the investment in time and energy to take them on. Hazel Blears tried to dismiss the BNP [a valid enough viewpoint] by saying on TV that ‘they only have 12, 000 members’. The trouble is each one of those members has translated into roughly 75 votes.

    4/ None of the main parties are listening to the concerns of the voters in the areas where they have built a strong base. It is very easy to be in favour of migration if one is middle class and therefore benefiting from cheaper child-care, a good cleaner and a thriving pool of low-paid employees for your business. But the political class don’t see that there are other people who are not like them and who are the yin to their yang – and are suffering as a result. They need to be won over, but politicians dismiss their views as ante-diluvian and not ‘right-on’ – their views haven’t been re-programmed for the 21st century, so we are going to ignore them.

    5/ I hate to say this, but much of the public sectors obsession with diversity targets, while laudable, has just played into the hands of people who want to portray people of colour as ‘something other’. They are depicted as ‘victims’ who need the playing field levelled. There is of course some truth in that – but at what point do we start to accept that we have moved down the road to equality, and that people have to pull their own weight as well ?? Barack Obama has spoken eloquently about the fact that his success will lead to a wake-up call as people now see that he has removed some of the excuses for not achieving success as an African-American. And that will be tough, as many of the hurdles are still there – but life is never totally fair.

    6/ The Tories are never going to admit that they have a hand in this problem, as they were the biggest advocates for EU Enlargement, hoping that it would help put a sprag in the wheel of the march of EU Federalism and a Superstate. So their howls now that we have given up management of our borders and control on the numbers migrating ring a bit hollow.

    7/ Labour are never going to admit that their policy of limiting the number of houses being built plays into the inaccurate perception that any new homes are being given to migrants. Of course this isn’t true – but ‘the trend is your friend’ and if that perception is willingly taken up by BNP voters, that is as least partly the fault of mainstream parties for allowing policy on housing to be able to be manipulated so easily.

  3. Walter
    16/06/2009 at 4:20 pm

    The way to defeat the BNP is at the ballot box, it is better to expose their racist policies for the unacceptable ideals they promote, and not by resort to the use of legislation. In a truly democratic country however, that regretfully allows the BNP a platform to debate and defend their agenda however entirely offensive it is to the majority of the electorate.

    The assertion that a bizarre proportional representation voting system which, in part, allowed the BNP to benefit at the European Elections, unintentionally puts down the achievements of other, and more politically acceptable, minor nationalist parties. It was this very same proportional electoral system that elected a small number of representatives of other minor nationalist parliamentary parties to the European Parliament, (Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Féin).

    The suggestion for the government to prohibit the BNP from selecting membership on national or racial criteria alone is a little naïve. I cannot see any logical reason why a potential candidate might desire the legal right to apply for membership of the BNP, after being denied membership solely on the grounds of their race or national identity, then use a compulsory legal compliance of law to gain membership, and seek to campaign for a party that doesn’t accept them as a member in reality. It’s a nonsense.

    In conclusion, I am minded to reflect on the proportion of Englishmen elected to represent our other regional nationalist parties. None, I suspect; but not because of a restriction of membership on national or racial reasons. It is more likely to reflect the disinterest of the average man of England to campaign on the day-to-day agenda of regional nationalist government. Legislation to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race, nationality, sexual orientation; et cetera, is already in place. Gracious me, Parliament might just over legislate and require Plaid Cymru to elect an Englishman.

  4. 16/06/2009 at 7:17 pm

    Over recent years the BNP has taken off its braces and bovver boots and replaced them with suits and ties.

    It’s even attracted Jewish members! But a rottweiler in a suit is still a rottweiler. The BNP is still clearly a white supremacist organisation, as Griffin’s speech at the Euro election declaration showed.

    The voters who welcomed Barack Obama’s election over the pond and who helped defeat the government over Gurkha pensions and settlement need only to be reminded of that fact.

  5. Noodles
    17/06/2009 at 8:00 pm

    I can’t see the BNP contesting 12 seats at a Westminster level, at least not seriously. They will have to concerntrate resources if they want to make any real inroads, finanical and physical resources just aren’t that plentiful. While they’ll continue to draw in support from those who have lost faith in the system its almost impossible to translate that into concerntrated electoral strength in a constituency basis.

    Part of the debate also should include emphasising the importance of, dare I say it, taking European and local elections seriously. The EU is not a fixed body that cannot change, there have been 3 treaties in 12 years, one every four years roughly. If we don’t like it we can change it, but when two thirds of the population don’t vote it leaves open the way for facists.

    If memory, and ten minutes of research, serves me correctly one BNP councillor won an election in Corsham in 2007 on the basis that no one stood against him. There just weren’t enough people willing to stand for Council.

    The good note is that the BNP are so un-British, the street patrols in Corsham, the idea that Brittishness is the colour of your skin, not even including the fallacy of natish-English people that they won’t do as well as European far right parties.

    On the other hand, when many people I’ve spoken to, all of whom I have since corrected, think EU citizens are entitled to out of work benefits and “free money” from the British state, there are underlying reasons why the BNP do well in PR based elections.

  6. Mark Shephard
    18/06/2009 at 10:44 am

    Lord Taylor notes that ‘this is the first time they have won at national level’. Technically they won at regional level as you also indicate ‘North-west’ and ‘Yorkshire and Humber’. Admittedly, they will be seen (esp. abroad) as being UK MEPs.

    • Croft
      18/06/2009 at 11:56 am

      Err? On that logic the MP for Uphill and Downdale is not a national politician either!

      • Mark Shephard
        18/06/2009 at 3:05 pm

        Croft – minor point concerning the ‘winning’ not being national (ie the constituency)

  7. Anne Palmer
    22/06/2009 at 10:52 pm

    It was the end of July that I wrote an Article “Inspired by Magna Carta” in which I suggested that people used their vote in the EU Parliament to fill that Parliament with as many “Pro British people, commonly called “Eurosceptics” as possible. To use their vote as the Vote they were denied in the promised Referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon. It was also only the beginning of using Magna Carta, the Common Law Constitution that so many Politicians have either ignored or forgotten about.

    I ask you whether even now, if the choice was put to you, (And you were in the place of an ordinary voter) would you rather vote for those that would give the Governing of the Country away to foreigners (And probably FOREVER as there is no time limit on the Treaties and the EU is planning for the next 50 years)-which is strictly contrary to Her Majesty’s Coronation Oath- and in violation of that solemn Oath of Allegiance we all have, make and should uphold, to the Crown.
    WE also remember at the same time, that our MP’s continue to be at “Full Compliment” while only instigating about 70% of our Laws while expecting us to vote for them and pay them as if they are instigating ALL.

    Or would you vote for either the BNP or UKIP if they were the only choice you could make if there were no “Greens” etc? I know what I would do.

  8. Lord Taylor of Warwick
    30/06/2009 at 4:58 pm

    Thank you for all your responses.

    Croft and Bedd Gelert – I believe that an open debate is very important and it gives an opportunity to not only challenge the BNP’s arguments, but also raise the awareness of the absurdities of the their cause.

    However, what should not be underestimated is the power of debate. Many groups have actively expressed their disagreement with the BNP: students are taking part in debates; the public are discussing the issues through the internet; and politicians are frequently commenting in the media about their views.

    The reasons surrounding the BNP’s recent success are extremely sensitive: many issues need to be addressed. I agree that issues such as employment, housing, and immigration become more acute in a recession . So there is a natural tendency to drift away from the mainstream parties.

    Noodles – I agree that what is essential here is to raise the awareness of every party’s policies which aim to tackle the main issues. Again you make a good comment about the importance of the EU and local elections. It is crucial that people are aware of their rights and entitlements in both the EU and UK, so that they can make informed decisions about their vote.

    In a democracy people are entitled to vote for whom they want, thus at the end of the day it is up to the public to decide whether BNP will succeed.

  9. Anne Palmer
    30/06/2009 at 7:53 pm

    Thank you for the “Nudge” that the debate is continuing. To defeat the BNP, other Political Parties have to have something better to offer. I see nothing any different in the three major Parties to make me want to vote for any of them.

    I am sick of the sniping from the Labour benches in the House of Commons, rather like a small child that doesn’t want to share the ball with others, it is so repetitive. If the people have to stand to that when they “tune in” from now until a General Election, Labour may win the Guinness book of Records for the greatest loss of seats.

    That said, will the Conservatives “WIN”. People like me (and I have to admit I have always voted Conservative-though I have never been a member of any political Party-and never will) that see no point in voting for a Government that cannot Govern will most certainly NOT be voting for any Political Party that wants the EU to Govern this and all other 26 Countries. I have looked long and hard at the forthcoming legislation from the EU and most of it is against our own Constitution.

    With the greatest respect, I rather look upon some one that is taking money for something they knowingly cannot do, yet go through the pantomime of debating such legislation in Parliament, altering a “Might” to a “Maybe” yet cannot alter one dot or comma of the substance of the Regulation or Directive, etc is kind of “taking money under false pretences”. How long will it be before a great many more people feel the same?

    I look at the new long Article 188R (Not the version that was in the Treaty)and the EU Directive in the Official Journal of the EU, C 321/6 dated 31.12.2003 The first paragraph which reads, “Agreement between the Member States of the European Union concerning the status of military and civilian staff seconded to the institutions of the European Union, of the headquarters and forces which may be made available to the European Union in the context of the preparation and execution of tasks referred to in Article 17(2) of the Treaty on European Union, including exercises, and of the military and civilian staff of the Member States put at the disposal of the European Union to act in this context (EU SOFA) Brussels, 17 November 2003”. Which had been presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs by Command of Her Majesty, March 2009″. and then I realise that the people have been told nothing about this. Why not? These military people and civilians have been given immunity too.

    Our own sovereign people who were allowed to have guns for their own protection in the Bill of Rights 1688 had that RIGHT removed from them after Dunblane. The Law Lords ruled against one legal Challenge, perhaps it is time to put another challenge, to put right that wrong. The Governments of both Political Parties have gone against the people’s Common Law Constitution, and Lisbon makes clear that IT takes precedence over National Laws and Constitution. In the quick and disgraceful way Lisbon was ratified, MP’s seemed also to forget that according to R v Thistlewood 1820 to destroy the Constitution is an act of Treason, particularly as we are-if born here in the UK, owe allegiance to the British Crown.

  10. Anne Palmer
    30/06/2009 at 8:27 pm

    You wrote, “It is sad that the BNP victory happened in the same week of the D-day celebrations, when brave man and women died to defeat fascism and protect us from racists. What about the future? Does this mean that we will see BNP MPs at the next general election?”

    That war was fought to prevent foreigners taking over this Country.It was fought at a time when all the “odds” were against us here in the UK. Perhaps in the same way all the odds are against us now regarding the Treaty of Lisbon coming into force. Believe me, nothing will turn out as the most ardent fan of the European Union thinks it will. But, and here is the rub, none will be able to get out of it. (Repeal the European Communities Act 1972? No Parliament shall bind?) The EU will make sure from day one that will never be allowed to happen. This Countries hands will be securely tied.

    Regarding Criminal offences. Such are the laws in this Country now, instant fines, no “Innocent until proven guilty” we might all have criminal offences against us soon. Put the wrong ‘waste’ into the wrong bin-Criminal offence. Cigarette butt out of the car window-Criminal offence. Oh!, and leave your bin lid up too high-bin too full-my goodness me, yet another criminal offence. Some sitting British MP’s might even have Criminal offences, at least, if there was the same rules for all instead of just for the ordinary people.

    You know, not one BNP ratified an EU Treaty, while the two major Political Parties did. This Country was supposed to be about “Democracy”, so why did the people not have a referendum on that very constitutional Treaty of Lisbon? Withdraw the Treaty before all 27 States ratify it and put it before the people in a referendum. That is the only way to “Save” all political Parties should they want to continue in Office. Failing that, the people will have their say in the end you know. Regarding the sentence above I have picked out, many people lost dear members of their own families fighting in that last war you speak of. I lived near Manchester then and was bombed time after time-I know exactly what it is like to be bombed. A kind of terrorism, it matters not whether there is a warning because when a direct hit comes, with or without a warning, dead is dead whether warned or not. All those that fought and died in that war have been betrayed by weaker people. They have ALL been betrayed, but not by the BNP and not by UKIP because they did not ratify any EU Treaties against the people’s wishes.
    Do you really think the people will ever forgive that?

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