I’m an American, so my total exposure to the British National Party is that line in “Re-humanize Yourself” about Billy Joining the National Front and this article about BNP members being outed.
So, what’s the deal with the BNP? Is it a serious force today? Or is it a joke like the current KKK in the USA? Is it illegal to be a member? (Or just unpopular, as KKK membership would be in the USA?) Is membership secret?
It’s a legal party, but not a very successful one, although members have won some local elections. Their platform is openly xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and racist, although since Nick Griffin became chairman, they’ve toned the vocal racism down somewhat. They also support other issues they consider more minor (bringing back capital punishment, more social welfare, etc.)
It was at one point vaguely comparable to the KKK (and its rival far right party the National Front, still is), as in a bunch overtly racist, and often violent thugs. Though it was never a secret society.
However, more recently the BNP attempted to put on a civilized front and portray itself as a regular political party. Worryingly since doing this it has had some limited success on the local level (despite the fact that various undercover investigations have shown the change is very much a cosmetic one).
They are nothing nationally but can and do have significant impact in local elections. They tend to exploit fractured areas of the inner cities and other poor areas; the divided communities from which they gain their support almost invariably have unhealthy racial tensions. The media always regards each and every one of them as out-and-out racists, and whilst some almost certainly are, it’s difficult to know whether their anti-immigrant noises are just dressed up racism or a reflection of people’s genuine concerns. I have no idea whether one can support the BNP without being a racist; they’re mutually exclusive as far as the media is concerned.
Legally, it’s a political party like any other. Membership isn’t illegal, they campaign freely, and even sometimes manage to offer up enough candidates at an election to be entitled to a TV party political broadcast (purchase of advertising time by political parties not being allowed).
It grew from splinter factions from explicitly racist groups such as the National Front, but has been craftily moulded into something which can be (almost) anything to (almost) all people, depending which of their non-race-related policies you choose to highlight. It’s electoral successes have been on a local level, targetting poor areas with existing clear social divides falling along ethnic or religious lines, or simply in majority-white working-class areas with simple scare-mongering.
They’ve never managed to generate any momentum beyond these sporadic isolated incidents, because the activists vary from crafty political animals to the would-be white supremicists who manage to watch what they say in public, and because most of their votes, in reality, come from one certain segment of floating voters. What this does demonstrate, however, is how their successful presence in a location demonstrates a genuine interest from that electorate, most likely because of disenfranchisement from mainstream politics.
The ironic part about the membership-list being made public is that for several years the BNP have been associated with a website called Redwatch that reproduces photographs and home details of anyone who it considers its enemies. Payback time!
By the standards of British politics it is an extreme right-wing party.
A number of public bodies, (police, prison wardens) have made a dismissable offence to belong to it. I can’t see how this can be legal, dictating what your employees’ politics can be.
The first-past-the-post electoral system here keeps these fringe parties out of elected politics, and this is often advanced as an argument against various forms of proportional representation, the need to ‘keep the BNP out’.
Am I the only one to be slightly concerned that the police and prison services are apparently allowed to ban membership of legal organisations that they happen to consider unacceptable? Regardless of how objectionable we may find the BNP?
How is it even legal for them to do so? Either parliament declares the BNP illegal, or people are allowed to be members with no legal penalty. There should be no middle ground.
I have no problem with private entities such as the article’s Talk Sport choosing not to employ BNP members. They are only accountable to their audience and their shareholders. But public organisations such as the police are accountable to the public, indirectly, and to parliament directly, and parliament deems the BNP to be a legal organisation whether we like it or not.
I am unfortunate enough to live in an area represented by a BNP Councillor, but like other posters have pointed out, the BNP haven’t enjoyed very much success except on a local level in certain areas.
There’s been a lot of coverage in the local press where I live(none of it positive), as we have elected several BNP members to the Town Council. Apperently they’ve largely been ostracised by members of other parties and haven’t had much opportunity to put their policies into practice.
There’s all sorts of other legal organisations which it could be very problematic for policemen or prison officers to be affiliated to. Animal rights organisations come to mind. The issue, with these professions, extends beyond that of individual rights, as there are also questions about impartial judgement, duty of care, and so on.
Certainly, an overt ban on a particular membership is an extreme step, and one which deserves very close examination. However, I suspect it’s more an indication of the relative popularity of the BNP compared to truly extreme organisations, where an explicit affiliation would be dealt with as an individual disciplinary offence, should it come to light.
That’s where the Asian communities are. Obviously, there are large immigrant communities around London, too, but up North and in the Midlands you have the added benefit (that is, benefiting racists) of much greater poverty.
I can’t imagine why Loughborough is such an apparent hotbed of nationalist/racist activity, though. I thought it was a university town.
Anyway, racial tension is always going to be highest in poor places with lots of minorities. See Brixton.
ETA: as GorillaMan notes, that map is very deceiving because it doesn’t account for population density in each constituency.
WAG, local activism targeted against eastern European labour. They’ll manipulate things to suit the local situation, and because they’re not a national party in a meaningful sense, the lack of consistency is never obvious.
Just like in the US with the red-blue maps, the Tories lead in the geographically larger rural constituencies, while Labour holds the physically smaller urban constituencies. The LibDems seem to do quite well in some of the rural areas too, making their share look bigger on a map.