BNP, English Democrats and UKIP
The threat from racism and the Far
Right, political strategies for the future.
Peter Cranie, 2004 Green Euro
Candidate, NW Region
In London Assembly elections the BNP
gained 4.82% of the vote, narrowly missing out on election by just 3,293
votes. In the North West Region of England, Nick Griffin also missed out
on election to the European Parliament, gaining only 6.4% of the vote.
UKIP, as we all know, were a spectacular success, electing MEPs from
nearly every English region and two London Assembly members. We have all
been very fortunate.
Griffin had been counting on winning
a Euro seat to vindicate his attempts to legitimise the BNP. His failure
means that his vision for the BNP is now under threat from the less
sophisticated and increasingly violent BNP rank and file. It may prove
impossible for him to hold together this fragmenting party but it is too
soon to disregard the BNP as a future threat. Locally based anti-fascist
and anti-racist work remains essential.
The English Democrat Party (and the
pockets of England First Party activity in the North West) represent the
beginnings of the fragmentation on the far right. Had the English
Democrat vote been added to the BNP vote in the North West, the combined
total would have been enough for a seat. The sudden appearance of the
English Democrats was very fortuitous for anti-racist voters and
However, it is the overwhelming
success of the far right and overtly nationalist UKIP organisation that
should attract our attention. Thanks to massive financial backing and
widespread media exposure, UKIP were able to mop up protest votes in
both London and the North West that might otherwise have gone to the
BNP. For that, we should be thankful. It has for the moment, sabotaged
Nick Griffin’s ambitious plan to emulate his continental counterparts,
Le Pen and Haider, and establish himself as an elected figurehead for
his far right movement.
Our strategy for dealing with racism
and the far right must work within this new political reality. Local
anti-fascist campaigning has proved effective in denying the BNP a
foothold in areas it is not yet established. This should continue.
However, the continued ability of the BNP to win council seats means we
must look for new solutions, particularly in council by-elections and in
areas of established BNP support.
The success of UKIP in electing
councillors as well as MEPs means we can now encourage them to stand
against the BNP. This means dialogue with a political party we would
rather not to engage with, but I would argue that this can form part of
an effective strategy to deal with the far right. The BNP remain for now
the principal threat to democracy, freedom and civil liberties in
Britain. We must ensure the 2004 elections result was their high
watermark in UK politics, and that by 2009 they are in decline and
UKIP state that they are in no way a
racist party. Perhaps the fact that Kilroy-Silk’s tan is seen as their
inclusive gesture? What I take this to mean that in no way will they be
“overtly” racist. I do not know if UKIP has any black members but I do
know that all their representatives are white middle class men. However,
it would be a mistake to treat them in the same way as the BNP. As a
party largely motivated by a middle class anti-European agenda, that is
their principle vulnerability.
UKIP’s stated aim is for the United
Kingdom to leave the European Union following a referendum. Their party
name and the simplicity of their idea is also their biggest weakness.
Pro-European parties in Scotland (and Wales) are much stronger than
anti-European parties. Any UK wide referendum on leaving Europe that led
to a UK majority voting “yes” would be likely to include a Scottish
majority voting “no”. We need UKIP to make the constitutional and
practical implications of any such vote absolutely clear in any
Would Scotland be forced to
leave the European Union or could it remain within Europe by seceding
from the UK?
If Scotland remained in
Europe, how could England maintain the much vaunted Schengen agreement
that currently gives the UK greater control over its borders?
How would the
constitutional break up be managed?
UKIP can take two positions on this.
They can try to set out a careful framework that gives due consideration
to these important questions, or they can attempt to sweep it aside and
continue to simplistically talk about UK independence. In both
scenarios, it will expose them as the “England Independence Party”. In
the former, it means they must deal with real politics and try to win an
impossible argument. In the latter case, it means uncomfortable exposure
to attacks from the Conservative (and Unionist) Party, who have so far
been slow to spot this obvious frailty in UKIP’s stance.
Lower interest rates, structural
funding and fishing rights would be examples of the issues that could be
debated by a vocal Scottish Parliament, before or after any referendum.
My belief is that the benefits to Ireland as an independent state within
the European Union have been huge, and this would heavily influence any
pre-referendum campaigning. However this is not for us to debate right
now, but it is actually an effective tool to start exposing the
limitations of the UKIP position now. “United Kingdom” Independence may
mean the end of the UK. It will only actually guarantee “English”
The difficulties that UKIP will face
over the next four years as their policies are subject to proper
scrutiny should ensure they are a short-lived phenomenon, albeit a
heavily funded one. In the meantime, encouraging UKIP to compete locally
will bring a short-term benefit if they can damage the BNP and fragment
the far right at a local level. It should also be viewed as a way of
challenging them to firstly show they are not linked with the BNP, and
secondly to demonstrate that they are a genuine political party. If they
fail to stand, we can attack them as a far right group with racist
links, opportunistic, exploitative and shallow.
I have not yet mentioned the Tories,
who are likely to benefit from the demise of UKIP. We cannot rule out
the possibility that by 2009 they once again look like a plausible party
of government (even if that is as part of a Lib Dem led coalition). They
must be encouraged step up to the challenge of the BNP. In some local
elections they have failed to stand a candidate against the BNP. This
can only help BNP candidates seeking to establish a foothold. Some
Tories will vote BNP if there is no Tory option. At a local level we
must be prepared to lobby local Tories to ensure that they also throw
their hat into the ring.
We have a difficult task ahead.
Exposing the limitations of UKIP and using smarter political tactics
against the BNP will not solve the underlying problems of xenophobia,
racism and ignorance. We have other battles to fight locally. We must
also find innovative ways to tackle the propaganda put out by our right
wing press. We must keep putting forward the arguments for a just asylum
system, fight to remove institutional racism and begin tackling the
emergent covert racism we see today.
The far right in Britain are at
their strongest for over seventy years. In part this is due to the
weakness of the Tories but it is also because we have allowed them to
present a conveniently simple message to working class voters in places
like Burnley. First hand, we’ve seen that fragmentation on the left has
persisted once established, and successive projects to unite the left
have so far failed. By working to fragment and weaken the far right, we
can help to ensure that the racist and fascist elements, backed by an
emotive national press, can never again present themselves as a
realistic option to the British electorate.