Matthew Collins * looks at the affects of UKIP’s success on its more extreme, right-wing rival the BNP.
If Prime Minister David Cameron is feeling uncomfortable about UKIP’s performance at Thursday’s County Council elections, spare a thought for Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP.
The BNP took another electoral drubbing but few people paid much attention to their flailing fortunes this time. Where once the BNP could turn out hundreds of smartly dressed zombies with clip boards and party literature under their arms, at these elections the BNP’s campaign was sporadic, chaotic and mostly, absent.
Nick Griffin has weathered death threats from party members, angry and vengeful Loyalist paramilitaries, little old ladies with umbrellas and even the departure of his party’s only other MEP, so that his party could still face the electorate.
The party stood more than 300 candidates less than at the last County Council elections in 2009, the year that Griffin and the renegade Andrew Brons were also elected to the European parliament. Since then, the BNP has suffered factionalism and internal strife that could have come straight from the plot of ‘The Sopranos’ television drama.
Griffin is as close to a ‘Teflon Don’ as we get in British politics. Fleet Street newspapers have run lurid tales of Nick Griffin and a former glamour model together in a car park eating curry while Griffin’s pants were around his ankles. Former party Treasurers have gone on television to spill the beans about the party’s financial acumen and one treasurer, it is alleged, was even driven to suicide – unable to cope as he was, with juggling the BNP’s accounts.
These days the party survives on the bequests of former members and supporters. So important to the party is the death of its members, that they are actively encouraged to sign forms promising to leave their worldly goods to the party should they shuffle off their mortal coil.
Griffin’s survived a mirror- image splinter party formed earlier this year, and even the threatening attentions of the leader of the English Defence League (EDL), who during a social media war of words, threatened to give Griffin “a slap”. It didn’t escape anybody’s notice at the time that EDL leader, Stephen Lennon, had a large number of Griffin’s former bodyguards at his side.
Threats to the BNP’s dominance of the far-right are written off by Griffin and his aides as part of some “Zionist” plot or conspiracy to derail or discredit the party. Whether any BNP members actually believe this any more is unclear; they are also inundated with such encomiums detailing their leader’s greatness that it would surely even make the North Koreans blush.
UKIP were written off by the BNP as another part of the Zionist conspiracy to derail the BNP. Everyone but the BNP leader could see that his party would actually be the biggest victim of the UKIP surge. But even where UKIP was not standing, like Nuneaton Camp Hill, the BNP’s vote fell from 30.9% in 2009 to just 9% in 2013.
As the counts were completed on Friday there was another BNP conspiracy on offer. The BNP had actually fought hard in Maryport, Cumbria, where they have a number of full-time employees. Reversing the trend across the country, the BNP polled exceptionally well, over 40% in Maryport South, but not well enough to win. The electorate there were bombarded with BNP literature and anti-BNP literature from the Hope Not Hate campaign. The BNP just failed to get over the line, leaving them crestfallen.
Now according to the BNP there’s been another conspiracy. A number of people who said they were going to vote for the BNP in Maryport, did not or could not. The party also claim that their proxy voters did not receive election materials at all, or were rejected. Then there is also an apparent (according to the BNP) problem with postal ballots. The total number of missing votes “could well run into three figures,” according to the BNP.
This will of course, in time, be just further evidence of the “Zionist” conspiracy against the BNP. The members will just have to learn to live with it. The BNP promised them victories in Cumbria based on the party’s own polling figures there.
The real lesson for them, as my own experience of electioneering for the far-right tells me, is that sometimes voters say they will vote for you, just to get you off their doorstep and to piss off and leave them alone.
Next for the Hope Not Hate campaign, is to remove Griffin from his European seat. That work has already begun.
Matthew Collins is a writer and researcher for the Hope Not Hate campaign and author of the book “Hate: My life in the British Far-right”
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