The British Ultra-Nationalists: Is it all new, or are we on a cycle?
I use the term ultra-nationalists rather than Far Right because nothing manages to wind me up quicker (other than people saying the bedroom ‘tax’ is actually a tax) than people saying that parties like the BNP & NF are actually Far Right. They’re Centre Left authoritarian nationalists, but of course that doesn’t have the same ring to it…
Founded in 1982 from the burning ashes of the National front, which seemed to be doing only a slightly better job at ripping itself apart than the social cons and libertarians are doing in UKIP at the moment, the British national party, headed by John Tyndall promised to give white nationalism a electable face.
After the BNP and several other splits of various sizes took a large chunk of the National Front membership, it was left a defeated shell. However before the failures of the 1979 general election which started the rebellion they had been a threatening force, if not at the ballot box, certainly on the high streets. The NF led marches up and down the country, much to the disdain of the anti-fascist movement which opposed them, of course this movement goes on to become Unite against Fascism. Pitched battles like those at Lewisham became near common place for the NF.
In 1999 Nick Griffin won a leadership challenge with 70% of the vote. He immediately attempted to modernise the party on a scale that no nationalist party had ever seen before. A new logo was brought in, website revamped and a fresh 92 paged manifesto which covered every area from the traditional lines of immigration to the relevantly new areas like the environment and welfare. In the early to mid-2000s the party actually looked as if it was going to become a true force in British politics, much to the fear of the Left and Centre. In fact, it even started to poll as high as 7-8% in 2006, remember how long ago UKIP were at those levels? This time last year, give or take a few months.
But alas, it was all for nought. As its predecessor, the National Front just as it look about to reach the peak and have some form of electoral breakthrough, to cement their position in councils up and down the country and to have a lasting effect on our lives, the splits began: British Freedom Party, the Freedom Democrats, British Democratic Party among many other short lived minor parties. Support has waived and the party has dropped bellowed 2% in the polls while losing a large amount of their council seats.
Forming in 2009 after an Islamic protest against returning British soldiers from Afghanistan, the English Defence league has been all but destroyed as quickly as it formed. A breakaway group, the Infidels still hold some members in Northern England but again they are weak. The EDL has attempted to continue the NF tradition of marches and street protest, a year after its foundation it was consistently outnumbering antifascist protesters and had marched in a handful of major British cities, enthusiasm has been weakened lately, with a recent protest in Cambridge attracting 30 people. They were not only outnumbered by UAF, they were outnumbered by the police.
So what is in store for the British ultra-nationalists? History shows after a few years of infighting, the BNP, or a splinter group from them will rise once again and challenge the political establishment. This could be in the form of the English Democrats, boosted by a sudden influx of former BNP members, Robin Tillbrook, the leader of the EDs is feeling confident, hoping for a repeat scalp in the Doncaster Mayoral elections in May, against the former English Democrat & incumbent, Peter Davies. Along with standing around 350 candidates in the 2013 local elections.
I personally hope that one ultra-nationalist party does remain dominate and they it remains present, but quiet and weak. I worry that if the ultra-nationalist section of our electorate would collapse, that the more militant aspects of the factions will turn to more violent means to push their agenda. Several times already, members of the BNP as well as people linked with the EDL have been arrested and imprisoned for stock piling weapons and for planning bombs attacks on Muslim communities & religious centres. Without the ballot box for the them to place their hopes into, it is only natural that they will start to seriously consider turning to the ammo box instead.
Gareth Shanks is the current chairman of Friends of Palestine in UKIP. He writes about military matters, Palestine and things that make society tick. He’s a self-described Neville Rebel and tweets as @Garethshanks