Everyone in Britain has had ample opportunity to learn that the BNP is a neo-Nazi party and a pretty useless neo-Nazi party at that. Journalists have exposed its links to the Ku Klux Klan and European far right, while the anti-fascist magazine, Searchlight, has detailed the Hitler worship and criminal records of some of its candidates.
Whenever the BNP gets into power, its councillors make the Home Office appear a model of administrative efficiency. In Burnley, one resigned after smashing a bottle into the face of another BNP member. A second left because he didn’t have a clue about local government – ‘There’s meetings that go right over my head and there’s little point in me being there,’ the poor dear complained. In Stoke-on-Trent, the city’s first BNP councillor spoke only twice during two years in office (and one of his ‘speeches’ was an interruption to ask what ‘abstain’ meant).
It is the same everywhere the BNP makes gains. Councillors stand as the representatives of poor areas with a glaring need for political help, then don’t turn up to council meetings, or are arrested, or decide that what their constituents need most is to hear them deny the Holocaust.
Yet this grisly record did not stop the BNP doubling the number of its councillors on Thursday. Senseless though the electors who supported them were, voting BNP does not bring the stigma it should when the dominant multicultural discourse emphasises separateness. If polite society stuffs British citizens into hermetically sealed boxes and labels them as the blacks or the Muslims, it is not so strange that people should decide to be the whites and vote accordingly.
Searchlight, which has spent more time analysing and fighting British fascism than anyone else, says that wherever the BNP does well, you hear the same communalist grievances. The white British aren’t allowed to celebrate their lives; housing departments discriminate against them; when there’s a racist murder of a black by a white, the media go wild, but when the roles are reversed, there’s silence. Once the sectarian identities multiculturalism inevitably promotes get hold, it doesn’t seem to matter how bad the politicians who exploit them are, as Respect’s success in London’s East End shows.
The story of how the anti-war movement led to a merger of Trotskyists and Islamists is the British liberal-left’s dirty secret and Respect rarely has to endure the level of scrutiny directed at the white far right. The BNP, however, has been generous in its praise, correctly recognising that a part of the left was now playing its game. It ‘welcomed’ George Galloway’s victory in Bethnal Green in 2005 because it ‘demonstrates very clearly to the [white] British voters that the Muslim community, when it forms an ethnic bloc in an area, chooses to vote only for those political parties that explicitly promote the interests of the Muslim community itself’.
While the BNP targets the whites, Respect targets the Muslims. Both parties have believers in Jewish conspiracy theory – the BNP engages in Holocaust denial and Respect’s candidate for the mayorship of Newham declares: ‘Israel has been formulating and directing UK and US foreign policy.’
Respect is as bad at representing its constituents as the BNP. Its only bout of bad publicity was when Galloway drooled in the Celebrity Big Brother house and the country learnt he had one of the worst Commons’ attendance records.
It didn’t hurt Respect in the East End, where the party did well on Thursday. Once again, we find a slice of the electorate in a poor part of Britain that is so lost in identity politics and victimhood that it will vote for those who stoke their rage, no matter how worthless they are.
The conventional wisdom is that farright parties are driven back into the undergrowth when the electorate sees them for what they are. Historically, that has been the case, but those who expect the BNP and Respect to disappear should look at what has happened to Sinn Fein.
Eighteen months ago, pundits predicted its support would collapse after the IRA stole £26m from the Northern Bank and its drunken sadists murdered Robert McCartney in a Belfast pub. After that, everyone should have been able to see that the peace process had turned it into Ireland’s version of the Mafia. Its political purpose was a distant memory – the Mafia originally tried to protect Sicilians from foreign invaders; its made men saw themselves as above the law; it had pet politicians to provide it with excuses; and could threaten both the British and Irish states with an escalation of the violence if its profits from racketeering were endangered.
But in both the north and the south of Ireland, Sinn Fein support has held steady. I hope I’m wrong, but the lesson from Ireland is that nothing sectarian politicians do can shake the doltish faith of their supporters.
Rearrange those clichés
In its spoof history of the 20th century, The Onion’s headline for 16 April, 1912 reads: World’s Largest Metaphor Hits Iceberg. The story underneath described how the telegram that brought the news read: ‘Titanic struck by icy representation of nature’s supremacy STOP Insufficient lifeboats due to pompous certainty in man’s infallibility STOP Microcosm of larger society STOP.’
After Tony Blair’s cabinet reshuffle, Alex Salmond accused him of ‘shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic’. Frank Dobson at least got it right and said he was ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’, as did half of yesterday’s papers.
There are perfectly serviceable clichés to describe Blair’s predicament. If you want to be hackneyed, what is wrong with ‘clutching at straws’ or ‘not waving but drowning’? In 2012, it will be 100 years since the Titanic sank. Can’t politicians and journalists allow her to rest in peace?
Clamping down on traffic wardens
As the electorate slaughtered Labour councillors on Thursday night, one result stood out. Against all the national trends, Labour overturned the Liberal Democrat majority in Islington.
Islington? Surely its bruschetta-eating middle classes are still in a fury with Blair about the Iraq war. So they are, but I regret to be obliged to report that inner-London intelligentsia care more about a far graver issue: traffic wardens.
Islington was one of the first councils to privatise parking tickets – Manchester, Rosendale, Westminster and many others have followed suit. Allowing NCP to patrol the streets seemed a thoroughly modern private-public partnership. Unfortunately, the Lib Dems didn’t understand that the criminal justice system and the profit motive don’t go together.
The more tickets NCP issued, the more money it made, so it encouraged its staff to be as punitive as possible by offering gift vouchers for Argos and the chance to win a Vauxhall Corsa to the wardens with the highest hit rates. If you were to pay the police by results, you would expect the number of false arrests and miscarriages of justice to shoot up. And so it proved with traffic wardens. They issued fraudulent tickets and lost all sense of the need for discretion and the importance of taking account of extenuating circumstances. They clamped hearses waiting to collect the dead. They fined pregnant women for nipping into the chemist’s. Why should the wardens care, when their pay depended on issuing as many tickets as possible?
For years, the Tory press has been advocating zero-tolerance policing. Well, Islington has had the zero-tolerance policing of traffic offences and has responded by showing zero tolerance for the politicians who imposed it.