The Fantasy rise of the BNP

From the Observer.

Never underestimate how fast fear can swell in Britain. Sophisticated politicians and commentators analyse the “moral panics” of the masses about immigration and crime while remaining unaware of their own irrational prejudices. For in its nervous moments, polite society is just as panicky as the most hysterical tabloid reader. The veil of good manners slips and it describes its fellow citizens as tattooed and shaven-headed brutes who, given the right circumstances, would vote for the modern equivalent of the Nazi party.

The conditions ought to be right this summer. Indeed, I cannot imagine better conditions for a neo-fascist advance. Britain is coming to the end of the longest wave of immigration in her history. I argued when it was at its height that we could take a modest pride in the absence of rioting mobs and burning crosses, but I had to temper my patriotic sentiments with the admission that mass immigration came while the economy was booming and the public was more interested in shopping than taking to the streets. At the risk of stating the obvious, the boom is over. Unemployment is rising and anger at foreigners taking British jobs is rising with it.

To make matters worse – or better from the point of view of extremists – this parliament has disgraced itself. Its frauds turned Westminster into a tax haven and the House of Commons fees office into a cash machine that kept on giving. The electorate has gone from its normal state of surly acquiescence into a righteous fury.

Even before the scandal broke, no less an authority than the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that Britain needed to heed the lessons of Nazi Germany and accept “a very high risk of financial stringency leading to political extremes – anger finding its expression in xenophobia. The fact that the BNP can win a seat in Sevenoaks is a straw in the wind and we have to watch the horizon very, very carefully for the tempest that might be behind that”.

I would mock him for imagining the leaders of the British National party crying: “Today Sevenoaks! Tomorrow the world!” But then it is just the kind of thing the leaders of the BNP would say
Read the whole thing

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18 thoughts on “The Fantasy rise of the BNP

  1. Here in Carlisle, the BNP have been canvassing for votes. There’s only a few in number interested in them. But it is more likely a place where they’d all like to live rather than stand about or deliver leaflets in. It’s not a large city but it is largely, though not quite, all white. Immigration to here can be seen by the small numbers of Indian takeaways, Chinese takeaways, Italian restaurants, Kebab shops, and the Polish, who, apart from holding end of the week market-days in the town centre, work in various places: factories and supermarkets more commonly than in the shops or offices, etc.
    I’m not just loosely using stereotypes, because some days you can easily go without seeing someone more exotic than a typical Cumbrian when going about the town. Indeed, and I find it a bizarre comment to make, but my memory is clear enough in this year to say that I have seen one black woman and two black men only.
    Hopefully that is an observation which will differ with other people. Without wishing to look stupid but giving an accurate view, racially Carlisle is like having its varying skin colours making up the decorative frill round a small, white table cloth. And I hope it will change.

  2. Great article. It’s a wobbly old tightrope trick though, simultaneously holding (as I do) both a faith in the basic decency and fairness of the British population, and a fear of popular delusions and the madness of crowds.

    The success of Galloway’s Respect party was a knock to the former faith, but Britain does have a long and commendable history of being quite unable to take fascists seriously. And it helps that the BNP is led by a man who so blatantly oozes a sort of froggish evil.

  3. Actually Brit, the real tightrope is this. If you are black or Asian or Jewish and the BNP wins seats in your area in changes the way you think about it. You have to live with the knowledge that a sizable proportion of your neighbours will vote for a party which wants to drive you out. But to worry about that and campaign against it should not lead you to believe that as saying a neo-fascist party is about to sweep Britain. The real danger of extremes is that their ideas influence the mainstream. As I have mentioned before, ideas that begun in the squalid corners of what I suppose you have to call the far Left have swept the liberal consensus.

  4. The real danger of extremes is that their ideas influence the mainstream.

    Hence the amount of space in ‘What’s Left?’ dedicated to the apparently innocuous Workers Revolutionary Party.

    Strange how many of your critics failed to address this point, though thinking back it was surely one of the major arguments of the book. Mostly they accused you of being scattergun and attacking trivial enemies. It is admittedly unusual to go from Gerry Healy to Virginia Woolf to Saddam but even if you disagree with the view that extremes infect the mainstream, you ought to at least acknowledge that it is a view worth considering (especially as the great London anti-war march rather proved your point.)

  5. A very fine writer to read alongside Nick Cohen on matters such as this is Paul Foot.

  6. I think it’s very interesting to examine the current generalised worry about the BNP in the way that you do and it’s going to be important to make sure it’s not used to remove power further to the ‘responsible’ centre.

    However, whilst I agree with you that the bogeyman of a ‘popular’ surge in support is just that, a more particular danger relating to a smaller constituency surely remains and should concern us as much.

    I’ve wondered for a while whether the excluded, unemployed, disfranchised, demoralised, ignored, forgotten and ghetto-ised parts of the former white working class would find a political voice, the mainstream left having abandoned them in recent years. If none of the bigger parties has any large and consistent interest in this constituency, isn’t the door wide open for someone else to try to win them over? For the BNP to succeed in this would not be a ‘sweeping’ victory; but it would be extremely depressing and shameful all the same.

    2-3% of the electorate as a whole is insignificant. But if this translates into clear and lasting majorities in certain wards it is disastrous. Perhaps a ‘moral panic’ is worth having if it mobilises people enough to avoid this particular disaster?

  7. My dear sir, when Mussolini took power in Italy, the foreign reaction was roughly along the lines of “it couldn’t happen here”. By 1933, when Hitler was voted into power, only about three countries on the European mainland – Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and France – kept a recognizably democratic constitution. (Spain was in a state of near civil war long before the army actually revolted, and does not count.) And France was fascistized in 1940 by the very man whom legend associated with resistance against the Boche. Do not delude yourself that any country is proof against tyranny; especially one that is conspicuously lacking in built-in limitations to the power of the state.

  8. I don’t think its fair to tar the BNP with a Natzi brush, In Natzi Germany there were very little other coloured mixes like we have today, once the BNP start taking on coloured or ethinic types, we will know they are then being sincere, colour is only skin deep amongst the people who were born British.

    On the part about foreiners taking away british jobs, we are all wearing blinkers here I’m affraid, the number of jobs that way is a very tiny number this way, the main problem is, the big companies have been moving our manufacturing base abroad since Hong Kong we don’t get a vote to this fact, some MP’s have vested intrests in some of these companies and are then indirectly stealing from thier own people,

    And the biggest crime of all is the countries own population who have fiddled in some way, most of the people reading this will know exactly what I am saying, so lets not call the political pot black unless we are ourselves squeaky clean and thus innocent.

    What we need is a party comprising of MP’s from all the different parties just like we did during the last war, and what a really good team they were.

  9. A Lament for Europe

    Land of the Setting Sun
    Caldron simmering in hungering desperation
    To regain the smacks of the Past.
    You seek to lunge ahead
    On the energy of Your logic
    And hopes not yet lionized.
    You call upon Your histories
    To lend strength to Your phantasies.
    You coil up hard on Your proud self
    Wrinkled and weather-beaten.
    You struggle to nurture new flowers
    On the dry rot of Your haunted memories.
    Your youth, sniffed upon by strapped canine squads,
    Rape-hate in Your stadiums
    Striped with electronic rejoinders
    To press softly-pliant, gaily-tinged plastic buttons.
    Your elderly curl their ways to bankrupt health ministries
    Where physicians fool with forms
    And fill in football pools.
    Your neighbors to the East—
    Brazen, sordid—
    Yank towards You
    Roughly extracting for exacting theirs craved for.
    You, Europe, sit pickled—
    Soused in the juices of Your scummy heretofore.
    Your dabblers in politics set flags unfurled
    And their powers shame—
    Shame!—
    This Our world.

    Anthony St. John

  10. I realy do get angry when the likes of the BBC go on and the Labour goverment blame there loss in support on the resescion. Take a look around, since 2004 I have noticed more complaints in newspapers of the workplace banning the likes of Christmas decorations and the likes of staff having to remove Christ on the cross on a chain etc. I put it down to the likes of the EU, like at the Manchester Arndale one Christmas that spent thousends on winter theme only decor and the ban of Santa Claus at Christmas 2005 that was only to cause uproar. By some kind of EU law that forces ones to abandon a religious tradition in respect of other religions, doing this is the sort of thing that realy does get peoples backs up to the point that make people vote for the likes of the BNP. That is were it all started and then to follow back in 2007, Gordon Browns mission to Brussels concerning the EU which costs Britain millions, without holding the promised referendum. The message people are getting is if you don’t want to be in Europe vote the BNP or UKIP.

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    Using risk assessments employers must identify and implement Man And Van
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  12. I tend not to leave many comments, but i did some
    searching and wound up here The Fantasy rise of the BNP | Nick Cohen: Writing from London. And I actually do have some questions for you if it’s
    allright. Could it be only me or does it give the impression like a few of the responses look like
    they are written by brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are writing at other online social
    sites, I would like to follow anything new you have to post.
    Could you make a list of every one of all
    your community sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter
    feed?

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