Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Labour & the BNP

Labour & the BNP

I was thinking recently (probably at about 3am, so forgive me if it is a little disjointed) about the apparent rise of the BNP.  Now, the question as to whether the BNP is a far-right party or a far-left one arises every so often, to the screaming disagreement of those on the moderate right and left.  A look at their economic programme would certainly suggest that they are left wing, as Dan Hannan says:

It favours nationalisation, higher taxes, protectionism and (though it keeps quiet about this) republicanism. It markets itself as "the Labour Party your parents voted for". Its manifesto calls for "the selective exclusion of foreign-made goods from British markets and the reduction of foreign imports," and promises to "restore our economy and land to British ownership" and "to give workers a stake in the success and prosperity of the enterprises whose profits their labour creates by encouraging worker shareholder and co-operative schemes".

But to look solely at the BNP’s economic policy to determine their politics seems a little inadequate.

As might be expected, I think that the BNP, insofar as it fits at all onto the left-right spectrum, is a left-wing party.  But I don’t particularly draw this from their policies, but from their tactics.  The BNP is an electoral threat to the Labour Party, and not to the Conservatives.  Its councillors are predominantly in Labour areas (or what were or should be Labour areas).  It is much stronger in Burnley and Bradford than in Haywards Heath and Bradford-on-Avon.

But why does a party that might be specifically designed to be Harriet Harman’s antithesis pose such a threat to Labour?  One of the things I was doing while waiting for my wife to go into labour, was watching the BBC coverage of the ’79 election (I know).  A lot of attention was focused then on the National Front, with coverage of their rise during the late 1970s, and the possible breakthrough they might achieve.  They were annihilated, averaging only 1.6% of the vote and getting the worst result of any party ever to have contested more than 100 seats.  1983 was even worse.

Now there are two possible interpretations of this, and the recent rise of the BNP.  One is that extremist groups flourish when there is a weak Conservative opposition, but when the Tories look strong, the extremist voters flock back to them.  That’s pretty much the conventional wisdom. 

But the other view is that these groups flourish under Labour Governments not because of the weakness of the Conservatives, but because white working class voters (who are much more likely to vote Labour than Conservative), when they feel abandoned by the Government have nowhere else to turn to.  The visceral anti-Toryism that still lingers in the North means that they won’t turn to the Conservatives.  The Liberal Democrats are too much of a middle class, right-on party to be attractive.  And there’s no-one else.  In Scotland, by way of contrast, when people are sick of Labour, there’s a ready alternative in the form of the SNP – whose support has been massively increased by a Labour Government.

So there’s my theory on the rise of the BNP.  It has succeeded because the Labour party in power has alienated a group of its voters who feel that they have no other mainstream party to represent them.  Does that make the BNP a left-wing party?  Perhaps, but what looks certain is that they have a left-wing electorate.

3 Comments:

Blogger asquith said...

You seem to me to have called it right here.

I live in Sjoke, & people talk about the rise of the BNP on the city council without reference to the context, which is decades of Labour rule. They flourished under Thatcher, when this area took a huge kicking. (You can of course say there were mitigating factors, but she was blamed by most residents).

The time for a change voters, the government is against us voters (a lot of whom live here because there is so much council housing, benefit dependency & suchlike), & so on turned to the BNP, who did indeed use a lot of Old Labour rhetoric- let's be under no illusions as to the attitudes of most people in areas like this.

I elaborate in this discussion. It's a huge comment thread to wade through, but maybe if you just search for my username on the page you can get my thoughts & that.

http://tinyurl.com/p83aou

Nice post- you've got an insight into the matter which I think some on both the left & the right don't.

5:18 pm  
Blogger Red Squirrel said...

An insightful piece :-)
I have been a BNP member now for almost 3 years and I see us as a left wing party, in the Old Labour (non Marxist) sense. My approached to the party was rather tentative at first, having heard all the negative epithets such as ‘fascist’ and ‘racist’. The ‘knuckle-dragging ‘stereotypes’, and the insane nail bombers of the real extremist neo-fascist factions.

I was really pleased to feel that I was among family, not a bunch of extremists at all, and certainly not all working class either, I might add. Merely a bunch of true Brits, a lot of whom had left Labour and other parties, after discovering the true agenda of the ruling elite. A totalitarian Eurabia, unrestricted immigration, and the destruction of our culture

Long ago I had been a Labour voter with an ‘adolescent crush' on communism, I watched ‘Star Trek rather than read Das Kapital, and it was merely Utopian idealism, and more likely something I did to shock my conservative middle-class family. I knew nothing then of the gruesome realities of the genocides perpetrated by communist dictators upon their own people and others, the freezing death-camps of the Gulags nor the totalitarian Dystopias, but I learned this later on.

During the Miners strike, I had collected food door to door on their, I assumed. ‘starving’ behalf, and the generosity of working class people in the town was totally amazing.
But I fell out with the far-left permanently, after finding they had plenty of cash, and especially after one of the WRP men that I knew 'sung the praises' of the despicable actions of the Brighton bomber’s, I was frankly disgusted.

I travelled after that and lost interest in politics, until recently, well about eights years ago that is. The ridiculous PC laws and other repressive legislation with the same type of extreme communists that I disliked intensely, riddled through the whole of our society. The dumbing down of schoolchildren, the rise of feminism to ridiculous levels, the breakdown in law and order and all the multicultural (especially the Islamic and Cultural Marxist) propaganda on TV.

I am not by any means a racist, I grew up among members of other races and ethnicities, as well as my own, and some have been and still are my friends. In fact my daughter is Anglo-Indian, as well as a BNP supporter!

Very hard times lie ahead for all Nations, but we will get through it in Britain if we can remove ourselves from the European federation. The only party that can do this is the BNP.

Until four years ago

2:02 pm  
Blogger Red Squirrel said...

Family arrived , please excuse typos and unfinished sentence.

2:06 pm  

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