Where next for the BNP?
So, two BNP MEPs. There’s a continuing debate as to the true identity of the BNP. Everyone seems to agree that they’re ‘Fascist’, and the usual nomenclature is that they are ‘right-wing’ or ‘the far-right’. I’ve argued before that this at best simplistic, and at worst not much more than an attempt to smear the Conservatives by association – allowing Gordon Brown to use that ghastly formulation ‘The Tories, UKIP and the BNP’ as if the three were interchangeable.
I don’t propose to go into all that again, but my argument was that, regardless of the BNP’s economic policy (which is unarguably old-fashioned socialism) the party has targeted itself heavily, and explicitly, at disillusioned Labour voters. My contention was that the BNP were seeking to capitalise on left-wing voters who refused to vote Labour. How did this analysis stand up to the statistics?
0155 Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University says: The Labour Party were clearly the principal losers where the BNP's vote went up most. In areas where the BNP vote went up by more than three points their vote was down by eight points, whereas where the BNP's vote fell Labour's vote fell by only five points. This three-point difference is much bigger than the equivalent statistics for the Conservatives and Lib Dems. In contrast, above-average UKIP increases in their share of the vote seemed to have hurt all of the Westminster parties. Thus, it seems possible that UKIP may have picked up some of the anti-Labour protest vote as well as pinching votes from the Conservatives.
In other words, the BNP vote was predominantly a straight switch from Labour, whereas UKIP picked up votes from all the parties. We are stuck with the fact that, regardless of whether the BNP is itself right wing, it’s electorate are certainly left wing.
This is, actually, rather good news. Because as the Conservatives enter Government, and have to take horrendously unpopular decisions, and as the inevitable (under either party) public spending cuts disproportionately hit the poorest hardest (as in that apocryphal New York Times header: ‘World to end: Poor, minorities hit hardest’) these votes will probably trickle straight back to the Labour Party. In other words, the rise of the BNP isn’t a symptom of an increasingly fascist body politics. It’s a symptom of the decline of the Labour Party, and will be reversed when the Labour Party recovers. On second thoughts, perhaps this isn't good news...