Monday, June 08, 2009

Silver linings on dark clouds

There aren't many, to be fair. Seeing the BNP elected is every bit as depressing as I contemplated. I thought I'd feel better if I bobbed along to the rally in Piccadilly Gardens after work, instead I got even more depressed. A big cheer for the chairman of the Unite Against Fascism campaign. Why? He ran a campaign that failed. They played music by Sam Cooke and Bob Marley and blithely announced that such music would be banned by the BNP. How ridiculous.

The chanting and banner waving was pathetic. The speaker announced that "direct action had prevented the BNP from gaining entry to Manchester Town Hall last night." Cue huge cheers. Oh dear. Er, they did manage to get in. Look, he's here, the one with one eye, making a speech, here. And the pictures of the protests looked dreadful. Political street fighting and thuggery from the fascist left. That's right, the fascist left. Go and read the messages on the Manchester Evening News website.

Jonathan Schofield felt the same way, here.

So, what has happened here? Here are some thoughts.

Ear I Am is good. Blame lies with the people who voted for the BNP. End of. But who are they and why?

The spread of support for the BNP was concentrated in key areas for them. True, they had a small bedrock (about 4 per cent), but they needed peaks of support of about three times that. So, taken as a whole, support in Manchester was low (3 per cent), as it was in Stockport (about 4 per cent). But that was outweighed by support in the borough of Pendle which saw BNP support at 12 per cent. But drill down even more into the support for the BNP at the Lancashire County Council election and the picture begins to emerge that by working the streets of Colne, Burnley and Padiham the BNP got their vote out in large enough numbers to lift it over that 8 per cent threshold region wide.

We know that part of the world pretty well. Colne is a white town. Nelson is mainly Asian. When you analyse the Lancashire County Council district votes you see how Nelson North, mainly Asian, with a slate of Asian candidates for all the parties, the BNP did badly. In Nelson South, they still did less well, because it is a more integrated area. But up the road in Colne, it's a different story. A segregated housing policy (by stealth, or otherwise), a lack of integration between communities has bred a deep sense of them and us. It's a hopeless situation. It's exacerbated by news reports where no descriptions of the criminals police are seeking are released. Everyone in the area knows the subtext, but it's a truth that is unspoken for fear of stirring an already incendiary pot.

And where it matters, the BNP are the only party prepared to listen to white working class voters. Fraser Nelson made much the same point while on the stump in Watford.

This is the first important point to note: there is no explicit talk of race, immigration or the death penalty (which the BNP supports). Just rats. This chap had a problem; his councillor fixed it and secured at least one vote. This is a significant and new aspect of the BNP’s strategy. Just as Lib Dems talk about holes in the road, not holes in the nation’s finances, the BNP (in spite of its nationalist identity) focuses relentlessly on the local. It targets councils with huge (normally Labour) majorities which have, for whatever reason, lost the will or capacity to campaign and govern well. The BNP then seeks to make itself useful: most recently, by sending squads to clear litter in strategic locations. It is a devious ploy: distracting public attention from the racist reality of the BNP by presenting itself as the ‘helpful party’.

But why are people even giving them the time of day? In the paper today Sunny Hundal makes the point about the failure of politicians to get any kind of anti-fascist message across.

I hope this result also puts an end to anti-BNP gesture politics. There are those photo-ops where all the parties come together to tell people to "vote anyone but the BNP". If such people gave us a reason to vote and didn't sound like such vacuous robotic idiots on television, then more of us might even be persuaded to vote. These sorts of gestures only reinforce the BNP's anti-establishment credentials and ensure that people who want to vote "none of the above" vote for them.

Add to this there was a complete lack of positivity. A complete lack of hope. No-one is offering a brighter future. Not even Cameron's shiny new Conservatives.

But there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. These people are nutters. They will now have to face the same level of scrutiny as other politicians for the decisions they make and the examples they set. Not just the things they have said. On Radio 5 live this morning Nicky Campbell gave Griffin an open shot at goal to say something other than just to bleat about race. He blew it, he dismissed global warming as a hoax (much as he dismissed the Holocaust, here).

Pretty much every councillor they've elected has been a total disaster, there's no reason to assume this odious man will be any different or more competant.

So we've got fascist MEP. He's going to cock it up. That will be worth watching. Until then, keep hope alive, keep love alive. And speak truths. As George Orwell said, "liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear."

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