Broken Britain: BNP’s Nick Griffin, Andrew Brons elected as MEPs


Anti-BNP posterTo be honest, I wasn’t initially sure which was worse: the knowledge that, for the first time, the UK has two fascist MEPs, who will — if they can overcome their xenophobia — be free to mingle with other far-right MEPs from other countries in the European parliament, or the knowledge that, throughout the UK, nearly a million of my fellow citizens voted for the poisonous British National Party (BNP), although, on balance, that figure of a million — a million! — openly racist votes, strongest in areas where Islamophobia has raged unchecked and unchallenged by the main parties (who have spent the last decade doing little to oppose racism, and often tacitly condoning it) ought to be a cause of major concern.

Behind its tightly-scripted makeover, which involves an order that all party members “refrain from any acts” that are “likely to bring the party into disrepute,” the BNP remains a party founded on a disturbingly aggressive form of racism, as revealed in its Constitution, which proclaims that the party “stands for the preservation of the national and ethnic character of the British people and is wholly opposed to any form of racial integration between British and non-European peoples,” and also advocates ethnic cleansing, albeit through a careful choice of words. As the Constitution explains, the party is “committed to stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration and to restoring, by legal changes, negotiation and consent, the overwhelmingly white makeup of the British population that existed in Britain prior to 1948.”

In the elections to the European parliament, Andrew Brons, a recently retired teacher of politics and government at Harrogate College, who took 9.8% of the vote in the Yorkshire and Humber region (with 120,139 votes), was described in the Guardian as “a dapper, besuited figure,” and appears to represent the “new-look” BNP at its most efficient. His acceptance speech was notably uncontentious, focusing primarily on one of the BNP’s main tactics — a sense of victimization. “The onslaught against us has been more than against any other party in recent times, but somehow we’ve overcome it. Despite the lies, despite the money, despite the misrepresentation, we’ve been able to win through,” he said. Behind the veneer, however, leaks a seasoned fascist. A member of the British National Socialist party as a teenager (named, of course, after Hitler’s National Socialist party), he then stood for the National Front as a parliamentary candidate five times in the 1970s, and was, at one point, its leader.

Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, who took 8 percent of the vote in the North West of England (132,094 votes), is a more openly poisonous figure. Despite getting his party into suits and running a tight campaign to avoid openly racist comments in public, Griffin has persistently demonstrated an inability to avoid inflammatory racist rhetoric when surrounded by other white supremacists. Generally railing about how the indigenous people of the UK are hard done by (that same thread of whining victimization that runs through every aspect of the BNP), he has also presided over a period in the BNP’s history when the focus of its racist bile has shifted from anti-semitism to an all-out assault on Islam.

After the terrorist attacks of 7 July 2005, Griffin dismissed a statement by Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Britain, who pointed out that the bombers “were not Islamic, because Islam categorically prohibits the deliberate targeting of civilians,” by stating that, although “the BNP does not believe that all Muslims are wicked and vicious, the stark truth is that aspects of the religion they follow ARE wicked and vicious.”

In private, Griffin’s rhetoric shows less restraint. In 2005, he and party activist Mark Collett were cleared of charges of inciting racial hatred after they were secretly filmed doing just that. In the BBC documentary “The Secret Agent,” Griffin was filmed, in a meeting at a pub in Keighley, West Yorkshire on 19 January 2004, in which he described Islam as a “wicked, vicious faith” and claimed that Muslims were turning Britain into a “multi-racial hell hole,” while Collett told the audience, “Let’s show these ethnics the door in 2004.”

Griffin’s electoral success was greeted with anger and dismay in Manchester, where the result was announced. Anti-fascist demonstrators tried to prevent him from entering Manchester Town Hall, and after the results were announced the Tory MP Sir Robert Atkins, who polled the most votes in the North West, described the BNP as “an aberration” and, as the Guardian put it, “condemned Griffin’s success as a sad day for British politics.” Labour’s Arlene McCarthy followed up, telling the crowd that the BNP was “a party whose members include convicted rapists.”

As the Guardian also explained, “When Griffin’s turn came to speak, all the other candidates took the unprecedented step of walking off the platform in protest.” Griffin proceeded to claim that “we’re here to look after our people because no one else is,” and followed up with another bout of self-pity, claiming that other increases in the BNP vote — 15% in Rotherham and nearly 12% in Doncaster — took place because “This is ordinary decent people in Yorkshire kicking back against racism, because racism in this country is now directed overwhelmingly against people who look like me.” As is typical, however, he also couldn’t resist attacking Britain’s Muslim citizens. “Take Bradford,” he said, “it isn’t immigration that’s happening there, it’s colonialism.”

Manchester Town Hall was the only venue where concerted opposition to the BNP was apparent. Throughout the rest of the country, the BNP’s results were generally greeted with silence, or the odd bout of booing, but when their results were announced in the South East of England, where they collected 101,769 votes (4.36% of the total vote), the cheers of BNP supporters were followed by a lone voice of indignation. “Fascists!” a man shouted. “F*cking fascists!”

This may not be the most constructive way of tackling the disturbing spread of the BNP, but at least it brought a smile to my face on a night that was sorely lacking in reasons for optimism. The continued success of the UK Independence Party, who collected 2,498,226 votes (running Labour into third place, with 16.5% of the total vote) is another troubling sign, as their pointless anti-European existence only hides a better-disguised form of racism, but the real problem lies with the main parties — and, in particular, Labour and the Conservatives — who have failed to examine thoroughly their own racist tendencies — especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks — or have been content to let xenophobia and racism spread unchallenged, pandering to the right-wing press when they should have been speaking out, and drifting ever further to the right in their desire to be tough on issues connected with law and order, terrorism and immigration.

Note: With eleven of the 12 European election results announced in the UK (Northern Ireland to follow), the following is the tally of BNP votes:

North West: 132,094 (8%)
North East: 52, 700 (8.93%)
Yorkshire & Humber: 120,139 (9.8%)
East Midlands: 106, 319 (9.1%)
West Midlands: 121,967 (8.63%)
East: 97, 013 (6.05%)
Wales: 37,114 (5.42%)
London: 86, 420 (4.94%)
South East 101,769 (4.36%)
South West: 60, 889 (3.93%)
Scotland: 27,174 (2.5%)

Total: 943,598 (6.2%, up 1.3% on 2005)

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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