Britain First, elections second

Some months ago, Richard Desmond’s Daily Star splashed across its pages the super-soaraway exclusive that the tracksuited clowns of the English Defence League would be announcing their launch as a political party.

If you follow your far-right fringe parties, you’ll know that the English Defence League (EDL) are a touring party of hooligans and anti-everythings, who don’t care about issues so much as -isms, and mostly negative, prejudiced -isms at that. Every one of the provincial town marches descends into violence and arrests, including the chant of “You’re Not English Anymore” at anybody who dares question their shallow logic. Here in Preston, which hosted the assembled masses of EDL members in early summer, fireworks were thrown through the windows of takeaways.

The political party which the EDL is most closely associated with is not Nick Griffin’s British National Party (BNP), a group they regard as being traitors and state plans, but rather the less well known Britain First Party (BFP). This microsect has obscure beginnings – if you search the Register of Political Parties for all entities including the word “First”, you won’t find them. There’s “BPP – Putting Britons First”, and “British Jobs First”, and even “England First Party”. You’ll even find that the BNP have registered “Because We Care” as an official ballot paper alternative to having “BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY” next to a candidate’s name, though maybe that’s by the by.

Links between BFP and EDL are not easy to find. Links exist, though, and are hinted at across every line of a three-page email sent to supporters – and, as it happens, the email proves very useful for fans of the development of the anti-everything nutjob brigades in what is surely the “post Griffin age”.

The email ends with requests for money and funding; it begins with denouncing electoral politics with all the fervour of a libertarian on heat. “Virtually the only difference between a campaigning organisation and a formal political party,” it says, “is that the latter places all emphasis on fighting media-rigged ‘elections’ (most of which end in embarrassing failure), whilst our movement will focus on campaigning in all its forms to highlight the many injustices suffered by our people.”

It could not be clearer what jibes are being thrust here. Griffin’s BNP has been an electoral flan-in-a-cupboard for years, collapsing in former heartland areas such as Barking & Dagenham, and failing to make a breakthrough in any recent general election. At local level elections, the BNP barely register at all, hurtling into obscurity. No candidate for the BNP, not least Griffin himself, made any serious dent in the electoral chances of the far-right at the 2010 election.

The next paragraph sticks the boot into Griffin once more – “…[N]ationalists need to move away from pretending we are going to romp home to power in this country, and that our leaders will soon be in Downing Street”.

They go on to say “This failed approach channels our energy, willpower and determination into an ineffectual ‘dead end’ that usually ends in failure and disappointment…”

In a surge of hyperbole, it continues, “If you want to get native cultural parades reinstated, if you want to hold corrupt politicians to account, if you want to campaign against the encroachment of Islam into your neighbourhood, if you want to form community groups and take charge in your patch, and if you want to be part of a professional baggage-free organisation that will grow to great size and depth {sic}, then Britain First is for you.”

Putting to one side the definition of “native cultural parades” – morris dancing? flogging suspected witches? – this paragraph should ensure any links between them and the EDL are formally agreed as clearly existing. This “non manifesto manifesto” approach typifies the new approach by the far-right; they are politics for those sick of politicians. They will approach anyone who has shown, or has the propensity to show, exhaustion with the establishment model. Students? London rioters? Long-term unemployed? The vulnerable who believe that non-politician politicians offer the only true chance for change?

Despite what we, on the left and centre-left of politics hope and believe, the far-right remain a real, true, and stubborn force. The EDL marches are well attended, though just as high numbers oppose and often in-fighting does most of the good work for us. Their threat remains very high – we cannot dismiss their marches as mere side-show comedy acts. Where there is a threat, there must be a counterstrike.

Though the BNP are collapsing into themselves, what comes from them must be kept under scrutiny too – what is Andrew Brons BNP doing with the newly registered Freedom Democrats? How strong is the English Democrats Party, and what links do they have with the BNP? How serious an electoral threat is the far-right, and is there a strong enough opposition from within the mainstream parties and the traditionally election averse harder Left?

Nationalism across Britain has always suffered from its own malaise – its message confused, its audience violent and often criminal, its policies bizarre, self-defeating, ridiculous. It is to Britain’s credit that no national parliament has elected a member of the far-right, and that opinion polls consistently wallop their grouplets with derisory totals of support.

That does not mean we should remain complacent. The BFP email is confident, assured, and professional. It is also laced with danger. No ballot box for us, no establishment games, only direct action and street-by-street reconnections. It’s the recipe for success which mainstream parties count as their strongest asset. If the BFP are serious – they aim to stand candidates in Westminster by-elections to take advantage of the free Royal Mail mailshot available to all candidates – there is a period which opens today, right now, during which they could be persuading the disenfranchised or apathetic that only BFP candidates can offer an alternative to the same-old politicians.

The BNP is fading. Let us try and extinguish the next flickering lights of fascism. On the streets, at the ballot box, and in the here-and-now forever.

Nick Griffin has the X factor

Funny thing, BBC Question Time. Like maintaining imperial measurements or scrapping salad cream, it is one of those subjects which causes all manner of reaction (often beyond all proportion) whenever it makes the newspages or headlines. By suggesting that British National Party members, such as leader and North West MEP Nick Griffin, may be invited to Question Time due to rules on “due impartiality”, both sides of the aged “freedom of speech” debate have gone into fits of panic.

Nick Griffin appearing on Question Time, like so many politicians and commentators do every week, is a no-brainer for me. Give him a platform and hopefully he will hang himself the moment the first question is posed.

It is a weird thing, this reaction people give to Griffin and the BNP in general, as though there exists some telepathic force, some magic trait, some unfathomable “X-factor” – to coin a phrase – which turns hitherto sane individuals into fits of race-hate and Holocaust denial whenever they hear members of the BNP speak. This gives the British National Party far too much credibility than they really deserve. I heard Grffin speak on BBC News only the other week, the man laughing and chortling with self-satisfied glee mixed with ignorant panic whenever faced with a direct question. He is neck-high in denial, denial which reaches from the true nature of his constitution to the extreme socialist economic policy in their manifesto.

“No platform” stances do not work. Ultimately it is the same as running around a playground going “la la la”. To give Griffin even a few minutes on a show like Question Time, where he cannot suddenly call the filming to stop when faced with questions he doesn’t like, will shine a very bright light on the reality of his shallow policies and ignorant rhetoric.

If Griffin really does have some magical force, some ingredient in his voice which brainwashes voters (as it was apparently thought of Gerry Adams when his voice was dubbed on television in the 1980s), then what better platform to reveal how over-diluted and watery it is than facing the “court of public opinion”. It would really be like the X-Factor then, Griffin having has much credibility as the off-tune nobodies who cannot believe the sound of their own voice is going down so badly.

Mark Reckons is a fellow LibDem who shares my view.

Proud to be British. Hate the BNP.

The view from my bedroom window is quite beautiful this morning: a uniform blue sky, flickering leaves reflecting the milky dawn sun, a warmth despite of the early hour. It’s fate happily allowing candidates and canvassers an early start to the final days before polling day, potentially a day in history for British democracy.

There are few ways to describe how good Preston has grown as a city without sounding like the archetypal Guardian reader. Our covered market has traditional butchers next to Caribbean fruits and Indian spices, while the walk home through town is a journey similar to many living in university cities and places of arrival for immigrants over the generations. Groups of people outside places of worship can be as commonly Catholics outside St Ignatius’ church as they could be Muslims at the copper-domed Mosque on St Paul’s Road. Of course Preston is not a shining example of multiculturalism, but nor is it torn by strife on the verge of Oldham-style race riots. The division between people here is no more unusual than anywhere else you could identify, a fact supporters of the far-right British National Party tend to ignore. In the country occupied by the BNP, every town is as strictly divided as Baghdad.

History shows that the extreme prejudice espoused by the BNP has been rejected by Prestonians at every opportunity. The 2000 parliamentary by-election saw the appearance of their first candidate on a Preston ballot paper. Result – 1.1% of the valid votes cast, “NAZI SCUM” shouted by members of what was then the Socialist Alliance. Local candidates from them and the similarly far-right England First Party have been thrown out without hesitation. This encourages me; the shadows of their policies are dark and frightening and cold.

The BNP do not represent anything like the best intentions of the country. Their party election broadcasts are confused – sounding over-eager to underline how far away they are from racism while underlining their ignorance on asylum and immigration with every assurance to the contrary. Repatriation of “non-Britons” is a recipe for economic disaster, while nothing is said about the cost of forcing hitherto “oppressed” underclass Britons into work. However else you describe their policies, I suppose the BNP clearly want work to set us free.

Nick Griffin, their current leader, wants to stress how much the party have changed, but the truth is not hard to find. Just scratch the skin to find the racism beneath. Candidates for them who find the truth are even asking voters not to vote for them.

The North West region elects on June 4th. There will be eight seats elected, the final most likely to be the tight, close fight between BNP, UKIP, Green, and Liberal Democrat. When all votes are counted across Europe, I hope with all sense and reason that the BNP have been defeated.

My country is a proud island nation, its language formed by immigrants and international influences, its people as accepting of fish ‘n’ chips as lamb bhuna, as likely to sprinkle through their language words from black America or Hindi as they are the Oxford English Dictionary. The United Kingdom is a nation which helped defeat the kind of enemy who slaughtered millions of people, including their own, for reasons of extreme and absolute prejudice and hatred. We can be a nation which defeats such bile again. On June 4th, I hope any other choice is made to help defeat the British National Party. The good of the nation will come from the defeat of their reckless and offensive racism.

It’s a very British revolution

David Cameron has clearly been swotting up on his Liberal Democrat policy documents!

The MPs expenses scandal quite obviously throws open the doors of Westminster with the most foul smell coming out: our elected representatives took what they could “within the rules” without regard to morals or consequences. From so many levels, “consequences”, always the killer. That said, my observations focused on the other hard “c” – “conventions”. For anyone who watches, say, an hour of BBC Parliament without any prior understanding of how Parliament actually conducts business would die from bemusement if boredom does not strike first.

Convention seeped in the system when ideology died. For many years now the British party system has been without much ideology – blame the end of the Cold War, blame the Clinton agenda, blame Tony Blair. What choice exists does so only along the fractured lines of the extremes. On the right, UKIP begot UKFP, BNP begot EFP: on the left, SWP begot RESPECT begot LL begot NO2EU: and students of contemporary politics saw all this, and it was good. The centre ground is really where there is stability but also (quite fittingly in these days of moat cleaning) deep stagnant water. Politics has lost its way; party politics totally so.

Blogs and “citizen journalism” are starting to lead the news agenda in the United Kingdom now, far more than even last year. Guido Fawkes you may know as the blogger who ‘broke’ the Damian McBride email scandal; throughout the expenses scandal, MPs have used their own blogs to comment on, or refute, the claims in the Daily Telegraph. The mainstream media – television especially so – are showing signs of fatigue. Blogs and message boards can continue these stories for months; TV gets fidgety and bored. After ten days BBC and SKY reports pushed MPs expenses down the running order, doubtlessly to ensure viewing figures did not drop further. This is a shame, but proof that newspapers can still command an audience and lead a story; proof too that the Internet can provide far more depth than even television “in the good old days”.

But “citizen journalism” – what is that? Alas some blogs and websites cannot break free from their walled gardens. I fear it will take years before the UK blogosphere has as much power and influence as their US cousins. The whole McBride affair proved that – the Internet has enough slanderous gossip without civil servants having a go.

Two weeks – is it three? – since the beginning of this scandal, and now things are changing. Not in the “Colour Revolution” shown on the news. This is the UK, so things happen slowly, and correctly, and with order, regulation, politeness. Everyone says “sorry” in new and inventive ways. MPs resign or stand down, rather than the continental option of being shot or jailed. Party leaders climb over each other in a desperate race to be seen as the more eager to sort out “the system”, to shake up “convention”. A population remain to be convinced. How we elect our MPs is an important topic for me, I am a geek after all, but one who knows the deep flaws within our system – BUT (and it is a BUT) who I feel as though the focus has been deliberately taken off those MPs whose receipts have yet to be scrutinised? How is an important question, yes, although its asking should perhaps wait.

David Cameron would like more ordinary people to become Conservative MPs – more women, more black or minority ethnic, younger, older, more ginger, less fat. Before you ask, “black or minority ethnic” is not my phrase, it is the current agreed title amongst those who name such labels. Both Cameron and Nick Clegg want to reduce the number of MPs – although the former does not equate larger constituencies with a need for a representative and proportionate voting system. Throughout all this, those on the extremes – the British National Party in particular – enjoy the fruits of the establishment finally proving that money talks in the corridors of power. “Ordinary” people only have one choice, they say, and that is the extreme and prejudiced hatred of the far-right. Sadly it appears the next elections will wake us all up on this judgement. The mainstream “convention” of whipping up fear will be repaid.

“Convention” has to be shaken up. We don’t protest with flag-burning or guns in this country. There will be no Red White Blue Revolution. The Palace will not be stormed. Instead the suits are either stepping down from office or stepping up their rhetoric. “Convention” suggests and indicates. Our leaders were once expected to offer clarity. I cannot predict quite what form of politics will exist this time next year, in the run-up to the 2010 general election; I just hope it runs against all expectation and, importantly, contradicts convention. Britons were renown for their patience and politeness even in the face of establishment piss-taking – the aftermath of Diana’s death in 1997 changed that one assumption. What will completely alter the convention….