The British National Party has now been removed from the official list of political parties. This is because it failed to pay its annual £25 registration fee. Without registering, it’s not possible for the BNP to contest elections. Even six months notice wasn’t enough for the party to make the deadline. So this may well be the last gasp for the BNP. Whether or not it can regroup is hard to say.
Some parties of the far-right have lied dormant for years. The National Front, the precursor to the BNP, which was founded in the late 1960s, has seen a resurgence in its numbers in recent years. Much like the BNP, the NF collapsed in the wake of the 1979 election after its failure to win any seats at all. Fragmentation set in for years to come. The BNP didn’t come out on top as the largest ultra-nationalist party until the 1990s.
Naturally, the BNP wants to take a glossy look at itself. Party spokesman Stephen Squire has told the press: “It’s the first I’ve heard of it – it’s obviously an oversight.” Meanwhile former BNP leader Nick Griffin, who was expelled in 2014, told LBC that the lack of payment was either down to incompetence or a “deliberate wrecking job”. Griffin’s theory being that the new leadership doesn’t want to finance a future election campaign.
However, current BNP chairman Adam Walker has told party supporters that the “media frenzy” created by the technical oversight “proves how relevant and newsworthy the BNP is”. Walker succeeded Griffin following a long struggle within the party machine. Griffin had faced off a challenge from Andrew Brons for the leadership, but it became impossible to maintain his position once he lost his seat in the European Parliament. The mass of the party had grown to view him as distant and self-interested.
So it seems inevitable that Nick Griffin would be reduced to a grumbling Twitter presence. He’s currently telling his fans to move to Eastern Europe – specifying Hungary, Poland and Russia – because the UK has been emasculated. Of course, Griffin’s natural allies include every neo-fascist group under the sun, from Jobbik to Golden Dawn. This is an old story. He once described Vladimir Putin’s Russia as “the last bastion of the white race”.
Whether it was the English Defence League, or Britain First, the BNP has been superseded by new groups. National Action is the latest organisation to crawl out of the spawn pool. In the absence of any single, cohesive force to predominate UKIP has absorbed the racist vote. Not that UKIP is itself a crypto-fascist party, far from it, it is a coalition of traditional conservatives, market libertarians and nationalists. But it’s momentum may not last either.
This is good news, but it’s not a reason for complacency. UKIP has successfully pushed the narrative on immigration and refugees further rightwards than the BNP ever did. Not surprisingly, Griffin urged his followers to hold their nose and vote for Farage. The strength of UKIP, in Griffin’s words, being its politeness on the question of immigration. UKIP has no historic ties to Holocaust deniers or people celebrating Hitler’s birthday. So it’s been able to eat into the mainstream electorate.
Notably in 2011, a Populus poll found that 48% of the British public would consider voting for a new anti-immigrant party – particulary, to campaign against Islam – so long as it wasn’t violent or draped in Nazi regalia. The search for racism without racism has not been good to the BNP. After all, Nick Griffin once described the world situation as follows: “The capitalist free-traders, the Marxists, and organised Jewry, have declared war on the white man, not just in Britain, but in every nation on this planet.”
Interestingly, Nick Griffin has suggested the BBC deliberately promoted UKIP in order to usurp the BNP’s radical agenda and later to split the Conservative vote. It is true that the BBC gave major coverage to Farage and has done for years. By contrast, Griffin was invited onto Question Time once in 2009 for the political class to take potshots at him. The display allowed the BBC and the establishment to pretend it was free of racism itself.
Still, the full picture is less convenient for Griffin. After 15 years of Griffin’s leadership, the BNP has been left in tatters. Not only is the brand still anathema in the mainstream, the party has lost its base having failed to capitalise on its greatest gains in 2009. He may have set out to make the BNP acceptable and mainstream its cause. In one sense, Griffin may claim success in laying the groundwork for UKIP, as he likes to emphasise. But it’s clear the vehicle was lost in the process.
Photograph courtesy of Jason. Published under a Creative commons license.