Golden Dawn now sit in the Greek Parliament. The National Front achieved their highest ever vote share in France.
Yet in Britain the BNP vote collapsed last week, with all their
councillors up for re-election going down to defeat, and the party
coming last in the London mayorals. Baroness Warsi got into considerable
trouble for suggesting that UKIP, which averaged 13% of the vote in
seats it contested, had come to some kind of arrangement with Nick
The view seemed rather odd to me. My occasional forays into the
darker areas of internet politics showed much of the BNP think UKIP is
an MI6 plot to divert nationalist and anti-European support into an
incompetent Dad’s Army. That both Norman Tebbit and Nigel Farage suspected this back in 2001 is all the proof they need.
For my own part I think UKIP and the BNP are quite fundamentally
different. It is only the tortured simplicity of the ‘left/right’
spectrum that puts them near each other. UKIP are the Tory Party in
exile, the boat children of Maastricht, clinging to the Thatcher
Dolchstosslegend of 1990.
They exist as a study in what the Tory Party might have become had
John Major been overthrown in the early nineties. Despite their
Euro-obsessionism, there’s little in their manifesto you wouldn’t find
in the archives of the Adam Smith Institute or Policy Exchange.
The British National Party are the most prominent incarnation of a
political jumble including the National Front, New Nationalist Party,
EDL and a host of splinter groups leading back to the League of Empire
Loyalists and the BUF. A group of people, angry and not entirely sure
why, electorally successful in inverse proportion to the number of
While they may occasionally be joined, and led, by a member of the
upper classes (such as their current Cantabrian chairman), their support
mainly comes from the losers of modern Britain. Feeling there’s an
injustice, but lacking the political framework to express it, they’re
easy prey for those who can provide a scapegoat.
Fascism is the failure of social democracy. It springs up when
parties which claim to speak for the people stop doing so. It is a
denial shouted in the face of the notion that there is, ‘no other nexus
between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous cash
payment’. We are social creatures, we need other people. You can’t
change that any more than you can change your need for oxygen. In the
absence of a message of a socialism based on freedom and justice, some
will turn to a nationalism based on blood and soil.
Britain’s original experience with fascism re-enforces this notion.
While Oswald Mosley and the Blackshirts after 1932 are well known, the
Labour Party has tended to gloss over his road there. Right up until the
Labour Party conference of 1930, when Mosley was on the NEC, he got the
vote of 40% of the party against its own leadership. The cause was his
memorandum, a document revolutionary at the time, recommending a massive
program of public works.
Philip Snowden, still wedded to the notion that the Labour Party had
to tolerate unemployment to be considered seriously, drove Mosley out of
the party. After the disaster of the New Party, Mosley left the country
to tour Europe. By the time he returned from Italy and Germany he saw
democracy as a lost cause. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 1945 Labour proved you didn’t need blood on the streets to effect
change, that a transformation of British politics and society could be
brought about by the democratic process, and by trusting the British
public. That even the man known as the greatest Briton in history goes
down to the will of the people.
The party, buoyed by its gains last week has a fine line to walk. It
cannot ignore the electorate, but echoing economics which has failed and
continues to fail because Very Serious People say so is the same road
to nowhere. We are lucky that the Tories have Nigel Farage stirring up
trouble and knocking a few points off them.
We are lucky the BNP are led by a distasteful holocaust denier,
rather than a charismatic and organised young woman. We are lucky there
is only one Alex Salmond, only one George Galloway and only one Boris
Johnson. We need a plan for what happens when our luck runs out.