Friday, 11 May 2012

Lucky Red

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 Griffin’s party.

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 jackboots visible.

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.

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