After their electoral disaster in last year’s elections, the BNP have increasingly faded from view. As the author of a new book on the BNP, Matthew Goodwin, points out, the BNP has only really been focused on electoral success for the last decade or so:
Born into the spring of 1982, during its early years the party steered clear of elections. It was not until the arrival of Nick Griffin as chairman in 1999 that a serious quest for votes commenced. Influenced by his time in the 1970s National Front, and inspired by its more successful French counterpart, Griffin went about revamping the BNP under a strategy of “modernisation”. The goal was to attract a broad and stable electorate by detoxifying the brand, adopting community-based activism and throwing resources at local and European elections.
At this point, it seems unlikely that the BNP will pose a serious electoral threat in the near future, as the anti-Griffin rebellion grows and senior figures leave or have left already. But, as Matthew Goodwin argues, there is still space for an “anti-immigrant populist party”. This opens the way for the EDL.
On the Continent, recently successful far-right parties have not followed the old neo-Nazi model of outright racism, but rather focused on Islam and immigration; this has helped these parties gain a respectability denied to neo-Nazis. The EDL fits this mould, as they have made a great deal of effort to avoid being seen as racist, preferring instead to talk as much as possible about Islam and terrorism.
Yet they are not a party at present, being more of a lobby/protest group. If they wished to become a party however, then they would be able to absorb much of the now-fragmented BNP’s grassroots activists, who are experienced campaigners. This could be done without taking the BNP’s name, and thus avoiding the toxic branding of being an openly racist party.
There is certainly plenty of overlap between the EDL and BNP. Already Barking, once a BNP stronghold, has seen co-operation between local EDL and BNP activists in attacking UAF (Unite Against Fascism):
Some 25 EDL thugs threw bricks and rocks at Crown House causing damage to the building’s exterior. They chanted “EDL” and shouted racist abuse and death threats. At least two Barking BNP activists were involved in the mob attack.
The EDL has been active in Barking & Dagenham recently whipping up race hatred over proposals to build a mosque in the borough. Anti-fascist activists believe the local BNP branch is turning back to street thuggery after the losing all 12 of its councillors in last year’s elections.
Is this a sign of things to come? Possibly.
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Filed in: EDL,Party politics,The BNP