Thursday, 15 October 2009
What is best strategy to counter BNP
The decision of the BBC to invite British National Party leader Nick Griffin onto the Question Time panel next Thursday has caused much consternation.The views have been split. There are those who think exposing the BNP will help show what they are really about. The opposite view is to deny the oxygen of publicity that can only be helping to make the party seem more acceptable. The BBC seems to have positioned itself in the first camp. Since two BNP candidates were elected to the European Parliament in June members of the party have featured in a number of BBC programmes. These have varied from the tough questioning of the likes of John Humphreys on Today to seeming free runs in other arenas. The trade union backed group Unite Against Fascism complained about Newsbeat on Radio 1 allowing two young BNP supporters to express their views unopposed and only subject to the mildest of questioning. Undoubtedly,Mr Griffin will not be allowed such a free run by David Dimbleby on Question Time. The Labour Party have put forward Justice minister Jack Straw for the programme and no doubt the other parties will put forward similar heavy hitters. The BBC is in a difficult position, given that nearly a million people voted for the BNP at the European elections. How from its angle can the Corporation go on justifying inviting representatives of other small parties like the Greens onto Question Time while denying that right to the BNP? The approach of UAF has been to oppose the BNP wherever they go. This led to the egg-throwing incident, following the European election victory. It has also seen other ugly scenes. More seem promised on the night of the Question Time broadcast with the UAF calling for a demonstration outside the BBC in London and at other regional centres. The problem with the UAF is that while it falls firmly in the denying the oxygen of publicity camp, its very actions so far have created much coverage for the BNP. Indeed, the whole development of far right politics and opposition to it have moved on significantly since the European elections. The fascists themselves have “mutated” with the arrival on the scene of the English Defence League (EDL). It seems as the BNP have moved closer to the centres of power whether in Europe or local councils, so the more unsavoury violent side has been downloaded into the EDL. Events so far have included violent demonstrations in Harrow and Birmingham. The EDL have future events planned for most of the major city centres across the UK.The actions of the EDL have brought forward a reaction from some of the communities which now seem themselves as targets. So Muslim defence groups have formed in different parts of the country.On the opposition side, there is UAF, Searchlight and the Hope not Hate campaign. The latter groups are much more Labour Party orientated, favouring mass grass roots organisation. There are other voices also beginning to be heard including among the different faith communities. Churches Together in Britain and Ireland recently ran a conference looking at how to challenge the politics of the far right. Head of Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe Arlington Trotman called for the Churches to unite as one voice and speak out against the far right. He also declared that “there needs to be a recognition that we can’t fight fascism without a just social system.”It is the underlying injustice of the political and economic system that is no doubt fuelling the likes of the BNP. The European elections saw the far right parties picking up some votes no doubt as a result of disgust at the MPs expenses scandal. However, the failure of the Labour Government in particular to address the needs of its traditional constituency has helped the growth of the BNP. This was born out by the election results with the collapse of the traditional Labour vote in areas like Yorkshire and Humberside and the North West letting in the BNP. The BNP’s actual share of the vote has only increased from 4.9 per cent to 6.2 per cent in the last four years.The Labour Party needs to refocus its agenda to help those in its heartland areas. This means generating jobs, building social housing, funding public services and combating myths over issues like immigration. If this happens then no doubt those who have deserted for the BNP will return to their more traditional homeland.