Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Roderick Spodes will always be with us. On the margins of respectability. Let's keep them there.

Five years ago, after Nick Griffin's appearance on "Question Time", 22% of the British people said that they would consider voting BNP. Whilst one should be careful about reading too much into one poll this does ring true in the context of the rise of UKIP. That around a fifth of the British electorate are in, or lean towards, the Far Right is not particularly surprising. The message of extreme Nationalism, anti Europe, anti immigration has its gut appeal. And when there is confusion, often based on ignorance, then a seeking of scapegoats is understandable. Recently we have heard cringe-making interviews with UKIP supporters who parrot the scapegoating rhetoric of UKIP leaders without having any real understanding of the issues involved. Nigel Farage is not Nick Griffin - he is far more dangerous than the former BNP leader and a great deal cleverer. But deep down the UKIP appeal is not that different to that of the BNP.

It's worth repeating again the views of UKIP supporter and Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry:

"An air of bewilderment and panic now grips the two main parties. But the explanation for Ukip's rise could hardly be simpler. It lies in the issue of immigration. Ukip has tapped into the growing despair of the public at the relentless transformation of our country."

The phrase "relentless transformation of our country" is of course code for "The presence of very large British Asian communities in our cities" - a consequence of past immigration in the post war decades. Although support for UKIP is more widespread than was the case for the BNP there is little doubt that the driving force, as McKinstry identifies, is the same - an objection to the ethnic diversity of modern Britain. 

Under Nick Griffin the BNP became, nominally anyway, less overtly racist. This was partly because the law required it to do this but also in an attempt for respectability. UKIP's rise since 2010 has been coincidental with the BNP's decline. But if you look at the BNP's manifesto in the 2010 General Election it is not that much different at its core to that of UKIP today. UKIP is appealing to that 20% or so of the electorate that survey back in 2009 identified. The Far Right supporters and sympathisers now have a "respectable" home for their votes and UKIP's credibility has been enhanced by the defectors from the Conservatives. David Cameron memorably called UKIP "... a bunch of ... fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists mostly". He may regret that now but as a description of the Far Right, from Mosley through Griffin to Farage, it's not bad shorthand. It is not a coincidence that the rise of UKIP has been at the same time as the decline of the BNP. The 80% of us who don't think like those of the Far Right must counter this latest manifestation of political extremism in the same way that decent British people did in the past. The Roderick Spodes will always be with us. On the margins of respectability. Let's keep them there. 


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