Tuesday, February 24, 2004

BNP Launch "Operation Alienate Voters"

The website is more popular than ever, Michael Howard is giving them free publicity, they've gained another councillor, immigration and asylum are still making headlines - for the BNP the prospect of electoral breakthrough in June, with its accompanying hefty Euro-MP salaries and liberal expenses, has never been closer. They can almost smell those freshly-printed Euros.

I have assumed for quite a while that the BNP will at any time contain at least a couple of Guardian or BBC researchers looking for the videotape or story which will horrify all right-thinking people, a permanent sleeper from Searchlight or a similar grouping, and at a more senior level an MI5 operative or two. If they are as bad as Michael Howard says, I would expect no less from our security services.

I have also assumed that as the election approached attempts would be made by one of these three forces to produce what in the popular press would be called a 'spoiler'. My money was on some spectacular a week or so before the election, linking the BNP and its leader to some abhorrent practice like paedophilia or heroin importation. The objective truth of such a claim would not necessarily be all-important - after all, that could be established after the election. The story would be the thing.

I may be underestimating the subtlety and elegance of our security forces. For the BNP appear from their website to be engaged in a campaign to alienate as many people as possible, particularly those from the Conservative, traditionalist Right. This strategy cuts across and is diametrically opposed to their stated aim to be seen as a party of respectable Middle England.

Consider the evidence. At the New Year religious leaders in Manchester, including representatives of the Church of England, Catholics, Methodists and other Christian denominations, issued an unexceptional anti-BNP statement to the media of the sort many Church leaders have issued before.

The BNPs response was a hysterical denunciation of all religions and their followers, one which would have gladdened the heart of Johann Hari or the National Secular Society.

"More people have been murdered by religious bigots than any other kind in history.The moral high ground that these Holy men pontificate from is built upon a graveyard hiding the historical crimes of their blood soaked religions. "

"In the name of the Bible, the Koran, the Ghita and the Torah untold millions of people have been slaughtered across the centuries. They have used their holy books to condone the slaughter of anyone that dared defy their edicts and to bless the swords, bullets and bombs of the killers."

"We are dedicated to the democratic political process and public accountability - whilst each of these religions are merely fascistic structures based on enslaving their adherents and ensuring their own increased power. They are nothing more than fascists in their religious robes and frocks!"

Now I find it unlikely that the BNPs theorists are unaware of the enormous gulf in ideology which separates the average Joe in the pew from the Bishops and other leaders who speak for them. Think of the gulf between John Public and our elected leaders - then remember that a Church is not a democracy. Church leaders in the UK are likely to be members of the liberal elite and to share the views of that elite. A dissenting cleric, like the late and great Cardinal Winning, is the exception. Churchgoers in the UK, if we leave aside the Pentecostal and Evangelical wings, are likely to be older, whiter, wealthier than the average. They are also less likely to have criminal records, more likely to have stable families and to be involved in their local communities. They are also disproportionately female and by definition are socially conservative.

Just the people, in fact, the BNP are looking for to give a respectable front to their party. Christians may be renowned for turning the other cheek but I'm not sure that calling them 'enslaved adherents' to a 'blood-soaked' religion, led by 'fascists in frocks' is a credible marketing tactic.

Then came Michael Howard's proposed Burnley visit, and a chance to diss the Thatcherite right. In another classic editorial which this time would warm the heart of Dennis Skinner or Arthur Scargill, the BNP implied that the Thatcher ministers responsible for privatisation would be put on trial under retrospective legislation. Just the kind of policy to attract dissident Tories, or indeed people like the 'businessman and Territorial officer' who represented the BNP in Suffolk recently.

Howard certainly seems to have written off the Tory vote in Burnley - but the references in the BNPs report to 'Hecht' will only resonate with a core racist vote, when their need is to appeal to what Trevor Phillips called 'genteel xenophobia'. The core racist vote, such as it is, is theirs already.

Whether this stuff is being written by MI5 moles or the wild men are truly at the helm, the effect is the same. From a vote-grabbing perspective, it's worse than a crime - it's a blunder. I look forward with interest to future headlines like 'All Sun Readers Are Morons", "England Supporters Are Scum", and "Only Child Molesters Read The Daily Mail". The BNP may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet.

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