Chumbawamba ft Credit To The Nation - “Enough Is Enough”
The first time the British National Party got a local council seat in the UK, the NME ran an entire special issue attacking the rise of the far right and spotlighting bands opposing them. Most of the bands weren’t very good but the magazine was tapping a sense of real outrage at even the slightest gains made by neo-fascist parties at the ballot box. At the end of the year this song topped the Festive 50, I’m fairly sure not wholly on its musical merits.
Now the BNP can get enough votes to send MEPs to Europe. In terms of actual power this is probably less significant than their local and county council wins, but it’s much more depressing.
My argument as to why the local gains aren’t a big deal generally runs: when the BNP get council seats they don’t know what to do, they find themselves marginalised, out of their depth and thoroughly miserable and they end up - even if they’re sincere in wanting their nasty politics to help their “indigenous” constituents - completely impotent.
Obviously the same applies to some degree in Europe but i. they will have a few far-right buddies in the European Parliament, ii. the main reason minority parties want to get into it is that it unleashes a flow of European funding, a godsend for a party trying to build itself up as a “respectable” political force rather than the gang of racist thugs and spivs it is. But is that really the BNP’s aim?
The BNP’s marketing isn’t particularly slick - “slick” doesn’t go over that well these days among the people it’s trying to reach. What helps it more than most admit is its bogeyman image - it’s not just a protest vote, it’s the ultimate protest vote: a big resentful “FUCK YOU” to everything politics represents, a bitter angry howl. And the neither-fish-nor-fowl way the BNP are treated in the media - given a platform at the same time damned and condemned - only intensifies this. They are treated as something political but also untouchably outside politics - exactly the position likely to gain them disaffected votes.
They exert, in short, a horrible mystique and their results, inevitably, become a far bigger story than the results of any other minor party. As I write this, the Greens - a body with genuine clout at a European level - have increased their share of UK vote in the EU election by more than the BNP, but are being hardly mentioned.
My gut reaction to every BNP gain has been outrage, anger, shame. When they got a council seat. When they got more than one on the same council. When they got a London Assembly member. When they got a county councillor last week. And now. This has also been the reaction from almost all my friends, and from much of the wider public. It’s an entirely understandable reaction of disgust, and disgust has so far proved completely useless at stopping the BNP’s progress.
With one or two elected Euro MPs, the BNP is a bona fide fringe party whether we like it or not. Under a proportional voting system - like we have in Europe - fringe parties will get their people elected, because 700,000 or so people voted for them. I think those 700,000 people were awfully mistaken, but still, that’s how it works, and it’s right to work that way.
But in that case, can we please start treating the BNP like any other fringe party, bobbling along with less than 10% of the vote? The vague aura of naffness. The thankless councillors who get routinely ignored and patronised. The occasional triumph of beating another fringie into fifth place. The almost complete media indifference (important, this!). The endless struggle to get any of your “agenda” discussed at any level that actually matters. The disappointment when it’s inevitably watered down. That’s what the Greens, and the Socialist Alliance, and the English Democrats, and UKIP for that matter have to deal with. The BNP, on the other hand, are a minor party with a major profile, and our revulsion for them, the natural impulse to go “OMG a fascist”, is what stokes that profile.
Some people vote for fascists. It sucks. But saying “it sucks!” hasn’t stopped it happening. Much better to be able to say “Well, OK, you voted for a fascist and a fat lot of good it did you.” If apathy among voters is the key to the fringe parties’ relative success, then surely the key to defeating the BNP is to make their voters more apathetic.