Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The end of the BNP?

We don’t talk much about smaller parties on Britain Votes, which is a shame because there’s quite some interesting things to be said about them. Perhaps one of the most interesting stories of recent times is the potential end of the British National Party. The party is said to be near bankruptcy and if it is declared bankrupt then its two MEPs, (one of which is Nick Griffin) will lose their seats. The party’s poor finances are primarily blamed on a series of lawsuits, both against Marmite for using their copyrighted material in advertising and with the Equality and Human Rights Commission for repeatedly refusing to alter rules to allow entry by ethnic minority Britons. The latter was particularly foolish as the BNP was sued, lost the case, and changed its rules, but its new rules were still considered discriminatory and it was sued again. Part of the blame must also go to its 2010 election performance which was poor. While the party came fifth in terms of the popular vote, getting 1.9% of the vote, it did so standing in 338 constituencies. This means that in a lot of seats the BNP lost deposits – at five hundred pounds for each seat where they scored below 5%. Embarrassing the party further they lost all their seats on Barking and Dagenham council which they had hoped to take control of. Meanwhile the Greens scored a larger success, by winning their first seat, on only 1% of the national vote, by essentially targeting their campaigning efforts into two seats.

Since the election the party has been victim to a series of defections, including from relatively high profile members such as Richard Barnbrook, its sole MLA on the Greater London Assembly. Griffin has also been subject to challenges to his authority with leadership contests most prominently from its campaigns chief, Eddy Butler. Butler’s website has a series of accusations though who knows how trustworthy they are as Butler has since been kicked out of the party. Perhaps due to this constant pressure Griffin has announced he will stand down in 2013, but even if the party does still technically exist at the next election it seems unlikely it will be capable of mounting the same degree of campaign as before, it will likely be cash-strapped and have a much smaller number of activists – Butler, amongst others, claims that the party has lost 4,000 of the 14,000 members it claimed to have when it last updated its Electoral Commission records (though these claims do, of course, come from people with an anti-BNP agenda). In a very real sense then, the BNP appears to be a failed project on its last legs as a notable electoral force.

While the leadership of Griffin, overstretching resources, making poor legal decisions and holding absolute control over his party, must surely be largely to blame for the BNP’s apparent failure I personally feel that the party was never destined to become an influential force. Many will talk of our electoral system, and yes, First Past the Post must take some credit for making it much harder for fringe parties to gain seats, but at the same time the BNP’s party identity is problematic. The BNP is part of a recent trend in European political parties which began in the 1980s and exploded in the 1990s – the right-wing populist party. Such parties gained support and success from a mixture of anti-establishment rhetoric (hence ‘populist’) and anti-egalitarian stances (hence ‘right-wing’). They often combined this with an idiosyncratic set of economic views and extreme anti-immigration and particularly anti-muslim rhetoric (often said to be the defining feature of such parties). The parties appealed predominantly to disaffected working class white males. Many were quite successful and some have even reached government or at least supported minority governments (for instance in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark). Yet there is a key difference between the BNP and these other parties. The BNP was formed by a splinter from the National Front led by John Tyndall whose previous statements had included statements to the effect that Hitler was right, and other rhetoric that was clearly fascistic. Under Griffin the party attempted to distance itself from associations with fascism but its history made this impossible. I do not actually believe that the BNP is fascist, and I feel the word is overused and in doing so the term is devalued, but the party has never been able to distance itself from claims that it is far-right, racist, and authoritarian. This compares unfavourably with European right-wing populist parties the most successful of which have never been associated with fascism. See the Progress Parties of Denmark and Norway who emanated from anti-tax movements, see the Freedom Party of Austria which was once considered a liberal party, see the Party for Freedom of the Netherlands which splintered from a liberal party, or the Swiss People’s Party that was for a long time an agrarian-conservative outfit. The most successful right-wing populist parties have emerged from various centre-right outfits. Those that come from the far-right are less successful. The Sweden Democrats emanated from a neo-Nazi movement and only gained their first seats this year despite only needing 4% of the vote to do so. To my mind the BNP had reached its ceiling, and I doubt the party would have found it easy to gain seats even if we had PR.

So what then, of British right-wing populism? The BNP’s voters and activists do not cease to hold their views even if their party is moribund. On the one hand is the English Defence League protest group which protests against Islam in the UK. The EDL, as a grassroots organisation, is much more difficult to paint out as racist or fascist because it does not have an obvious leader like Griffin, and the racism of individual members can be written off as unrepresentative of the wider organisation. On the other hand Britain already has another party that could be described as right-wing populist and it is called the UK Independence Party. UKIP’s primary viewpoint is anti-European, but it is also anti-immigration, and anti-establishment, not dissimilar from our prior description of right-wing populists. More moderate European right-wing populist parties already resemble it, and the party’s former leader, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, invited the Dutch right-wing populist leader Geert Wilders to the Houses of Parliament for a showing of his anti-Islamic film Fitna. The party also shares a European parliamentary group with parties which can all be contained under the ‘right-wing populist’ umbrella. Yet unlike the BNP it is much more difficult to write UKIP off as racist or fascistic – when David Cameron described the party as ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly’ he was criticised by the press, his own party and threatened with a defamation suit from UKIP itself. Indeed like many right-wing populists when UKIP politicians criticise Islam it is often from a view that purports to be liberal – that Islam is repressive and intolerant and so it is incompatible with the British way of life. Many of its most prominent members and leaders originate from the Conservative Party (including current leader Nigel Farage) and it has professionalism and an appeal to the middle classes that the BNP never had. The party could easily broaden its agenda with a moderate form of right-wing populism and suck up much of the BNP’s vote. Yet in doing so it must be careful, for it risks putting off those more moderate anti-European voters who have twice propelled it into second place in European Parliamentary elections, and if it is to win seats under an AV election, as it appears to hope, it may find this puts off voters from preferencing it.

The BNP may not cease to exist completely (indeed it is worth remembering that the National Front still exists and fields candidates, however lacking its success) but it appears to be on its last legs. Yet just because the party disappears it does not mean that the views of their supporters change. Like it or not the BNP has tapped into something which the three main parties have failed to represent. I am certain that sooner or later right-wing populism will rear its head again, albeit with a different face.


  1. BNP is in dept, but the £600,000-£800,000 figure some have claimed has been exposed already as a total lie. The real figure has been confirmed to be around £50,000. Some of this has already been paid off by donations.

    Another lie which circulated was that the BNP never submitted their accounts to the electral commission and that they were going to be fined thousands of pounds. The accounts were though actually submitted, but late. The fine was only £50. The BNP is not going bankrupt. I don't know who circulated this lie.

    As far as how the BNP are doing in general terms. Firstly regarding the general election earlier this year, they saved a record of 78 deposits and polled over half a million votes. Most have overlook this. BNP also beat Greens and UKIP in nearly all the seats they contested.

    It is certianly not the end of the BNP. Why have virtually no newspapers reported on the current BNP vs. EHCR court case? The answer is because the BNP are winning, not losing.

  2. The comment at 2.17 is full of lies. Nick Griffin himself has admitted that the debt is around £500,000. If the BNP only owed £50,000, why would it have offered 20p in the £ in settlement of its liabilities?

    The BNP did submit its 2008 account to the Electoral Commission, late, and was fined around £1,000. There is no fine as low as £50 in the legislation. Fines start at £500 and increase with greater delay. Those accounts remain under investigation because the auditors were unable to confirm that they represented a "true and fair view", a devastating verdict for any organisation.

    The 2009 accounts have not been submitted and are currently 4 months late.

    Since the general election the BNP has contested a fraction of the council by-elections it used to contest and has polled very poorly in almost all. Activists are demoralised by the debts and continual infighting. Many have left and inadequate people have been promoted in the party way beyond their capabilities.

    I would however dispute one point in the main article. Nick Griffin will lose his seat in the European Parliament if he is made personally bankrupt, which he could be as he is personally responsible for the liabilities of the BNP, which is an unincorporated association. However Andrew Brons does not hold office in the party and there is no reason why he should be made personally bankrupt or lose his seat.

  3. Just one small point. It may be that Griffin and Brons lose their seats. But because of the way in which the European Parliament does things that will only mean that the next two on the BNP list will take their places.
    So the BNP will still have two MEPs, whatever happens. There is no way of having a by election

  4. ''Nick Griffin himself has admitted that the debt is around £500,000''

    Total rubbish, and the only people who continue this lie are anti-BNPers.

    Please don't believe everything you read in the newspapers. The figure is nowhere near 500k.

    The Guardian, Independant, Mirror etc all reported that the marmite court case costed £200,000. But the actual figure was closer to 1/10 of that, and has already been paid off by donations.

  5. ''The 2009 accounts have not been submitted and are currently 4 months late.

    Since the general election the BNP has contested a fraction of the council by-elections it used to contest and has polled very poorly in almost all. Activists are demoralised by the debts and continual infighting. Many have left and inadequate people have been promoted in the party way beyond their capabilities.''

    Pretty much word for word taken from eddy butler's nonsense blog.

    Butler was kicked out of the BNP and is not a genuine nationalist, what he writes on his personal blogspot is nothing but lies.

    If you want to see the REAL eddy butler watch the video below:


    Butler is divorced, a drunk, and spends his time in brothels. While on a BNP tour to European Parliament, Butler was caught on camera in a brothel asking for a black prostitute. All of this was caught on camera and was posted on youtube.

  6. Yes that's true, BNP is not near bankrupt. The only people spreading this are UAF and tabloids like the Mirror.

  7. ''Since the general election the BNP has contested a fraction of the council by-elections it used to contest and has polled very poorly in almost all.''

    Just to point out, so have ALL minor parties. UKIP and English Dems are doing even worse than BNP in the recent byelections, and the Green vote in many areas has also gone down.

  8. http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/news-and-media/news-releases/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/bnp-fined-for-late-submission-of-accounts

    £1000. First result from my Google search. Why lie about such trivial stuff?

  9. How is £1,000 making the BNP bankrupt you troll? They make that just by online donations each week.

  10. This blog is good as a souce for election results, but articles like this are crap.

    The author of this article is clearly a lefty, and has posted a whole tun of crap to make it seem as if the BNP will no longer exist. The only idiots spreading this are the UAF.