Who Is To Blame?

Last night I dreamt that the BNP had won seats in the European Parliament. This morning I woke up and it was true. Across the country, 6% of the electorate (well, ok, 6% of the 35% who could be bothered to vote) had decided that they were best represented by racists. In two regions the percentage was high enough for them to win a seat.

It’s difficult to know who to blame for this. Certainly the Labour government have a lot to answer for. If they hadn’t done all they could to alienate the electorate over the last few years then there wouldn’t have been the need for people to vote against them. And it’s not just the Labour Party, of course, every MP who has been abusing the expenses system and destroying the public’s trust in politics has to take a share of the blame. Then there’s the right wing press. They don’t explicitly support the BNP, of course, but papers like the Sun, the Mail and the Standard (“sorry”, my arse) have been slowly but surely creating an environment where the BNP’s poisonous attitudes have moved from being completely unacceptable to something that “middle England” discusses over the dinner table. People who didn’t vote were also to blame. Low turnouts favour minor and extreme parties. Every vote that isn’t cast increases the power of votes that are cast.

And then there are the voters. There’s a load of nonsense talked about the BNP vote being a protest vote and that the people who voted for them not being racists. I’m afraid that doesn’t really bear any kind of scrutiny. There were plenty of protest parties to choose from. Just because you want to give the Labour Party an electoral kicking, that doesn’t lead inexorably to voting to the BNP. There are only two reasons why you would vote for the BNP. Firstly you’re the kind of racist dickhead who agrees with their policies. Or, alternatively, you thought you wanted to vote against Labour and didn’t bother to research the policies of the party you decided to vote for. In either case, you’re a moron.

Just before I went to bed last night, Nick Griffin (the leader of the BNP) was being interviewed by the BBC. What an odious little toad of a man. He was on the defensive throughout the interview. He obviously knows that his opinions are completely offensive to all rational people so he spends all of his time trying to find increasingly bizarre ways to defend them. He claimed that one reason why the BNP only allows white people to join is so that they can use race discrimination legislation against employers who try to sack employees who are found to be members of the party. Every time he opens his mouth, sane people just want to slap him.

I can understand why the BNP want to be a whites-only organisation (it’s because they’re racists) but I don’t understand why UK electoral rules allow it. They want to be seen as a legitimate politcal party. So why can’t we pass a law saying that all UK political parties have to reach certain standards of equality. You know, basic stuff like not discriminating on the basis of gender, race or sexuality. Seems obvious to me.

Griffin also likes to harp on about the “indigenous people”. He really needs a lesson in history. Perhaps someone should send him a copy of Homo Britannicus. The UK doesn’t have any indigenous people. Modern humans arrived in the UK from Europe less than 30,000 years ago. Maybe we should try to send Griffin back to the home of his ancestors. Mind you, it’ll be pretty crowded there as we all have our roots in Ethiopia.

Before the election there was a lot of discussion of the BNP on Twitter. The “#theBNPareTwats” meme got a lot of use. And yet it appeared to achieve nothing. But that’s not really surprising, is it? Twitter is largely an echo chamber. You follow (and are followed by) your friends and people who like what you write. The BNP discussions were largely people who were never going to vote BNP telling other people who were never going to vote BNP not to vote BNP. The chances of any of that witty repartee reaching and converting people who were going to vote BNP was close to zero. So perhaps we’re to blame a bit too. Instead of doing our bit to exchange insults about the BNP on Twitter, we should have been out there knocking on doors and explaining our point of view to people who don’t share it. Perhaps shouting about things on Twitter (and, I’ll admit with slight embarrassment, on blogs) isn’t the best way to change things.

It’s too late now though. There’s nothing we can do[1]. Four the next five years, two regions in the north of England will be represented by racists. We can hope that people saw these elections as unimportant and that they won’t vote the same way in the next General Election. But can we be sure of that? Perhaps we’d better consider doing some real campaigning next time.

Because the thought of BNP supporters in the House of Commons is far too grim to contemplate.

[1] Well, we can (and should) sign Hope Not Hate’s “Not in My Name” petition, but it’s not going to change anything.

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