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Taking on the BNP

Taking on the BNP

Issue 61 October 2009

Plastered around the trendier parts of London, in those places where hipsters in Mens Skinny Jeans congregate, are posters for indie rock band the Cribs’ latest album, called “Ignore the Ignorant”. So, the rumour goes, the band named the album after the British National Party won seats in June’s European election. Sadly, as last month’s debacle over the BBC inviting the BNP to appear on its flagship discussion programme Question Time shows, it isn’t always easy to ignore ignorant views.

In inviting the BNP, the BBC said it was legally bound to treat all small political parties equally. The BNP, for all the unpleasant rhetoric spewed by its leaders and members, is still a legal party with two elected representatives in the European parliament, in the same way as the Greens and UKIP. True, the party seeks to deny to others the democratic privileges it now enjoys, but the fact the BNP have persuaded enough people around the country to give them electoral support is something of an achievement in itself.

Mainstream political opinion tends to see these voters as themselves marginalised, unable to see past the odious propaganda the party puts out. But in a democracy, votes are votes. And the response ought to be more debate. The BBC is therefore right to allow the BNP airtime. Facing their foolish arguments head-on is the best way to dismiss them.

The truth is the BNP have barely thought through any of their policies. When Nick Griffin, the party’s plausible if stumbling leader was asked what he would do about desperate sub-Saharan Africans trying to cross into Europe, he suggested sinking their boats. Even the journalist interviewing him was shocked and said: “I don’t think the EU is in the business of murdering people at sea.”

There are many such occasions: there was a recent case where the house of a Muslim community leader in Essex was firebombed. He suggested the BNP were behind it: the BNP councillor replied – and you have to admire the honesty – “Firebombing is not a British method. A brick through the window is a British method.”

The BNP are more used to supportive audiences who bay and bellow whenever such suggestions are put before them. For BNP leaders to face a knowledgeable public and go up against real politicians will be a new - and potentially bruising - experience. Mainstream political parties may recognise the Question Time debate as an opportunity to nail the BNP’s myths early and field candidates who can sufficiently argue and dissect Griffin’s half-truths.

Naturally, there is a danger that drawing the BNP into mainstream political debate will give the party a legitimacy and veneer of respectability it still does not have. At the moment, its membership and supporters are predominantly those who feel abandoned by mainstream society, not just culturally but more often economically. The more exposure the BNP is given, the more likely other, less radical, elements of society are to hear its message and potentially agree.

Yet allowing the BNP to be debated is important. It will help to stop the party presenting themselves as outsiders, as speaking the truth to the Westminster village. Griffin has consistently presented himself and his party as victims, being attacked by - depending on the circumstances - the Labour party, far-left activists or the liberal media. (He even seems to think the Sun is part of the liberal media.) If he is savaged on Question Time, no doubt he will blame liberal viewers or a stacked audience deck and appeal across them to “the real England”.

But that act quickly becomes wearisome under the scrutiny of television cameras. More importantly, those voters who – often for good reasons – feel detached from the country will be able to see the party does not have solutions to their grievances. These potential supporters, many of whom would be horrified to be perceived as racist, will be able to see what the BNP really stands for, and what it proposes. Having to spell out their real views will allow the British National Party to be revealed for the shady group they really are. Not a group of crusading soldiers standing up for Albion – but a bunch of misfits struggling to come to terms with modern Britain.

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1 Comment



15 Sep 10, 17:03

BNP is the true photo of British racist society. British schooling is the home of institutional racism and British teachers are chicken racists. There is no place for a foreign culture , language and faith.

Bilingual Muslims children have a right, as much as any other faith group, to be taught their culture, languages and faith alongside a mainstream curriculum. More faith schools will be opened under sweeping reforms of the education system in England. There is a dire need for the growth of state funded Muslim schools to meet the growing needs and demands of the Muslim parents and children. Now the time has come that parents and community should take over the running of their local schools. Parent-run schools will give the diversity, the choice and the competition that the wealthy have in the private sector. Parents can perform a better job than the Local Authority because parents have a genuine vested interest. The Local Authority simply cannot be trusted.
Iftikhar Ahmad

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