Monday, 8 June 2009

Some thoughts on the BNP

Enough of the Yorkshire/North-west bashing already. Twitter was awash with comments along the lines of the region being full of racists. Wrong. Without wanting to sound like a broken record, the number of votes for the BNP actually fell compared to the last European election in 2004. They gained seats because other parties, mainly Labour, haemorraghed even more, thus increasing the BNP's share of the vote and in the proportional representation system this handed them those seats. So don't tar us all with the same brush. It's not so much racism that triumphed at these elections, but apathy and disenchantment.

However, that's not to say there isn't a racism problem.

Nearly a million people across the country voted for a bunch of fascists, which is hard to stomach, but as a poll conducted for Channel Four shows, 'only' 44% of them agreed to subscribing to racist views. (Although, how many people are brave enough to admit they are racist?). According to the poll, many of the BNP votes were taken from previous Labour supporters who felt they had been neglected by the party. Fighting the BNP isn't simply a question of showing the BNP for the racist thugs they are - the racism and apathy problems are closely linked. The BNP's policies, for want of a better word, feed on ignorance, and it's ignorance from both the electorate and parties that contribute in part towards a climate of apathy and neglect. Ignorance of what it is parties really stand for, ignorance of the real details of complex issues, ignorance of there even being an election, and ignorance from the parties about what it is the electorate are concerned about.

The same goes for people bemoaning the PR system for giving them a foothold. It's not the system that put the BNP in Europe but apathy, ignorance and weak campaigns by the other parties. Had Labour got their own house in order and fought against the BNP on those policies that attracted their voters, we probably wouldn't be in this mess. You can't slate a system that gives minorities a voice simply because you don't like what they have to say. Rather, you engage with those who feel disaffected and address their concerns.

I also can't help but wonder what effect the media had on these elections, in terms of covering the campaigns and informing the public of platforms and policies. Understandably, most of the coverage in recent weeks has been dominated by the expenses scandal, but has this taken away from the elections? The Telegraph drip feeding us new revelations day-by-day just prolongs the story and focuses on the wrong part of the problem - the rotten swines and their ridiculous misdeeds rather than the woeful system. Did this detract from the need for genuine debate on reform and push aside the upcoming elections? I'm in no way blaming the Telegraph for the BNP getting in. The expenses scandals needed to be covered certainly, but dragging the whole sorry saga out has certainly skewed the media agenda in the past month.

Finally, I'm also dismayed to see so many people on twitter stooping to the level of the BNP to denounce Nick Griffin by calling him 'fat', 'ugly' or 'bonk-eyed'. You can't combat racism by resorting to other forms of prejudice. It may be less disgusting than 'nigger', 'wog' and 'Paki' but it's prejudice nonetheless. Most of these comments seem to have been made in jest - flippant remarks rather than strongly held beliefs - but no matter how disgusting Nick Griffin and his cohorts are you only weaken our own arguments against them by using such language. The whole Susan Boyle affair made many people realise they can be pretty ugly themselves at times. Have we forgotten how guilty we felt then, now that a 'worse' form of prejudice has blustered into the limelight?

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