Over recent years I have been a close follower of the neo-Nazi British National Party, particularly in my own patch of Northamptonshire. This is not just a nerdy kind of fascination, but is for rather more serious reasons.
In the context of small polls in local elections the BNP at one time posed a growing electoral threat at a local level gaining in some cases close to 15% or so of votes cast. Whilst in Northamptonshire they never made the breakthrough in winning seats, as they did in other part of the country, this was a growing possibility as their popularity seemingly rose. Such a likelihood held considerable dread for me with even more serious implications for my local multi-racial/faith community and for the impact this would have on politics generally.
I have therefore been relieved in recent months that the BNP has all but collapsed in many part of the country as a political force and are in pretty desperate straits. This has also been the case in Northamptonshire, where significant numbers of BNP members (including some leading lights and activists) have deserted them. One person, Rob Walker of Wellingborough in particular, comes to mind, as he was a leading BNP organiser, activist and candidate in several elections, including the last general election. He is also the writer of a blog, Northants Patriot, which acted as an ideological rallying cry and a means of propagating the BNP message to local activists, supporters and hangers on. Mr. Walker’s resignation from the BNP was therefore a particular blow to them.
The reasons Mr. Walker left the BNP are explained in his blog of July 2012
“I have no faith in the leadership of the BNP and the name is toxic with the electorate.”
So, Mr. Walker did not leave the BNP for any ideological or political reasons but for ones relating to the personal leadership qualities of Nick Griffin and simple electoral opportunism.
So where has Mr. Walker (politically speaking) now gone? From virtually one day to the next he signed up enthusiastically for the English Democrats and now waxes lyrically in their support. Why did he choose the English Democrats? Again his blog explains all:
“If you had a choice of two parties with the (same) policies… which would you choose to vote for, the one with a clean history, or the one labelled by the media as racist, nazis and thugs?” (blog of July 2012).
For Mr. Walker (and I am sure there are others who have left the BNP for similar reasons) the English Democrats are the new BNP and provide a splendid opportunity for a rebrand. Whilst the BNP’s light shone brightly it attracted all the flies and moths that inhibit the dark twilight world of far-right, neo-Nazi, Nationalist, politics in the UK. Are they now attracted to a new light - the English Democrats?
It is interesting that the English Democrats have welcomed such BNP defectors into their ranks without even a murmur. I suspect that this is because many/most members of the English Democrats have few political differences with the BNP, but they have always sold themselves as nothing more that “English Nationalists” who liked warm beer, Morris dancing, St George’s day as a national holiday and an English Parliament (like the Welsh and Scots) – they were just really like the Scottish and Welsh nationalists (but for England). Such a soft and gentle image!
For those of us who are vigilant in watching developments within the far-right, it is important for us not to be complacent following the demise of the BNP. There is little doubt that a new neo-Nazi party could emerge in British politics to replace the BNP, as has been evidenced by research by the Searchlight Educational Trust which identified that “There is popular support for a sanitised, non-violent and non-racist English nationalist political party.”
So herein lies a real danger. It is possible, because they seemingly have a less tarnished image (as acknowledged by Mr. Walker), some may be fooled into voting for the English Democrats because they appear “respectable” – and are certainly not perceived as nasty as the BNP or others (EDL, National Front etc). But beware, lurking just below the surface are a whole group of nasty racists and fascists who have not gone away; the English Democrats have, in any event, always been a party of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The first test of this possibility may present itself with the by-election being held in Corby and East Northamptonshire following the resignation of chick-lit Tory MP Louise Mensch. The English Democrats and the BNP will be standing along with UKIP, all potentially pitching for the far-right/nationalist/anti-EU vote. UKIP are expected to do well, but how will the newly emerging English Democrats fair? If their vote exceeds that of the BNP expect more defections to them from nationalists/neo-Nazis. Could the English Democrats, who hitherto have escaped serious scrutiny by the media and the Left, be deserving of more attention in the future?