Saturday, May 15, 2010

How did the far right do?

One good thing about the squeeze on the minor parties was the way the far right found themselves out in the cold on election night. I took at look at UKIP's election in the Morning Star this week so wont dwell on that here but all in all it was good news for us.

The media's celebrity bugbear and all round oaf Nick Griffin blew his big change in Barking being knocked into third place a long, long way from winning the seat.

This result was followed by a wipe out of BNP councillors on Barking and Dagenham council. This includes high profile fascist Richard Barnbrook whose time on the London Assembly has been marked by... well, not very much frankly.

In Stoke Central their leading member Simon Darby could not capitalise on Labour's dramatic decline in support and found himself facing a number of other hard right factions - a phenomenon that was repeated across the country with the English Democrats fielding large numbers of candidates the National Front popping up here and there as well as a good number of ex-BNP members standing as nationalist independents against their former party.

It's the one time I'm glad to see a number of fascists clustered together - when they're competing for the same small circle of racist voters. Although sadly across the whole of Stoke the far right vote was still far, far too high.

Overall, in fact, the BNP poor performance for their lead candidates masks the fact that they polled over half a million votes, well up from their 192,746 in 2005 which is only partially explained by the fact they fielded more candidates on a higher turnout. This was a defeat for the far-right, but not one based on a collapsing vote.

It's worth remembering this for elections when the turnout returns to normal because, as Londonist says "the reasons they're picking up support haven't gone away."

One large part of the reason that BNP ended up losers despite an increased vote is a more intelligently targeted strategy by the anti-fascist movement and, it must be said, the Labour Party. One of the healthy signs of that movement was the fact that diverse organisations worked in parallel with one another rather than feeling the need to all come under one heading.

I know unity is strength is a great slogan but sometimes you get the best out of people by letting them do what they do best and getting on with your own work separately - as long as you aren't pulling each other down, a plural movement is often better than a monolithic one where some activists find it difficult to fit.

One lesson from this is that you can beat a rising fascist vote if you get your strategy right. This meant concentrating on mobilising the anti-fascist vote in those areas where the far right was a real and genuine threat and bussing people away from those areas where they were less needed.

So in Lewisham where the obnoxious Mayoral candidate Tess Culnane stood anti-fascists did precious little locally, because they didn't have to - her vote was derisory, because she was a paper candidate. However that's not to say Lewisham anti-fascists did nothing - they went to Barking, where they were most effective.

The BNP in fact saved something like 70 deposits across the country, which means in a significant amount of the country the fascist are able to get more than one in twenty of the votes. That's very worrying.

Anyway, what does this mean for the future? In my view two things.

Firstly the anti-fascist model of targeting our strength where it is needed most and allowing for a plurality of anti-fascist organisations and strategies worked and is worth repeating. Life's too short to make lefties who hate each other work on the same team, and it usually ends in tears anyway.

Secondly, we need to tackle why the BNP get their vote - and that isn't tactical brilliance of their leadership or the delightful design of their leaflets. That means, I think, tackling racist ideas in society generally and making real inroads into the disenfranchisement that millions of people feel.

Right now I'm a pessimist on the second point, but on the first there is plenty to be getting on with. The fascist threat is not just about goons tramping up and down the high street, it feeds off the day to day racism in the press, from the government and down the pub - that's where much of the work has to happen over the next five years, addressing the sewer of filth the BNP feed from.


G said...

The BNP far right ? They might be racists and fascists but there policies are to the Left of Labour - so you can have them in your court I am afraid.

Jim Jepps said...

From the economy to trade unions to democracy to climate change they're very far from left.