Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Other voices on BNP

Support for my earlier post, where I say that the media must assume a large share of responsibility for the rise of the BNP, seems to come from this week's New Statesman diary column, written in this instance by Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT.

Here's Crow's bit on BNP from the diary, in full:
In the recent Euro elections, I stood as lead London candidate for NO2EU (No To EU – Yes To Democracy) [I added the link]. We were still waiting for the London declaration in the early hours of Monday morning when we found out the British National Party had won two seats in traditionally Labour-voting northern heartlands.

Labour’s historically low vote share came as no surprise to me: the anger and disillusionment with the political Establishment has hit Labour hardest of all. The government’s humiliation collided with an unprecedented surge in media attention for the BNP. The party was presented as a sort of celebrity attraction, allowing its leader, Nick Griffin, to seize a level of publicity for the far right not seen since the days of Mosley and his blackshirts.

Meanwhile, NO2EU, which like the BNP had no MEPs before the election, experienced a total blackout across the mainstream media. Nobody, it seemed, was interested in Euro-critical voices from the left, although every nutter and fascist from the spectrum of the right was plastered across the news pages.

But we still got 153,000 votes, and ran a great campaign based solely on the energy and enthusiasm of our local activists. In many working-class areas we were the only direct challenge on the streets to the BNP. I am proud of what we achieved in a very short space of time and I pay tribute to the work of our colleagues at Searchlight/Hope Not Hate, who undoubtedly stopped the BNP from securing an even bigger breakthrough.
It's always nice to see that part of me still corresponds to the Old Skule Left. Like part of me isn't dead. But I don't support NO2EU; in addition to being morally offended by their cooler-than-thou moniker, I see myself as a pro-Europe lefty. I'm willing to listen to their concerns on Europe, I have a lot of sympathy with many of their specific arguments, and could still be won around to their position. I know that there are problems with the EU, for those interested in progressive politics, and I would have really liked to hear more from them. But we've never had a grown up debate about Europe in this country, which is, lest I repeat myself, a key reason for the victory of the BNP in the last election.

So what's really interesting here is how Crow raises the issue of the media's culpability in the BNP's success. The media greeted the BNP threat hysterically, doubtless for reasons as banal as they allow for the sort of scaremongering headlines that the British press specialise in and because it gives The Daily Mail and The Telegraph et al. an easy-target, a chance to draw a rather artificial line between their sort of racism and the undesirable (i.e. lower class) sort of racism. And so without the language and without any intelligent strategy to properly discredit them, their hysteria merely provided oxygen to feed the BNP fire. Whereas, though I consider myself a well-informed voter, I heard of NO2EU only twice before I placed my X, and the second time was when I scanned the ballot paper in the voting booth.

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