This government is dying on its arse. It's sometimes said that governments have a natural lifespan, and it certainly looks like New Labour are reaching the end of theirs. It's one scandal after another at the moment, and the salad days of 1997 seem like an awfully long time ago. We have a lame duck Prime Minister and a country crying out for change.
But change to what?
David "Dave" Cameron has hardly set the world on fire, and although the Conservatives seem to be taking little steps forwards, they are hardly the government-in-waiting that Labour were in the run up to the 1997 General Election..... and it's probably kinder not to mention the Liberal Democrats as a serious political force at the moment.
So who are people going to turn to? Who do they vote for to register their disgust?
Sadly it appears that they are turning to the British National Party. At the Local Elections on Thursday, the number of BNP councillors doubled. In Barking and Dagenham they won 11 of the 13 seats they contested, and they now hold 46 in total. Given that there are something like 22,000 council seats, that may seem like small beer, but the BNP are definitely becoming more visible. Over the last couple of weeks I have heard them being discussed seriously on places like Newsnight and BBC Radio Five Live, and I can't remember seeing anything like this before on the mainstream media. They seem to be becoming newsworthy as a political party.
Lord Tebbit was even moved to write a letter to the Daily Telegraph debating whether or not the BNP were atually an extreme right-wing party (the end of the political spectrum that he holds dear) or were in fact left-wing:
"I have carefully re-read the BNP manifesto of 2005 and am unable to find evidence of Right-wing tendencies. On the other hand, there is plenty of anti-capitalism, opposition to free trade, commitments to "use all non-destructive means to reduce income inequality", to institute worker ownership, to favour workers' co-operatives, to return parts of the railways to state ownership, to nationalise the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and to withdraw from Nato. That sounds pretty Left-wing to me. Certainly the BNP poses as a patriotic party opposed to multiculturalism, and it has racist overtones, but there is no lack of patriotic Left-wing regimes; opposition to multiculturalism is now mainstream and racialism was not unknown even in the Soviet Union."
Now, Tebbit is clearly a clown. This is a party that would legalise discrimination on racial grounds. Whether they are extreme left-wing or extreme right-wing doesn't make a jot of difference.
Other policies include:
-> halt all immigration to the UK
-> abolish multiculturalism (quite how they would do this, they don't say)
-> pull British troops out of Iraq and use them to patrol Dover to keep out asylum seekers
-> introduce "firm but voluntary incentives for immigrants and their descendants to return home"
-> reintroduce National Service and to require everyone who has undergone it to keep a modern assault rifle at home. Why? "It's there to shoot burglars with if they want, it's there to shoot people who invade this country if they want, and if in the end a tyrannical government wants to usurp the rights and freedoms of the people it is there to use against the government as well,"
-> school canteens to be forced to serve one meal, and students to be forced to eat it (this will abolish anorexia, apparently)
and so on....
Rather worryingly, according to a recent poll, most Britons actually support their policies, only disowning them when they hear they are associated with the BNP. The Employment Minister Margaret Hodge actually got into a spot of hot water with her own party the other day for suggesting that voters were being "tempted" to vote for the BNP because they didn't believe that Labour was listening to their concerns:
"The political class as a whole is often frightened of engaging in the very difficult issues of race and...the BNP then exploits that and try and create out of a perception a reality which is not the reality of people's lives."
It's worth keeping in mind that people often use local elections like these to register a protest against the government of the day, and that they often cast votes for parties that they wouldn't dream of choosing in a General Election.... but the BNP definitely seem to be getting more exposure in the media than they used to, and I find this a worrying trend. Are they really becoming a viable alternative for people in this country? We're coming up to a World Cup, and I'm starting to see George Crosses hanging out of windows and attached to cars. There's a world of difference between a display of national pride like that and the desire to return to a "purer" England as voiced by the BNP... but I can't help but connect the two things in my mind somehow, and I'm worried that I won't be the only one.
Luckily for us, the average BNP politician is an idiot, and we can always hope that the more media exposure they get, the more everybody will realise this. Check out this clip of Nick Griffin, the BNP chairman, being interviewed by David Dimbleby in the wake of their local election gains. Dimbleby skewers him so effectively that I almost felt sorry for him.
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