Friday, 12 June 2009

What not to do about the BNP

Labour chose one of its smoothest liars, Peter Hain, to represent the party on Question Time this week. Unlike some I don't object to Mr Hain's permanent orange pigmentation or to his history of engaging in illegal actions to further causes in which he believed. If someone is prepared to say "I believe strongly in this and am prepared to break the law and face a fine or imprisonment for doing so" they are, in my view, acting honourably if, perhaps, foolishly. It doesn't matter what their cause happens to be nor how many others support it, having the courage of your convictions, even if it leads to criminal convictions, is to be commended. Of course now he is a fully-fledged slime machine and all principle was discarded long ago in his search for personal fame, power and glory. Once an honourable man he has followed the well-trodden path of losing his honour in order to gain the title "Right Honourable".

Tonight he was on fine form. Talking with a straight face about the government's plans for spending he adopted what appears to be the official line of speaking only in cash terms without making any adjustment for inflation. So he spoke of increases in spending until 2014 when the government's own figures, published at the time of the budget, make clear they plan a modest cut within less than two years from now once inflation (at a very modest predicted level) has been taken into account and quite a substantial cut by 2014. This is exactly the same tactic used by Gordon Brown at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday. There was a simply bizarre exchange in which poor Gordon accused the Conservatives of planning a 10% cut in public spending when all the opposition had done was point out that by ring-fencing spending on health and international development all other spending would have to fall by 10% in order to match the government's own announced spending plans. So his plans, announced by his puppet Chancellor at the budget, are treated by him as an increase in spending if carried into effect by Labour and a cut if carried into effect by the Conservatives. This is not just spin it is a calculated and deliberate lie which Mr Hain was happy to adopt and shout to the rooftops.

I mention that as an example of Mr Hain's blatant dishonesty but it is not what I actually want to discuss today. I want to discuss his approach to the election of two BNP MEPs. For any visitors from overseas I should explain that the BNP (British National Party) is a fringe party of malcontents. On the two great policy areas, the economy and foreign affairs, their position is identical to that adopted by the Labour Party under Michael Foot in the early 1980s. They argue for widespread nationalisation and a state-command economy combined with withdrawal from the EU.

If anyone is minded to doubt the comparison, take a look at the published policy statements. Keele University helpfully archives manifestos from the main parties and Labour's 1983 manifesto can be found here. If you have the patience to read through the document you will see that they argue for the state to have a command position in the economy. Of particular interest is the section headed "Rebuilding our industry" in which they planned not just the nationalisation of certain industries that were then in private hands but a wholesale creation of new industries by the state and under direct state control. Included in their plans was requiring the banks to do what the government wanted or be nationalised. On foreign affairs their headline policy was withdrawal from what was then the European Economic Community.

The BNP's manifesto for the recent European Parliament elections dealt clearly with their plan to withdraw from the EU, although it said little of substance on anything else. Their economic policy is set out in their "mini-manifesto" from 2007 which calls for the economy to be run by the state and in an article they published in April this year entitled "How the BNP Will Rebuild Britain's economy". Their approach is for the state to manage the economy in the same way that Labour wanted in 1983.

One major difference exists between the BNP in 2009 and Labour in 1983. It is that the BNP wants to exclude people of dusky hue from the country and "repatriate" many who are already here. Ironically the BNP wants to press the bankrupting forces of state socialism on only pasty-faced whities whereas Labour wished to spread the misery more widely. The reason I mention Labour's 1983 Manifesto is that Peter Hain first stood for Parliament in 1983, without appearing to distance himself from the party manifesto. Of course he stood for election subsequently on different policy bases but he can hardly complain about the BNP being an extremist party when its central economic and foreign policy platforms are the same as those on which he first sought election to Parliament.

When asked to comment on the recent success of the BNP in the European elections he expressed distress that Britain has sent two "fascist" (as he called them) MEPs to Brussels. I happen to agree with his definition of the BNP as a fascist organisation but on a wider basis than him. It is not just their absurd policy about pigmentation that makes them fascist but their demand for state control. The latter has been the constant feature in fascist regimes, not all of which have also included a racial or pigment-based element to their platform (although almost all have added one at some stage in order to secure their power-base through the practice of divide-and-rule).

That, also, is not what I really want to say today. What I really want to say is that he is wholly and hopelessly wrong in saying that this country is sending fascists to the EU Parliament. The two men in question won seats because individuals voted for their party in sufficient numbers in two of the voting areas. We can never know how many of those individuals did so because they want to kick the "darkies" out, or because they were persuaded by the policy of withdrawal from the EU, or because they want a control economy, or because they support any of the other things the BNP argues for; nor can we know what combination of factors every individual found persuasive; nor can we know how many of the votes were pure protest votes against the government or the current Parliament or, indeed, anything else. All we know is that sufficient people voted for the BNP to allow two of their candidates to win seats. They are validly elected MEPs, just as much as any MEP wearing a different party badge. This country is not sending any MEPs to Brussels, the voters are sending them.

All the pious hand-wringing in the world cannot change the fact that politicians are subservient to the electoral system and have no right to complain about its result. To argue that the outcome has produced an undesirable result is to argue for a different electoral system under which the views of the little people should bear less weight and have less ability to upset the established elite's apple cart. That is to approach the matter the wrong way round. The question is not "what can we do to prevent the country producing these results?", it is "what can we do to persuade those who voted in this way to vote differently?" Fiddle with the electoral system and you cannot quell discontent all you can do is prevent that discontent being expressed through the ballot box; other methods will be found by those sufficiently angry and the rest will fume at being marginalised.

Mr Hain and senior figures in the other major parties must address the reasons for discontent if they are to justify their continued existence at the top table. Condemning the outcome of an election is to condemn the voters, always an unwise decision for a serious politician.

1 comment:

Bob's Head Revisited said...

Another excellent post, FB.
I particularly like: “Ironically the BNP wants to press the bankrupting forces of state socialism on only pasty-faced whities whereas Labour wished to spread the misery more widely”.

Top stuff.