Taking the Far-Right seriously as the BNP wins in Sevenoaks

February 20, 2009

This is bad news indeed. The economic crisis is percolating into the political landscape:

From the Guardian; BNP gains first council seat in south-east England

The BNP has won in the Swanley St. Mary’s ward in Sevenoaks, Kent, beating Labour quite soundly. According to the Guardian, “The BNP gained 408 votes to Labour’s 332, while the Tories earned 247.”

Moreover, “The BNP made advances in local government byelections across the UK yesterday. Although they failed to win in Thringstone, North West Leicestershire, the party polled more than 28% in third place. Labour successfully defended the seat.”

In January, the BNP almost wrested a seat in Bexley from the Tories, showing that the swing to the far-right is not exclusively at Labour’s expense.

The party campaigned under the banner of  “British jobs for British workers,” feeding off anger at rising unemployment and perceived unfairness in the employment of workers on large scale projects.

Sevenoaks, however, is not a town connected to the recent labour disputes involving foreign contract labour. Nonetheless, the BNP has benefitted by coupling the specific disputes elsewhere with a more or less overtly racist appeal to “purify” Britain, at a time of economic near-collapse.

A look at its website backs this up. Showing a trio of smiling white workmen in a banner at its head (and the BJ4BW slogan with the addendum “when we say it, we mean it), the site also carries a large picture of (presumably) foreign workmen swearing at the camera.

The rise of the racist BNP in local (and, it claims, European) politics, is predictable. Even before the crisis began to bite, Gordon Brown and New Labour had appealed to nationalist sentiment, promising British Jobs. It also played with nativist anti-immigrant sentiment, via Immigration Minister Phil Woolas.

These attempts to cozy up to the tabloid press are backfiring. The inability of Labour or the Tories to offer workable solutions to ongoing social and economic crises is rebounding to the benefit of those to their right.

Yet when the BNP set up its Sevenoak’s office, the major parties acted with astonishing complacency. The town’s MP, Michael Fallon (Con), said that “Sevenoaks is not the sort of place for extremists of any kind, right or left.”

District Council leader Peter Fleming (Con) said that “I think the majority of residents would be horrified the BNP was opening an office because of the policies they pursue.”

They simply didn’t believe that their privileges could be challenged from the right. They were confident that their subjects would not disappoint them. It turns out that the people who they thought would be so loyal, had no great affection for the established parties.

It’s time that we all began to take the far-right seriously.

Still, at least Vera Lynn is taking them on.

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