The BNP will be a big story when MEPs convene for the first plenary of the new Parliament next week in Strasbourg.
It is said the BBC and Channel 4 are sending crews to cover the rise of extremism in European politics.
Braced for an unpleasant media hit on Tuesday, many British MEPs will be hoping that the BNP phenomenon will quickly burn out.
There will be discrete arrangements for the EP’s tail-coated officials, renowned for their delicate handling of the Parliament’s many “eccentric” members, to keep Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons away from the main action.
They might be an expectation that the media will quickly move on to other subjects.
There might be a secret hope that the BNP members, starry-eyed by the grandeur of the Parliament, will grow bored of its coalition-dominated, committee-obsessed, polyglot business style.
And they might hope that Nick Griffin’s characteristically dramatic but unreliable performance is unsuited to Strasbourg life.
Certainly Griffin’s failure to create an extremist grouping was an embarrassing set-back and comments on refugee boats caused offence amongst possible allies (not least the Italians). This adds to the generally chaotic impression created by cloud-cuckoo-land policies, ill-disciplined and disreputable his associates (particularly Brons), and the steady flow of obscene Nazi-style, National Socialist, racist rhetoric from the direction of his party.
But, these hopes that life will quickly return to a comfortable normality would be a mistake.
The European Parliament is the biggest opportunity of Griffin’s lifetime and he will seek to make it a platform for the next stage of his political career. He and Brons have made three visits in three weeks. Although his hopes of leading a centre-right grouping were dashed, he can be expected to network his way round European far-right groups energetically and, back home, use every opportunity to cash in on the rise in popular Euro-scepticism and anti-politician feeling.
In other words, British MEPs can rely on the new BNP colleagues to make mistakes (their expenses and attendance should be scrutinised) and cause offence (as with yesterday’s refugee-boat-burning report).
But they shouldn’t write them off.
Their status as elected representatives will guarantee a certain level of exposure (Question Time appearances and media comments on immigration/housing issues are possible). They will react to events (sometimes crassly, sometimes ingeniously) and create their own issues out the European Parliament’s schedule of events that positions themselves as outsiders seeking to champion the British worker in the face of a European conspiracy.
A strategy for dealing with the BNP is critical.
There's Nothing British About the BNP