Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Griffin, the boat people and dealing with the BNP

From Matthew Collins at Searchlight

It is pub talk at its worst. No one is a stranger to hearing suggestions of vile and off-the-cuff solutions to what can be troubling and confusing issues for many people.

But there is more to Nick Griffin’s comments on the issue of boats from Africa carrying people seeking asylum than him just playing up to the media for the sake of headlines. As we predicted he would, the BNP leader is using the auspices of elected European office to mount an aggressive attack on the rights and lives of people seeking asylum and respite from persecution.

While the majority of decent people in this country overwhelmingly reject and are appalled by the ease in which Griffin would consign innocent people to a watery grave, his outburst comes at a time when we are now beginning to understand more about the BNP’s voters than ever before.

YouGov polling paints a picture of the typical BNP voter as an under-educated, male of a certain age who reads right-wing tabloids. A high percentage believe that they are racially superior to non-white people and that there is a mass conspiracy against them underfoot. This is the ten per cent of the population that the BNP appeals to, this is the BNP’s core vote that votes BNP even when offered other radical alternatives to the big three parties. It is a racist vote to the core.

“When we say we are not politically correct we really do mean it,” trumpeted the BNP deputy leader Simon Darby on his blog site. He was referring to Griffin’s comments about sinking boats of immigrants, but was also reinforcing the BNP’s anti-political image that it could, and would, not engage on serious issues because its voter base has now been immunised against public outrage and revulsion about the very party it has voted for.

It is ill-conceived to think that the media can somehow now hold the BNP hostage to its previous comments. No doubt for the sake of securing immunity from prosecution for Holocaust denial, Griffin has publicly admitted there was a Holocaust. While this no doubt causes some chagrin to some of his BNP colleagues, his advocating of “chemotherapy” against Islam and the description of Glenys Kinnock as a “political prostitute”, all since he was elected, prove there is little Griffin et al are concerned about in terms of public image or perception.

It is not just the leadership that has been emboldened by the party’s victory. Around the country it is clear that local BNP leaflets are becoming more hardline and extreme. A leaflet recently distributed in County Durham asked readers what was wrong in accepting that whites were superior to other groups.

Worryingly, not only do the British media not seem well enough equipped or indeed properly determined to tackle and expose the BNP even as it was before the elections, but the BNP is over represented in that arena already. The BBC in particular seems determined to allow Griffin to vent his racism and his denials, presumably because it is good television.

Watching Andrew Marr interviewing Griffin for interviewing’s sake is a wake-up call to the debate we must have in tackling and beating the BNP in new arenas with better and more dynamic ways of confronting the growth in apathy towards organised and politicised racism.

Hopefully the recent discussions within the National Union of Journalists on dealing with the BNP will produce results. While there is an acceptance that the BNP needs to be reported, there is also a determination to alert NUJ members to the true facts about the BNP and where possible to oppose its racist and divisive agenda.

As Griffin is appealing to his core audience so we must appeal to ours, which is the vast majority of people who totally oppose the BNP and would find his latest statement repugnant. The same YouGov poll that examined the BNP voter also found that the far-right party is the most despised of all parties. This is why the HOPE not hate campaign is producing 400,000 “Sink the Boats” leaflets to alert people to Griffin’s views.

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