From HOPE not hate:
Nick Lowles assesses the BNP’s chances in the forthcoming elections (cut down to regions nearest Norfolk - for the complete article see HOPE not hate)
The next eighteen months will determine whether the British National Party can build on its European election success and become a permanent fixture on the British political landscape.
With a possible change of Government, mass disillusionment with mainstream politics and the worst economic recession since the war, there should, on paper at least, never be a better opportunity for the BNP to expand its base. The election of two MEPs has allowed it to give paid employment to more than a dozen of its key organisers and it has already established itself as a household name. In the eyes of some voters, it is the ultimate and possibly the only protest vote.
However, the opportunity presented to the BNP will not last forever and the fascist party needs to do well in the forthcoming local and general elections if it is to maintain its momentum. And that means winning dozens of new council seats and strong double-digit results in its key parliamentary seats.
The BNP is likely to contest over 200 parliamentary seats in the general election. Although many of them will be little more than paper candidates, the party will be looking to save its deposit in the majority by securing at least 5% of the vote. In a handful of seats it will hope to do a lot better and in one, in Barking, in east London, Nick Griffin, the party leader, will push the incumbent MP close. Although Griffin remains the underdog he will be hoping that the strong BNP support on the Becontree estate pushes him over the line.
On the surface it would appear that Griffin has a big hurdle to overcome if he is seriously to threaten to take Margaret Hodge’s Barking seat. In 2005 the BNP polled 17.0%, which, though it was the highest ever BNP result in a parliamentary election, was a long way off Hodge’s 47.8%. However, events since then have moved in the BNP’s favour. The 17% was gained before the BNP really took off in the borough and only a year later it polled 41% in a large section of the constituency in the council elections.
Boundary changes have also helped Griffin, bringing three strong BNP wards into Barking from neighbouring Dagenham. Griffin’s notoriety will also be a boost, while Hodge will suffer from the national swing against Labour, currently measured at 8%.
Of the 11 wards that make up the Barking constituency, the BNP is considered frontrunners in five, neck and neck in one and close to Labour in another two. In only three wards will the Labour Party begin the campaign comfortably ahead of the BNP, though these are areas where we would normally expect a higher turnout.
He will also be helped by the decision of the Christian Party to make Barking the main focus of its election effort. While the CP has absolutely no chance of winning, it could take enough votes from Labour to hand the seat to the BNP.
The BNP will also hope to do well in Thurrock, Essex, where in the European election it received 17.5% of the vote, just behind Labour (18.3%), the UK Independence Party (21.7%) and the Conservatives (22.8%).
May’s local elections offer the BNP its best chances for success. Searchlight has identified 100 wards where the BNP poses some form of threat. Of these 30 are wards where the BNP is defending seats. . . Overall, Searchlight is expecting the BNP to contest in the region of 1,000 council seats in 2010, which would be a record. Many will be in London, where every seat is up. The 100 risk wards include 53 where the BNP either came first in the last election it contested there or needs a swing of less than 5%. The BNP threat is concentrated in a handful of local authority areas. The 100 risk wards fall in 30 local authority areas. However, 51 of them are in just 10 local authority areas. The concentration is even more stark when one counts the highest risk wards. All but three of the 25 wards most at risk fall in 10 local authority areas, as do 38 of the 50 most at risk wards.
Most of the risk wards also happen to be in the BNP’s target parliamentary seats. As reported in last month’s Searchlight the biggest threat lies in Barking and Dagenham, where there is a serious risk of the BNP winning control of the council and possibly even a parliamentary seat in the general election. Barking and Dagenham was already the front line for this year’s elections even before Griffin announced that he was standing in Barking in the general election. The BNP currently has 12 councillors in the borough and needs 26 to take full control of the council. In the party list section in the 2008 London Assembly elections, the BNP came first in seven of the borough’s 17 wards and within a whisker of winning three other wards. The same vote in a council election would give the BNP at least 21 seats and place it neck and neck in another nine – enough to put the BNP within striking distance of taking overall control of the council.Griffin and the BNP will be hoping that his decision to contest the Barking seat will generate the same media interest and frenzy that propelled the party’s 12 councillors to victory in 2006. . .
A key determiner in the local elections is whether the general election is held on the same day. The traditional view is that the BNP will not perform as well in a general election as it does in local elections. Certainly, that has been the case in the past but whether that is true now remains to be seen. The BNP has hardened its vote and, as was shown in the European election, it can poll well in national contests. While the BNP vote is likely to be squeezed by the major parties, it might well hold up stronger than it did in 2005.
The campaign for HOPE
The HOPE not hate campaign will prioritise the key risk wards in the local elections. While we will produce general material that can be distributed wherever the BNP stands, our main focus will be in those wards where BNP councillors are up for re-election and where BNP candidates stand a good chance of winning. Our general election priorities coincide with our key local authority priority areas.
The HOPE not hate campaign has two clear objectives, to suppress the BNP vote and to turn out the anti-BNP vote. We will do the first by highlighting the true nature of the BNP, challenging its lies and myths and exposing the poor quality of its existing councillors.
We will once again work closely with the Daily Mirror, producing localised tabloids and supplements in the main newspaper, and hosting another HOPE bus tour.
The stakes are high in 2010 but so are the rewards. The BNP could take control of a local authority, win a parliamentary seat and have dozens of new councillors. The alternative scenario is that the BNP falls short in Barking and Dagenham, Griffin is humiliated in Barking and a large chunk of its councillors lose their seats. The first situation would give the BNP a platform for a major assault on the 2011 local elections. A failure this year could initiate a period of decline for the party.
Which scenario wins out will depend largely on how successful we are. We have proved in recent council by-elections that we can beat the BNP in its strongest areas. However, given the scale of the threat we cannot do this alone.
The 2010 HOPE not hate campaign will be our biggest yet.
For it to be successful we need everyone to get involved.
By Nick Lowles