Griffin cast aside by the newly violent

By Nick Lowles, December 16, 2010
Follow The JC on Twitter

Last Saturday British National Party leader Nick Griffin addressed his party's annual conference in Leicester. He promised a renewed political energy and increased militancy against radical Islam.

Despite his fighting talk, his words fell on deaf ears. Whereas once Griffin's hardline speech would have caused ripples in some sections of the media, he was now largely ignored.

While it would be wrong to dismiss the threat from the BNP, as the austerity measures should play into their hands, it is, for now, a sideshow.

Fifty miles away, the anti-Muslim English Defence League was holding its latest demonstration. Though only 700-strong, it still managed to get on the national news.

Over the next 48 hours the EDL took centre stage for the invitation it sent to the extremist preacher Pastor Terry Jones to address a rally in the New Year.

The media's focus on the EDL reflects the shifting far-right threat in Britain. A year ago the BNP were basking in the glory of their European election success. They were confidently predicting control of Barking Council, and Griffin was dreaming of Parliament.

Twelve months on and Griffin is fighting for his political and financial future. The party's crushing defeat in east London was swiftly followed by internal strife, purges and disillusion. Over half of the party's activists have dropped out and the BNP is on the verge of being drowned in debt.

The EDL, by contrast, is hardly out of the news. Its highly provocative marches and accompanied violence means regular media attention.

Nick Griffin remains, at his core, a hardline racist whose appeal is considered outdated and extreme - even by some of those who follow the EDL.

By contrast, the EDL appeals to more basic instincts - a defence of England and the English. And yet, far from defending Britain from extremism, the EDL is very much part of the problem.

Its provocative and violent marches spread fear through Muslim communities and, as was eloquently expressed recently by the head of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, pushes young Muslim men into the arms of the very groups which the EDL claim to oppose.

    Last updated: 10:36am, December 17 2010