Britain’s fascists in a right state
Andrew Brons, the BNP MEP for Yorkshire and The Humber, has heavily criticised his party leader, calling him dictatorial. At a meeting of party "dissidents" last month, he said voters would be entitled to ask whether, if Nick Griffin were elected, he would run the country like he runs his party. Brons is only repeating what many former BNP activists have said for some time, but the open hostility from a veteran fascist who commands respect on the far right is unprecedented.
The BNP has shed activists and officers since Griffin and Brons were elected to the European Parliament in 2009. Some have joined other "nationalist" parties such as the fascist National Front and the English Democrats; others have formed splinter groups like the British Freedom Party which, despite its recent link-up with the Islamophobic and violent English Defence League, has no prospect of taking over at the helm of Britain's far right. Many individuals have remained independent, hoping either that the BNP might oust Griffin, whose leadership is widely described as "toxic", or a new party might emerge to unite the far right.
Calls for a new "nationalist unity" party have grown since the abysmal showing of the BNP and its far-right rivals in the London and local elections. At a meeting of influential local activists from several of these parties, nearly everyone was keen on a new party with Brons as a figurehead leader.
So expectations were high that Brons, 65, would make the announcement at the meeting on May 27 in Newcastle. Richard Edmonds, the veteran fascist now back in the NF, announced that many London activists would join a unity party. The consensus among the 50 mainly former BNP activists who attended was that the BNP was dead . But Brons stuck to his view, held since he failed to oust Griffin last summer, that there was not yet enough momentum to propel a new party to success. That it is impossible to generate momentum for a new party until it is actually formed seemed to escape him.
Discussions between Brons, Edmonds and others outside the BNP continue and some activists are keen to move quickly so they can test support for a new party in November's police commissioner elections. But at present the BNP remains Britain's leading fascist party, despite receiving less electoral support this year in London than in 2000, and losing all its local councillors bar the three who did not face election this year.
In Blackpool last Saturday, it managed to attract 100 people, including "nationalists" from other groups, to distribute leaflets and demonstrate against "Muslim grooming".
After 30 years of existence, the BNP is a recognised name with voters, and has recently become the beneficiary of a bequest of around half-a-million pounds. This may not keep the party afloat very long: much of it has already been spent on the London election campaign and the poor eight-page election newspaper sent to a million voters.
Around the BNP is a clutch of "niche" parties with platforms that guarantee they will stay tiny. The NF remains true to Nazism. British Freedom has little else to offer than Islamophobia; the strange alliance between its leader - the former UKIP candidate Paul Weston, and the EDL - is unstable and unlikely to last. The EDL's activists prefer noisy and violent demonstrations to the hard slog of electoral politics.
The English Democrats' main policy - an English Parliament - has limited appeal to voters, who see a further tier of government as a waste of money. In the shadows behind are the New Right group and its Iona London Forum offshoot, which provides an international ideological stimulus to core activists in these groups. All this is good news. If the disarray on the far right continues, the winner will be democracy.
Gerry Gable is the editor of Searchlight www.searchlightmagazine.com