Have spent the last few days stranded in Mattressland. No, this isn’t an ash-cloud issue, I’ve been ill. (How many times do you have to have tonsillitis before they’ll take them out?) When you have a fever, it’s helpful if the rest of the world (by which I obviously mean ‘the world of British politics, as filtered through Twitter’) behaves within normal social parameters so you can tell what’s real and what’s not. It’s not helpful when the Mirror chase David Cameron around with a giant chicken and Alastair Campbell keeps banging on about Elvis. (Don’t ask.)
When it comes to the BNP, it’s hard to tell if you’re awake, asleep, hallucinating or reading a badly-written dystopian novel. Yesterday, to launch their manifesto, they stood in Stoke Town Hall with a bloke dressed up as what they think St. George looked like. And if you think that sounds surreal and half-arsed, you should read the bloody thing.
They’ve been insisting, as they often do, that they’re not a single-issue party, and have a full manifesto of comprehensive policies. This is, of course, bollocks. They are a single-issue racist (OK, and homophobic) party and have a racist manifesto of racist policies.
Their economic argument, for example, goes thus:
1. All the money is spent on black people
2. Stop spending money on black people
1. All immigrants are criminals
2. All criminals are immigrants
3. Deport and/or kill the criminals and the immigrants.
Welfare? STOP PAYING IMMIGRANTS
Health? STOP THE IMMIGRANTS. THEN THERE WILL BE FEWER PATIENTS. ALSO FEWER NURSES, DOCTORS AND CLEANERS. THIS WILL SOMEHOW BE FINE.
Their education programme is a little more sophisticated, in that they want to see more teaching of ‘British history and English, Irish, Scots and Welsh culture and traditions’. Compulsory cheese-rolling and maypole dancing for all, then. Think of it as Section 28, except that where the Tories just wanted to teach the gay kids that being the way they were was different and wrong and definitely not normal, the BNP want to extend this to anyone whose great-great-grandparents weren’t born in the UK.
On top of that there’s a random scatter of ideas they came up with in the pub:
– reintroduce capital punishment for drug dealers, child murderers, multiple murderers, murderers of policemen on duty and terrorists
– bring back “traditional syllabi and teaching methods” [not sure what these are, but I’m betting there’s a cane involved]
– ‘inviting’ the Irish Republic back under the umbrella of the British government
– nationalising the railways
– repealing the Human Rights Act
– bringing back smoking in pubs
…and so on. It’s a good impersonation of a ‘manifesto for the working classes’, as long as you assume, as the BNP do, that the working class is stupid enough to blame immigrants for everything and to fight for their right to get lung cancer. The only pattern I can see is that it all involves taking Britain backwards. It’s another of those classic BNP syllogisms:
1. there were fewer black people in Britain in the 1920s
2. fewer black people was good
3. therefore Britain must have been a better place in the 1920s.
It’s a vision of a past fair for none.
And so what? It’s not like they’ll ever get a chance to put this manifesto into practice. But at these elections they’re benefiting from the extra funding they got by getting Griffin and Brons into the European Parliament. They’ve got their eyes on Barking and Stoke-on-Trent Central and council seats up and down this country; and every seat they stand in is one more town where the other candidates face the temptation of edging to the right to beat them, and where the local paper’s letters page becomes choked with planted eruptions of race hate, and where the LGBT and minority ethnic members of the local community feel just that little bit less safe.
This is why we need to beat them. And this is how we will do it.
1. Keep it in the family. ‘Traditional British family values’ have sod-all to do with getting married and being allowed to smack your kids, and everything to do with bringing your kids up to treat others equally and with respect. And to deliver Hope Not Hate leaflets, like the Cheethams’ kids.
2. Confront them in our own communities. Watch Billy Bragg – “Whether you win or not, I will be back, Mr. Barnbrook, because this is my home town” – and be inspired.
3. Never give up. The vast majority of British people thinking about voting BNP are not racist. They’re sick and tired of what they see as corrupt Westminster-based politics and they’ve been misled by lies and tabloids. I leave you with this email, sent a few weeks ago to Maryam Khan,Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Bury North:
Dear Ms Khan,
You recently telephoned me at home to ask who I would vote for at the next general election and I very ignorantly said BNP however after speaking to you on the phone and to my mum, who you also phoned, I felt I had to write just to say that I have changed my mind. I would definitely vote for you as will my parents.
I was incredibly impressed in the fact that you were taking time out of your day to ring so many people and really listen to their concerns. I have also just received your leaflet which explains all that labour has done for young mums in the area. As a young(ish) mum I do agree that all the help has been greatly appreciated by me and my family.
I wish you all the very best for the election and for your future in politics. I honestly think women like you would make a huge change for the better to this country .
Talk to enough voters, and they won’t vote BNP. I’m not saying it’s easy. But, well, Yes We Khan 🙂