Never thought I’d write that.
But given a choice between UKIP and the BNP, Farage and Griffin, EU-bashing and immigrant/homosexual/leftie/etc-bashing, I’d have to go for UKIP. And I suspect that a not inconsiderable number of voters will be choosing between the two when they’re in the polling booths in June.
None of the mainstream parties have been able to escape the ongoing expenses scandal. Our MPs are currently associated in the public mind with taxpayer-funded massage chairs, moat clearing, and swimming pool maintenance. Against the backdrop of rising unemployment, repossessions, and social inequality, as well as regular reports of British troops dying in foreign fields, disenchantment with the political status quo seems inevitable.
‘A plague on all your houses’-thinking might therefore be expected to aid the party most identifiable as the political outsider: the BNP. However, although the BNPers do appear to be especially energised and optimistic about their prospects in the upcoming European elections, the polls suggest that it is the UK Independence Party that is profiting most from the situation.
A plonker, but at least he's not a Holocaust-denier
Obviously it is deeply depressing to see Labour apparently on the same level of support as the Lib Dems and UKIP. Yet for as much I vehemently disagree with the UKIP programme, and think it is ironic that they are doing well out of an expenses scandal considering their own experiences in this area, I’d still prefer them to be the protest vote beneficiaries of this situation rather than the BNP.
When I attended Labour conference in 2004 as a delegate I remember a trade unionist making a speech in which he claimed that “UKIP are the BNP except they’re wearing suits”. Even back then this statement was completely misguided. For one thing the BNP have been wearing suits for a good few years now and they can no longer be easily characterised as neo-Nazi skinhead thugs. It was also ridiculous to equate UKIP’s eccentric hatred of Europe and its staunchly right-wing policy positions with the fascist history of the BNP and its fundamentally racist constitution.
Perhaps we can rest assured that all the anti-politics anger will be channelled into UKIP. John Rentoul certainly thinks so and argues that Labour is deliberately playing up the BNP’s prospects as a desparate means of motivating its supporters to turn up at the polls. But Rentoul appears to have overestimated the difficulties involved in getting a BNP MEP elected. They only need to get around 7.5% of the vote in the North West to have a good chance of winning an MEP (this is where Griffin is standing). In 2004 the BNP got 6.4% in that region.
I would additionally like to learn more about how accurately polling companies measure BNP support. Rentoul confidentially announces that the vast majority of Brits would not consider voting for such an avowedly racist and unpleasant outfit as the BNP. Although I agree that most people see the BNP for what they are, is there not a danger that some people aren’t admitting their BNP voting intentions when being surveyed because of the social stigma attached to the party? Remember that only a few thousand extra BNP votes on a low turnout will see them win their first MEP, so the margins of errors in these opinion polls could make all the difference.
I thus find myself in the perverse position of hoping that UKIP’s strong showing in the polls accurately reflects the public mood. Labour’s kicking in June is probably unavoidable, but crumbs of comfort will be drawn if the BNP fail to capitalise on voters’ anger.