Postcard from London: list of blackshirts stuns Britain
Last November, a curious list was posted to various websites in England.
It had no author, it carried no commentary but included the names, occupations, addresses and personal details of some 12,000 people who were members of the British National Party.
The privacy breach may have been of concern to some liberal commentators but for British authorities and political leaders, it was an alarming wake up to the rise-and-rise of the far right movement in the UK.
Among the list were the names of the usual racist suspects that have fronted the whites only political group since its formation in 1982, but then there were seemingly ordinary teachers, lawyers, doctors, soldiers and even police officers - despite there having been a ban on officers joining the group since 2004.
For the first time in 20 years it appeared the right wingers were attracting a broad-based membership which could for the first time see them as a force not only in the community but in politics.
On Monday, the latter came true.
For the first time, the BNP secured seats at the European parliamentary elections confirming a grass roots march of the extremists.
The victory by the neo-fascists was being written off in some quarters as merely protest vote support from those in the community furious at the Labour government and Tory Opposition over the expenses scandal that have seen MPs in the last month exposed as having pinched millions of dollars from the public purse.
But it is more than that. Their rise is the sort of phenomena that is always associated with difficult economic times and the BNP are the masters of exploitation.
Since the recession began to bite, they have successfully run a “British jobs for British workers” campaign that even targeted Australians working in London.
They then set about whipping up fury over figures that showed a high proportion of Eastern Europeans in council-owned and rented properties and also the number of those from outside England able to tap into - as allowed under EU law - the British public health care system.
It has been fear mongering at its best - kinda Pauline Hanson on steroids - and it has worked.
The expenses scandal only reinforced the attitude that many Britons had been hard done by, by the very politicians who shock horror supported multi-cultural Britain.
It’s no coincidence the BNP campaign posters now include images of and references to Winston Churchill and the Second World War and the claimed need to stop the “invasion” of England’s shores.
Racially Britain is already fractured but the BNP’s campaign is now actively exploiting that and will no doubt lead to outbreaks of street-level violence.
“I think we do ignore at our peril the very high risk - which history should have taught us - the very high risk of financial stringency leading to political extremism,” Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams recently remarked.
“It’s anger finding its expression in xenophobia, prejudice, rivalry, all the tactics that both sociologists and psychologists remark on, as the displacement of unease and fear. It’s no small thing that the BNP can win a seat ... it’s a straw in the wind, and we have to watch the horizon very carefully.”
The party emerged after a feud within the National Front and began to win appeal after it ditched its neo-Nazi image in favour of nationalist anti-immigration policies which, it claims, Britain needed to return to its overwhelmingly white population prior to 1948.
However many members are overtly also anti-semitic, publicly praise Hitler for his “vision” and in recent times have been behind anti-Muslim sentiment.
Nick Griffin, BNP leader and winner of one of the two seats the party has won in the EU parliament, was tried but acquitted on inciting racial hatred.
He yesterday saw first hand the hatred and violence his party fuels when he needed a police escort to enter a vote count centre in Manchester. “We are not a racist party,” he declared. “We do say this country is full up and the key thing is to shut the door.”
Some in the UK now fear the sort of violence as seen by and against the National Front in France.
As for the suspected internal leaker of the membership list, they are living in fear.
“If we find out the name of the person who published this list, it will turn out to be one of the most foolish things they have done in their life,” party spokesman Simon Darby ominously warned last November.
“I wouldn’t want to have done that - I wouldn’t be sleeping very well tonight.”
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