Dead Party Walking

I never liked BBC Three. It always seemed like the loutish cousin in the extended family of our public service broadcaster. Through this temperamental media conduit, the middle-aged, middle-class, middling executives of middle-England attempted to forge a connection with the “yoof of the day,” the consequences of which were often a mixed bag. For example, the channel’s just finished “getting under the skin of racism” via a few documentaries and an over-obvious pun which it took me rather too long to fathom. Britain First and the KKK glided across bleak screens, whipping boys for the sort of scorn which I’d previously directed towards the neon logo in the top-left of the picture.

But we mustn’t forget that old bastion of such sentiments, alive and kicking in the British Isles whether we like it or not. Hopefully, it will suffer a slow and painful death – almost as agonising as BBC Three’s long march to the scaffold for crimes against good taste in television. I’m invoking the waning spirit of the BNP, a pellucid apparition with which I take issue on two fundamental matters besides those which immediately spring to mind. The first is the frequent misuse of the term ‘far-right.’ The second is the not inconsiderable number of people who take Griffin and his bigoted mates seriously.

From the off, I’ll make my thoughts and feelings unambiguous: the chauvinistic nonsense which the BNP has made it its mission to spout whenever a good opportunity rears its ugly head is absolutely deplorable. But that doesn’t exactly make them ‘far-right.’ Occasional belches of tactless propaganda espousing the joys of a great, omnipotent Britain, a brave new world fuelled through a few wish-list policies such as the renationalisation of the rail network, a position actually supported by sworn enemies in the shape of Labour and the Greens – none of it falls into line with a predominantly economic term which should come to be associated with struggles against excessive taxation and radical minarchism.

Whether these free-market causes are righteous or misguided is a question completely external to the equation. The point is that they’re legitimate positions, often well-reasoned, don’t imply extremism and are a pretty safe distance from the true BNP. So ‘far-right’ isn’t a byword for ‘socially authoritarian,’ and the last remnants of our new favourite joke fit only the latter description in reality. In fact, they’re much more hilarious than the unfairly derided Nick Clegg.

More to the point, ‘far-right’ suggests a sound, coherent ideology. I’m not so certain. To me, it seems more like a few loose strands drawn together in a crude, populist vat; the result is a desperate attempt to forge some kind of electable values which fall flat on their decidedly pallid faces when subjected to any kind of rigour. In go the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, gratuitous campaigns which place British lives on the line. If public opinion hadn’t said so, I’m sure a crusade against those pesky Muslims would have been in order instead.

Rising to the top like a brazil nut in a glass bowl is this weird form of watered-down xenophobia which they’re so keen on. Publically, at least. Privately, I doubt there’s much progress on that particular front. So this melting pot is actually a front for the unaffected racism which still defines the party. And yet such a party is elected on its principles, and those are hardly feasible or lucid on any level. It’s an utter farce.

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The Sound & the Fury

In the last fifteen years, the threat of Islamic Terrorism has loomed across the globe, an unstoppable force colliding with an immovable object, an all-encompassing shadow of unadulterated evil. Once again, the West looked on in horror as cataclysmic events unfolded at home and abroad. World leaders sipped figurative glasses of brandy in figuratively darkened rooms, plotting their counter-strike. But as they let slip the dogs of war, the proletariat ranks found a voice, swelled into something truly formidable and crushed any hopes of a patriotic assault on the strongholds of tyranny. Evidently, this was going to be a very different sort of conflict.

From the ashes of the old order, extremist groups on both sides of the frontier rose to a position of newfound prominence. To the chagrin of anyone with an iota of commonsense, the BNP became the foremost standard-bearer for white nationalism in Britain. The ranks began to swell, slowly but surely. Illuminated by faint candlelight in a corner of the aforementioned chamber, Nick Griffin’s expression of consummate superiority left a marked impression on the assembled company, aided in no small part by a certain, familiar adage: “we were right all along!”

Eventually, the prospect of a place on a flagship BBC programme beckoned, and that self-righteous figurehead of intolerance and hatred grasped it with both hands. But he received a taste of his own medicine, and wasn’t very happy when the press came knocking: damning accusations had been directed towards the defenceless leader, forming a tapestry of intense interrogation which spanned an entire hour.

Soon, the BNP crumbled into the depths of political insignificance. Griffin’s now out, expelled in a cloud of ‘financial mismanagement’ for which the modern party has also become famed. Now budgets are measured in the pennies retrieved from the bowels of cut-price sofas. But the acceleration of this tragic fall was just one of the outcomes which emanated from the Question Time controversy. Discussions over the apparent gulf between the competing freedoms of speech and religion also swept British media outlets, exemplified by a backdrop of extremism and hostility. Earlier this year, a deplorable raid on the headquarters of left-wing satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo breathed new life into the debates of 2009, and, once again, the BBC found itself at the very epicentre.

Right-leaning historian David Starkey emerged as an ardent supporter of emancipated expression and defender of the controversial French publication. With clarity and flair, he argued that any lines in the sand “should be drawn as narrowly as possible,” using the example of holocaust denial to justify his view: watertight assertions might sway the ignorant or deluded, but concrete laws will just add fuel to the fire. So perhaps Griffin’s humiliating television appearance as the previous decade drew to a close wasn’t the greatest of noble stampedes after all.

It’s impossible sway the deeply prejudiced panellists or audience members of a Question Time studio within the space of an hour; even if you fling a few irrefutable arguments in their direction and make them look a bit stupid, it’ll all fall on deaf ears in the end. But a few allegations of corruption and fraud will send them scrambling for the lowest bidder.

I’m not suggesting we should have the BNP back on primetime television in the foreseeable future: that’s meant to be a timeslot for the prominent, the influential, the high-flyers. But if the grubby little scoundrels rise to that level again, have them back on, by all means, and don’t even skew the debate against them. No, give them a fighting chance and see them fail on national television.

So let’s steer clear of racism for a change: it’s a charge which won’t get us anywhere. I’d even advise avoiding those golden allegations of corruption and fraud. Instead, let’s do something completely out of the blue and focus on concrete policy instead. Watch them flounder when the Tories take them to task over nationalising the railways, for example.

“You support public ownership? Don’t you realise that would be a massive expenditure for the great British taxpayer, how insignificant the reward would be? Oh, so something more gradual, then. Yes, these are tough times. Line by line? What, like the Labour Party? So you’re crawling into bed with your accursed foe, then, the proponents of mass immigration and the multicultural experiment?”

That’s rather a poor line of reasoning, I know. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure it would do the job. And now that the attack on Charlie Hebdo has happened all over again, now that Paris has become the keystone of terrorism in the Western World, now that a new threat has revealed itself, it’s a strategy more relevant than ever.