Warning signs have been growing about the increase in popularity of the British National Party (BNP), a group with significant National Socialist leanings. In the last round of elections to the EU parliament, two BNP candidates were elected. In a recent poll, 20% of Britons say that they will consider voting for this party. And the political classes do not know what to do about it.
The political classes are, of course, precisely the problem.
The reason such an extreme party has come from nowhere to be a contender is that they are able to cater an underserved market –white working class people. This group used to vote Labour overwhelmingly but the paths of England’s working people and the Labour Party has diverged in the past 20 years. The Labour Party was at one with the working class in the 1920’s and 30’s when the predominant problem facing workers was the stratified class structure in Great Britain (and most of Europe). Labour was the party of workers, the Liberals were the party of the middle class and the Conservatives were the party of the aristocracy. As a result, the rhetoric and issues championed by the Labour party reflected this fact. We in North America cannot imagine how much of a problem this was for ordinary people back then, not ever having a formal class structure. But to working class Britons in the 1930’s, the class structure was to them what Jim Crow was to blacks in the Southern US in the same time period.
However times change, and so has the Labour Party - and so has the white working class. These days, working class whites are worried about a different form of apartheid: affirmative action. They are also increasingly at odds with the Muslim underclass whose numbers grow as they become ever more truculent and less interested in assimilating with English society. Britain’s working people feel a genuine patriotism for their English heritage and worry about the EU’s encroachment on English sovereignty, a patriotism which the multi-culti Labourites increasingly hold in open disdain. This was made clear in recent revelations in the Telegraph, where a Labour party operative admitted that “Labour threw open Britain’s borders to mass immigration to help socially engineer a ‘truly multicultural’ country.” In short, Labour politicians decided to choose a different set of voters, one they felt would be more congenial than their previous supporters, the indigenous working classes. This has created the situation where new Labour voters are at odds with old Labour voters. In contrast, the Labour aristocracy is above the fracas because they largely live in Tony flats in the fashionable quarters of London, where their love of immigrants can remain safely theoretical. Working class whites have increasingly come to the inescapable conclusion that Tony Blair’s ‘Cool Britannia’ doesn’t include them. They are the uncool in Britain.
In the US, a similar process has also occurred, but the Republicans have generally picked up the slack when the Dem’s moved on. For instance, the coal miners in West Virginia used to be the staunchest Democrats. But when then-presidential candidate Al Gore promised to take away their guns and ban coal in the 2000 election, they switched to the GOP and haven’t returned. If West Virginia had stayed Democrat, the recount in Florida would have been irrelevant.
Has this happened in the UK? Have the Conservatives picked up the working class votes that Labour has discarded? Sort of, at least under Margaret Thatcher. In spite of her free market philosophy that was at odds with their trade union institutions, working people at least knew where she stood on cultural issues. With things like the Falkland Islands war, you know Mrs. Thatcher was an English patriot. When Tony Blair remade Labour into his own image, he kept the free market policies but canned all the patriotism stuff – the worst of both worlds from the perspective of the working class. And David Cameron, the new leader of the Conservatives? He apes Tony Blair the way Blair copied Thatcher, except that Cameron is closer to Blair than Blair ever was to Thatcher. Cameron’s big idea for revitalizing the Conservatives last year was making the Conservatives the green party of the UK.
So from the perspective of working class whites, the major parties in Britain today are Tweedledee and Tweedlededum, neither of which represents their interests.
As far as minor parties go, the Liberal Democrats are another identical choice. There is also the UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party. However, this reasonable anti-EU party has been unjustly tarred for so long with the ‘fascist’ label that a real fascist anti-EU party has come along – the BNP - and they are doing well.
This is what happens when the leaders of the liberal order (both Conservative and Labour) become insular and corrupt. The only way the BNP threat can be eliminated is if the Conservatives start challenging the increasingly unsustainable status quo and begin to offer real solutions to the working people’s legitimate problems. The Conservatives don’t have to go all the way. Deep down, people don’t want to vote for extremist fringe parties but they do vote for them when they are desperate and no one else will listen to them. If the Conservatives acknowledge 80% of their grievances, they will happily vote Tory because the Conservatives have the respectability that the BNP lacks.
This is what John Howard did when he won his fourth term as Prime Minister in 2004. He was able to increase his share of the popular vote by 3.4% even though the voter share of his principal opponent – Labour – hardly budged. He got those votes from the fringe parties, whose supporters flocked to Howard’s strong leadership and his red meat platform.
Can the Conservative Party of Great Britain do the same? Well, the first obstacle is their leader, David Cameron, who is temperamentally disinclined to go that route. So I guess we will see more of the BNP in the future.