Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Why the BNP is succeeding

This article from The Independent makes very important reading for all those church people who want to 'stop the BNP'.

[...] Look at the BNP's literature and you'll find that, on occasion, it points to some inconsistencies in the stance of "politically correct" liberals that are indeed hard to justify. For example, by coincidence, only a few days before going to Rotherham, I had been interviewing the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton and he had mentioned how the organiser of the English Music Festival received no Arts Council funding "because of the word English". Yet a festival of virtually any other national culture would be funded. Even if the frequency of these sort of cases is overstated, there has been an inconsistency between the acceptability of asserting Englishness compared with other national or ethnic identities.

Things may now be changing in this regard. But if it is the case that minority cultures have sometimes been given greater respect than the majority one, then it is easy for people to believe that this is symptomatic of a wider bias against what the BNP calls the indigenous British population.

Patriotism, if not allowed to express itself, will gravitate to wherever it is given a home, which right now is in nationalism. Of course, this has been a worry for some years, which is why Gordon Brown, among others, has been trying to reclaim patriotism for the Left. So far, it has not succeeded; in part, because no one has found a way of promoting national identity that is genuinely inclusive yet not utterly banal.

Those worried by the nationalist success in Everytown should take heart from the fact that everyone seems to agree that, whether they loathe the BNP or love it, most people in Maltby are not racist. The most incredible testimony of this comes from a woman who is remarkably well placed to judge such things.

Brenda Abou El Ola has lived in Maltby most of her life and married a Palestinian man in Lebanon. She's writing a book about what happened when they went back to live in Rotherham and confronted the reality of being an immigrant in Maltby.

"Put it this way," she told me, "we are perfectly happily married, but I am now living on my own in Maltby, and my husband and the two lads are renting a house in Eastwood for the simple reason that it wasn't working in Maltby."

One incident in particular explains why. "One night, my son, who was born and bred in Maltby, was walking home and a 15- year-old boy came out, drugged up or whatever, with a knife, threatening my son about my situation – 'Why don't you get you're mother to take her black Bs back to where they came from?' – and various threats on his and our lives."

Her son went into his flat and called the police, who didn't initially come, but his mother was not so retiring when he called her. "Me, being the person I am, and against my husband's and stepson's recommendations, went out on to the street to ask what was going on. He came towards me with the knife saying the same comments, and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor."

The attack broke her jaw and the next day her face was bruised and swollen so badly "I didn't want to leave the house for days, it looked so shocking". The attacker got off with nothing more than a "severe talking to", having said that he was sorry.

Despite this and racial harassment of her two stepsons at school, Abou El Ola chooses to stay in Maltby. "I like it here. I brought up my first family here and I feel at home." She thinks most of the people are good and decent, and that those who voted BNP did so for the main reason that they "have had enough of Labour and want something different".

So are the mainstream parties, and Labour in particular, ready to learn the lessons of the nationalist successes in Rotherham? It won't be easy. As Denis MacShane put it: "The difficulty is that you have to see that part of the argument that has some validity. Just because a BNP guy is saying that many people who are born and brought up here feel that there's too much foreign in Britain doesn't mean to say it's untrue. The question is how do you react to that?"

The answer, he believes, includes swifter return of asylum-seekers whose claims are unjustified, promotion of the English language, and construction of "a set of rules we expect people to abide by".

Whether he's right or wrong, to dismiss as racist the tough questions that he and others are now asking would be to repeat the mistakes that have led the BNP to victory in South Yorkshire. Unless mainstream politics finds a way of responding to the fears and desires of the voters who feel disenfranchised and afraid in a changing world, nationalist parties can look forward to even more success in the future. Read more

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  1. Hello Vicar,
    I believe that we've only begun to see the damages wrought by political correctness. Your pain is shared across the pond.

    Here on the west bank of the Atlantic River, Anger and Angst over unchecked migration has resulted in the exploding anti-illegal imigrant sentiment. It is especially strong in the Counties adjacent to Stafford. Municipalities exasperated over lack of Federal action have begun a grassroot campaign to enforce extant laws. Those on the PC side of the argument have tar brushed the officials as "Nazi's and Klansmen and Nativists". This of course is hyperbole on the part of the critics.

    Three thousand miles of Ocean is bridged by our common heritage and I'm confident that the success of the BNP is linked to the anti-illegal imigrant movement share a common thread. A visceral reaction often takes place when one believe's that their national identity is being erased.


    Andy Terry
    Stafford on Potomac

  2. A Post Script if you'll allow it...

    All of this said, as followers of the way, we must speak loudly to the fact that xenophobic violence, regardless of motive, is sub-civilised and counter-christian. I would also venture to say that it is antithetical to the society which one is presuming to uphold.

    Andy Terry

  3. Hi, I am the Maltby resident in the article posted on this blog. I have written a book "Crossing Borders" about my time in Lebanon and yes, am writing one about our time as a family in UK.
    I wonder why you post a whole articvle like this vicar without commenting on it yourself? May I ask what your point of view is?


  4. Hi Lexia (and Andy). Thank you for your comment, which certainly calls for a reply.

    If you click the 'labels' at the bottom of the post, you will see other articles I've written on the BNP, politics and cultural life and may be able to get some idea of my concerns.

    I thought Julian Baggini's article was significant because he was prepared to look behind the stereotyping and try to discover why people are prepared to vote for the BNP. I think he rightly identified that for voters it is more about fear and insecurity than hatred, coupled with a serious disquiet about the issue of national (and particularly English) identity.

    Most importantly, he acknowledges that these fears are not entirely groundless. Thus, for example, I referred in my earlier article to the admission of the Archbishop of York that during his time as a bishop in London he knew that local authority housing policy was biased against the "indigenous population". The expression is his, but of course it is one favoured by the BNP. To me, this brings out the point made in Baggini's article by Rotherham MP Denis MacShane, that just because something is said by a member of the BNP doesn't mean it is wrong.

    On the contrary, I believe that there are genuine wrongs which the 'mainstream' political parties have failed to address. Most significant of all, in my view, however, is the issue of identity, but here I have to be very careful.

    As a Christian, I have to ask whether God loves nations, or just people. It is not self-evident to me that the 'nation' is a Christian concept. At the same time, though, nationality is a reality, and Jesus himself made the proverbial observation that 'a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.'

    In this regard, I believe that in the past there have been deliberate policies, executed particularly at local authority level, to marginalize the historic culture of Britain generally, and England particularly. I believe this has clear philosophical roots, and reflects a conscious political agenda which, on the one hand, wishes to wreak a kind of vengeance -by-proxy on the British Empire and on the other hand aims at creating a new 'globalised' concept of society where geography and history will be of little relevance. I drew attention to Ken Livingstone's views in this regard in an article I posted on Christianity and the law and you can read (in pdf format) what he has said on this here.

    This view of society is, in some ways, like the Church - a multi-national community united by shared values. The problem is that the values must always be in dispute in any human context. Moreover, the natural human tendency is to compete with others and it takes a long time to evolve a society to the point where people can genuinely live side-by-side.

    In this respect, the United Kingdom was a rare success story, holding together for 300 years four nations who spent the previous centuries fighting one another. I freely admit that I resent the demolition of this project and I blame our recent batch of politicians.

    Personally, then, I sympathize with those who find the BNP sympathetic. But I do not believe the BNP has the answers. In the end, I believe their key weakness is precisely their understanding of identity.

    To me, Hardeep Singh Kohli, the Glaswegian Sikh comedian, seems to be a prime example of what cultural identity should be about, which is not race, but commitment. That is why 'British' was such a useful category, in that you could be 'both-and'. My great grandparents were Welsh, I am English, by birth, culture and assimilation, but I happily regarded myself as being both English and 'British', with everyone else living in the UK sharing the same 'British' category, whatever their race or region. By focusing on race the BNP undermines the very thing they ought to be aiming at, which is a strong sense of cultural, not racial commonality.

    In the end, this is more about the short-term good of the nation than the long-term kingdom of God. That is why I am a clergyman, not a politician. But as a citizen I have a vested interest in society and, rightly or wrongly, I still have a love of 'my' country.

  5. Hello Rev John,
    Following your reply and after reading some of your articles as indicated, I hope that you will oblige me by posting my own article on this subject - incidentally written BEFORE my interview with Julian Baggini!

    Your view of society as being similar to that of the Church " a multi-national community united by shared values" I feel is well justified and relevant. That values must always be in dispute in any human context is an issue I discussed with Julian. I have the view that perhaps it is human nature to protect "one's own" and that to recognise the differences between cultures(not races)is an innate necessity for our protection.Of course, this does NOT mean that other cultures to our own be treated less equally or fairly. More that the differences are recognised and enabled to live together in an equal and rewarding society.

    The article:
    There has been a variety of instinct reactions since the recent local elections, where 2 BNP councillors gained seats from long standing Labour councillors in the Rotherham Borough. John Gamble has taken the Brinsworth and Catcliffe seat from the Mayor of Rotherham and William Blair, here in Maltby, from long standing Labour councillor Glynn Robinson. Headlines in local and national newspapers have ranged from “Labour Disaster”, “Damning Indictment”, “Shock Results” Outcry at BNP” to even “Pride and Prejudice –The Fear Factor” in The Independent.

    Obviously these headlines, as well as the results, have a resounding effect on people’s feelings and concerns for the implications. The BNP (British Nationalist Party) has long been associated with, and reported as, the “politics of hatred” particularly referring to the importance of race and keeping Britain as a place predominantly, for Britons. The mission statement of the BNP states that it exists to “secure a future for the indigenous peoples of these islands….We use the term to describe the people whose ancestors were the earliest settlers here after the last great ice-age, and which have been complemented by the historic migrations from mainland Europe.” It goes on to say that these ancestors are the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Danes and closely related “kindred people”. Perhaps then, not racist completely, but specific about which races they wish to associate themselves with ?
    The Cambridge Dictionary defines the term “racist” as someone who believes that other races are not as good as their own and therefore treats them unfairly. (Personally, I would define it with only the latter part of this definition ie. that someone is treated unfairly because of their race – but that is another story) The BNP declares that they are definitely not racist as racism means “hatred of other races” and that they do not hate anyone.
    The issue can all become a matter of words and definitions and consequently become even more confusing for us ordinary Maltby Residents. I went to speak with William Blair at his home and shop on Muglet Lane, to see what his views are and how they match up with the BNP’s.

    Mr Blair has been in Maltby for around 20 years, coming from a farming background in Northern Ireland, then working in agriculture before taking over the shop. His wife, son and niece work in the shop with him and are well known to locals.
    We sat in Mr Blair’s back garden, on one of these surprisingly hot and sunny days that we have had lately in Maltby, his pigeons fluttering in their loft behind us and his poodle dog brushing against my legs and wanting attention. I asked him if it was OK to question him directly from the BNP policies list that I had and he was fine with that. “Ask me anything you want” he said “I am here to help the people of Maltby and make it a better place to live”.
    Because it is a personal issue, I asked first about the BNP’s disapproval of mixed marriages. “I don’t have a problem with that. If you love each other and get on happily, then that’s all that matters”, he said. This is not the BNP’s view, however. They believe in preserving the identity of all different ethnic groups and that a small number of mixed marriages, with mixed race children is ok (how small they do not say). But if it is “encouraged as it is at present by politicians and the media, then the British genotype will be endangered”. They refer to environmentalists preserving animal species in the wild, and ask why this should not also apply to people. They do also say that Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, points out that often mixed race children suffer identity problems. I assured Mr Blair that at my age there was no fear of me bringing more mixed race children into the area and he said that it would be fine even if I did. My experiences with my “other race” stepsons in Maltby, has been enough, thanks !

    Mr Blair agrees with the BNP’s views on homosexuality – that what people do in “the privacy of their own bedrooms” is up to them, that they are not homophobic, but that homosexuality should not be “encouraged or promoted”.
    He doesn’t agree with not letting “blacks and Asians” into the BNP party –I am not sure why blacks and Asians are specifically named, and neither is he – and here is yet another anomaly between William Blair’s views and those of the party he is representing.
    As do many, if we are brave enough to admit it, he believes that the immigration levels into Britain have become out of control and that more forward thinking needed to have been done a long time ago. He would, as the BNP states, deport all illegal immigrants immediately – how we find them all and also the money to do that. neither I nor he are sure. Deport all who commit crimes and whose original nationality was not British – again, how far back in time do we go here to determine “British”. Review all citizenship/residency grants to make sure they are still appropriate, that is, anyone who has been granted citizenship because they have married a |Briton, need to be still married. Watch out husband – divorce me at your peril !
    Attend to the needs of pensioners before asylum seekers (note here the BNP does NOT say immigrants, but I wonder if they sometimes confuse the two.)
    Invest in transport, the NHS, defence, the environment. Stop sending aid to other countries until we have solved the problems with Britain. Change the attitudes of the young people to one of a work ethic and not a take for doing nothing one. Make sure all unemployed people take the jobs that are available or stop their benefits. After all, as Blair says, “We don’t need immigrants when we have all these WHITE people here who won’t work” (my capitals on “white”)

    It appears from his own words that William Blair is neither racist, nor wishing to be devisive in any way. He wants the best for Maltby and Maltby people and intends to do his utmost to start with the basics – sorting out the litter problems by regularly putting skips in various areas of the town, repairing fences, doing something about the roads situation. He believes that a lot of the problems that residents feel are the main problems – mainly anti-social behaviour and general apathy of some – can be alleviated by attitude change and a more community based approach to life here. All sentiments that most of Maltby residents share.
    People I have spoken to in Maltby quote numbers and percentages and proportional representation as the reason why Maltby now has a fairly elected BNP councillor. Some say that it because of recent changes and disruptions with the Town Council.
    I asked Mr Blair why he had stood as a BNP candidate when he clearly does not whole -heartedly agree with all their policies. Why did he not stand as an Independent?
    “I suppose I am 80% BNP and 20% other”, he says. “Independent candidates are either old Labour people or old Conservatives. What we need is change”.
    Let’s hope that our new councillor’s change goes in the right direction, and that the change is for the better for the whole of Maltby. Time will tell.

  6. Hi Lexia. As you will see, I have published your article sent to me. I had to put a 'disclaimer' on the front as I am not in a position to verify what you've written and I can't afford to be sued! I also had to guess at a bit of the punctuation, but I trust it is OK.

  7. We do not defeat the BNP by giving in to their prejudices, even if those prejudices are shared by others outside fascist parties.

    Mike Homfray

  8. Mike - are you suggesting that some ARE giving in to their prejudices? Could you elaborate a little on your point, please ?