THE BLOG

Things Are Bad For the BNP, And I Expect It'll Get Even Worse

10/04/2013 21:39 BST | Updated 10/06/2013 10:12 BST

The 2013 local elections will see the lowest number of far right candidates since 2002 and this reflects their electoral decline in recent years.

The British National Party (BNP) is standing just 102 candidates across England, compared to 450 in the county council elections four years ago. What is worse for the BNP is that they are a serious contender in just two or three seats. Even Sharron Wilkinson, who is the BNP's only current county councillor, has decided not to defend her seat in Burnley.

The BNP could not even find candidates for the Mayoral elections in Doncaster and North Tyneside.

There is even worse news for the recently formed British Democratic Party (BDP). Set up by former BNP officers and organisers, including Andrew Brons MEP, the BDP hoped to replace the BNP as the main far right party in the UK. With just three candidates, their journey is set to be a long one.

The seeds of the far right decline were sown, surprisingly, in the immediate aftermath of their greatest triumph, in 2009, when the party won two seats in the European Elections and took 6.4% of the national vote.

But rather than act as a springboard for greater success, the next twelve months proved to be the party's undoing. Griffin's appalling performance on BBC's Question Time was matched by their disastrous election results in 2010, especially in Barking and Dagenham, where they hoped to take control of the council.

The BNP gambled on success but ended up in huge financial trouble. Internal criticism led to repeated splits and in-fighting and party membership haemorrhaged. The lack of BNP candidates is simply because the BNP had no members to stand.

If things are bad now, then I expected it to get even worse for the BNP over the next couple of years. Ukip are likely to make significant gains in these elections, certainly in votes if not seats, and solidify themselves as the main beneficiaries for the anti-immigrant and anti-establishment vote. If this happens, and bearing in mind next year we have the European Elections where UKIP could come first, then the BNP will struggle still further.

The likely consequence is that they, and others on the British far right, turn away from electoral politics to more street-based actions. We are already starting to see a proliferation of small, more hardline splinter groups, some of whom are using the BNP's electoral decline as a justification for a more violent strategy.

While anti-fascists will obviously welcome the BNP's electoral decline, and we should take some credit for it, we are facing a new and difficult challenge ourselves - namely, how do we respond to Ukip?

Ukip is not a far right party, or even intrinsically racist, but its increasingly vitriolic anti-immigrant message, coupled with scare stories about Bulgarian and Romanian immigration, is already poisoning the wider political discourse. Is it appropriate for anti-fascist to celebrate the BNP's decline but say nothing against Ukip's racism? I'm really not sure we can.

A few weeks ago HOPE Not Hate asked its supporters whether they should start campaigning against Ukip. Over 1,800 replied, with two thirds saying we should. However, many were nervous and a sizeable number said that we should campaign against individual candidates and their racist campaigns rather than generally against Ukip itself.

The anti-fascist movement - and HOPE not hate included - will probably need to develop a more coherent position towards the anti-EU party very quickly. Ukip could well come first in next year's European elections and if, as looks likely, this is on the back of a strong anti-immigrant campaign then any joy over the BNP's demise could well be short-lived.