Zzzz..pffgh...bphff...nudge....NUDGE...huh? wah? hahh? Your correspondent was slumped on the precipice of catatonic vegetation at a local services committee in Dodworth, South Yorkshire. 'Any more questions?' Ripped out of this stupor by a panel of grinning nudge-nudge crony-socialist councillors, he for some reason felt it appropriate to blurt something out about the BNP's worrying surge at the last local elections (they'd come second in near every ward round here) and what exactly are you planning to do about it, eh? More fool you, the panel seemed to say - this geriatric slumber-party was strictly forbidden from discussing party politics (angers the blood you see) and besides, monotonous droning on the subject of what's allowed in which recycle bin and what to do about 'loitering' kids is far more interesting.
Anyway as it happened, one of the female councillors was quite keen to speak to me about this issue after the meeting. Turns out that at the very moment my mouth lept into auto-pilot on the BNP there was a member of this curious band of political mutants sat right behind me. Tosh, I thought. They know what people think of them and they should bally well be reminded. Naturally though Comrade 'Race-Hate' Porter felt the need to treat me to a passionate defence of that unique conflagration of idiocy and prejudice that so characterises the mind of homo nationalus.
What followed, as Porter oozed at indefatigable pace with seemingly no end was utterly bizarre. But like most things bizarre it was also utterly fascinating and really quite insightful. In one phrase Porter unshrouded the peculiar myseries of the BNP's success in threatening centuries of one-party Labour rule in Barnsley. While he was coughing up bile about the councillors present, your reporter chanced upon a diamond in the jetstream of slurry. Comrade Portly proudly, and with not a trace of irony touted inbetween his repeated and really quite annoying commitments to democracy that the BNP were 'more like old Labour'. Aha. Suddenly it began to make sense...
Anyone living in Barnsley will know exactly why the people round here have always voted Labour. Since the nineteenth century the town has been a predominantly mining borough, with a homogenous and heavily working class culture. In the '80s and '90s this appeared to be threatened as the remaining pits were closed under the Conservatives, which I can tell you has left a very real and lasting bitterness. The female councillor mentioned earlier seemed to think that the BNP's success was due to the recent trickle of immigrants into Barnsley (and I mean trickle) and what she called our more individualist and sectarian society, with people selfishly pursuing their own interests without regard for wider society. Now, this is typical and very familiar Labour windbagging of course, but in this case it reveals a particular weakness for Labour politicians - their inability to see that the working classes are beginning to feel abandoned by them. If anything, the truth is probably closer to what Captain Race-Hate said himself - that the BNP are indeed 'more like old Labour' in the ways that seem to count to folk round here.
For, what many people overlook is that the BNP are a staunchly anticapitalist party, and this is what makes them so dangerous. Take this festering nugget for instance, taken from a BNP magazine and posted on the Barnsley BNP blog
In its opposition to the global capitalist society, our rejection of free trade and call for tariffs on selected imports that can damage our remaining manufacturing base, all necessary steps to give some insulation from the worst aspects of unstable world markets, the BNP has again been proven right.
That of course could've been straight out of the mouths of the Socialist Worker's Party and no-one would have batted an eyelid. And, as anyone who has ever dealt with socialist groups before will know, if you oppose the entire economic and social composition of society as it stands then you can promise people pretty much anything. Combine this old-fashioned socialism with an almost ravenous opposition to political correctness and a good dollop of race hate and you have the uneducated working-class vote in the bag. Like the socialist parties, they can capitalise on what many people now see as there being no difference between the Conservatives and Labour. Indeed, in their insipid literature, they frequently refer to the 'Lib-Lab-Con' parties as one entity, with themselves as a revolutionary element representing true democracy.
All this presents a very serious challenge to both the Labour and Conservative parties in Barnsley. For Labour the lesson is clear - don't take your electorate for granted. Decades of guaranteed victory has made the party arrogant and distant from their voters. For the Conservatives, a more confidant, open and implicit approach to policy needs to be taken, specifically targeting and countering BNP campaigns. The nationalists thrive, unlike most parties, from targeting voters on both sides in their campaigns. The insidiousness of this multi-faced Medusa must be fought vigorously and in concert by all those who oppose prejudice and ignorance for it to be vanquished. For Labour and the Conservatives, this will entail putting aside their differences and working together in defence of our common values.