This is almost certainly not going to happen. But Tory
leader Michael Howard was so rattled that he saw fit
the UKIP as “extremist” (upon which a delighted
Labour published a document detailing
some of the many links between UKIP and Conservative
politicians. Conservatives were instructed to attack
UKIP as “cranks and political gadflies” (Sarah
Hall, Guardian, May
Sked was replaced by businessman Michael Holmes, who
became one of the UKIP’s three MEPs in 1999. His colleagues
were Jeffrey Titford, a former undertaker, in Eastern
England and Nigel Farage, a commodities broker, in the
South East. But Holmes, too, fell afoul of the party,
and resigned in 2000—naturally denouncing his colleagues.
He was replaced by Graham Booth, an hotelier. But soon
the party ‘loyalists’ were fighting among themselves
again. Most recently, the party has been tearing itself
to pieces about whether or not the party’s HQ should
have been moved from London to Birmingham.
UKIP’s internal relations are uniquely venomous. (See
for a fine example.) The party contains many clever
and cultivated people, but a vocal minority has always
been conspiracy theorists
and monomaniacs, who believe that the EU is a device
for world domination dreamed up by the Germans, French,
Trilateralists, Bilderbergers, Freemasons, Jesuits etc.
It is to the great credit of the party’s present leaders
that they have managed to turn an amateur, slightly
dotty, single-issue fringe group into a highly professional
organization. They have wisely consulted external
experts. The present heightened interest in the UKIP
must have something to do with the publicity-generating
skills of Bill Clinton’s former adviser Dick
Morris and the British publicist Max Clifford.
But UKIP’s surge probably also has to do with the current
controversy over the proposed EU constitution, and the
public endorsement of UKIP by celebrities like the actress
(She complained that since the introduction of the Euro,
of her St Tropez apartment had increased!). Five
Tory peers—Lords Pearson of Rannoch, Laing of Dunphail,
Stevens of Ludgate and Willoughby de Broke, and Baroness
Cox of Queensbury—issued a statement supporting UKIP.
They promptly had the Tory
whip withdrawn (in effect, were expelled from the
party). They have now been joined by a sixth peer, the
Earl of Shrewsbury. Two former Conservative MPs – Piers
Merchant and John Browne—are standing for the UKIP in
the Euro elections, while two others—Sir Richard Body
and Christopher Gill—have publicly endorsed the party.
Gill’s public statement (see the May/June edition of
Freedom Today [PDF])
was especially embarrassing: he is Chairman of the Freedom Association, a highly-regarded
conservative-leaning pressure group.
Yet another reason for the UKIP surge: it has finally
adopted a robust policy on immigration. The UKIP manifesto
says Britain is “bursting at the
seams.” It goes on: “We cannot sustain this
increase, which compares with a city the size of Cambridge
coming into Britain every six months”. . One
of the party’s candidates in the South East, Ashley
Mote, has written an excellent book on immigration,
Britain, and his influence is clearly felt in this
But, significantly, immigration reform carried in the
teeth of some ferocious opposition from within the party.
Roger Knapman said recently on this subject: “There’s
a climate laid down by a Hampstead liberal establishment
which has been accepted as the norm, and any view other
than this is somehow a bit quirky or rightwing or extremist”
(Nicholas Watt, Guardian, 2 June 2004). This
view is still extant within his own party, even at senior
Another possibility: the media is talking up UKIP’s
chances because it is so anxious to avoid even thinking
about the possibility of a breakthrough by much less respectable
British National Party. (One Leftist writer, Gaby
Hinsloff, wittily describes UKIP as “the BNP in blazers.”
Ever since May 2003, when the BNP got 17 local
councilors elected in England, the keepers of the public
conscience have been obsessed by the possibility that
it might win seats the European Parliament. The party
is fielding 75 candidates for European seats, its biggest-ever
push and has also started to show up in national opinion
The BNP thinks that the UKIP momentum is all a conspiracy.
According to the party’s website:
“This scam was agreed
by the three main parties at their secret meeting in
Halifax earlier this year, convened by the shadowy Joseph
Rowntree Charitable Trust, at which they plotted various
arranged schemes to prevent a BNP breakthrough at June
10th elections. Hyping up the UKIP as a viable ‘anti-establishment’
political party serving to create a safety valve for
voters who are genuinely unhappy with the three old
gang parties’ stance on Europe, asylum and the Iraq
crisis, was one of the main tactics discussed at that
meeting and unanimously agreed” (UKIP Poll
Plot Unravels, British National Party, June
The BNP approached the UKIP last year, with a proposal
for an electoral pact under which they would not compete
for the anti-EU vote in their respective strongholds.
Either these proposals were rejected out of hand (according
to the UKIP) or they were carried on to a fairly advanced
stage (according to the BNP); in any case, official
relations between the parties are now exceedingly poor.
The UKIP says that the BNP is a racist party. The BNP
says, in a poorly-punctuated
message, “Only cowards and fools vote for UKIP,
it’s time the British people saw through their facile
charade of a party”. There is no doubt that the
BNP is seriously worried about the emergence of UKIP
as a serious rival for disaffected Tory votes.
And there is no love lost between the Tory and BNP
hierarchies (although there are often friendly links
between BNP and Conservative activists). In February,
Tory leader Michael Howard visited Burnley, where the
BNP has seven councilors, and made a vitriolic
speech describing the BNP as “a bunch of thugs
dressed up as a political party” and “a stain
on our democratic way of life.” (Tom Happold, Guardian,
The BNP has devised one clever pitch: it makes great
play of the fact that the electoral presence of the
BNP in an area does deter some of the more foolish schemes
of central government.
“No asylum seeker
distribution centres are built in towns where BNP councilors
are elected. Just the presence of ONE BNP councilor
ensures no more bus loads of asylum seekers are dumped
in local hotels. Inward investment from government floods
in to the areas. Inward investment and regeneration
money floods into the towns. Local housing stock is
allocated on the basis of need once again rather than
being allocated only to immigrants and asylum seekers.
The local police start to listen once more to the voice
of the people and tackle local crime” (Vote
BNP - Save your home town. British National Party,
29 May 2004)
But despite leader Nick Griffin’s recent attempt to
rebrand the BNP, and the resultant increase and improved
quality of members, it has no support whatever from
the press, and rarely even gets objective coverage.
The anti-BNP cause has united Tony Blair, Michael Howard
and Charles Kennedy, Labour yahoos in Glasgow and genteel
Tory ladies in the Home Counties, the Guardian
and the Daily Telegraph, Terry Eagleton and Peter Hitchens, trade union
leaders and the church hierarchies, Muslim fundamentalists
and militant homosexuals, in a spasm of righteous indignation.
Ironically, the BNP is one of the very few things in
today’s Britain that can unite ‘everyone’!
The extreme Left
magazine Searchlight, an SPLC-type
self-appointed political correctness enforcer, set up
its own website (http://www.stopthebnp.com/),
and distributed newsletters drawing attention, in the
most hysterical terms, to reprehensible things in the
pasts of some BNP candidates.
But these efforts were overshadowed by those of Unite Against Fascism, which swiftly
drew attention to itself by getting a lot of Labour
and Liberal Democrat (and a few na´ve Tory) MPs to sign
its declaration, and with a series of meetings in the
House of Commons, after one of which the singer Billy
Bragg told a Guardian reporter that he was
in favor of “beating up BNP officials, members and
supporters in the street”, for which he was reported
to the police [Billy Bragg gets his collar felt!,
British National Party, 8 March 2004].
In some northern towns, there have indeed been physical
confrontations with the Left. Two BNP local election
candidates have just been charged with assault. And
Unite Against Fascism supporters were responsible for
the disgraceful incident in April, when Nick Griffin
and Jean-Marie Le Pen were set
upon by a mob of fanatics ready to use fascist tactics
to bring about the end of fascism.
The Commission for
Racial Equality, a government-sponsored political
correctness enforcer (no U.S. equivalent, lucky
you), even posted “a guide to election
law for local councils” on its website telling
local councils that they were under no legal obligation
to provide the BNP with meetings halls or other public
places. Actually, under the 1983
Representation of the People Act, all parties standing
for election have the right to facilities. The BNP quite
rightly complained to the Electoral Commission, and
the posting was hastily taken down. BNP election material
has also been the target of a boycott by unionized mail
Most serious of all, TV stations have made it as difficult
as possible for the BNP to show its election broadcasts,
although legally obliged to accept them. Channel 5 at
first rejected the BNP broadcast footage on the grounds
that it might provoke racial ill-feeling. Ironically,
this broadcast had borrowed heavily from an unshown
Channel 4 documentary, called Edge of the City,
about a series of horrifying allegations from Bradford
that gangs of Asian men were raping young white girls.
Channel 4 had pulled the program after police advice
that it might provoke racial discord, but says it will
show the program at a later date. Eventually, the BNP
broadcast was shown, with segments blanked out.
Unite Against Fascism agreed with this censorship.
Joint secretary Wayne Bennett said that “I think
that anything that negatively portrays the black
and Asian communities would not help the process
of creating a multicultural and multiracial society
in the run-up to this election” (Secrets and Lies, British National
Party, May 20 2004).
My emphasis. Truth, in short, is not a defense.
The reality is that that the BNP, and also UKIP, exist
because the major parties have failed to address the
genuine concerns of many thousands of people up and
down the country—about immigration and also
about the abolition of their political expression, the
No doubt the Establishment full-court press will prevail—this
time. But whatever happens, in deferential Britain it’s
striking that these insurgent parties have got so far.
Derek Turner [email
him] is the editor of the independent magazine Right Now,
which Labour Leader of the House of Commons Robin
Cook said should be shut down.