Print Story Fascism in the UK - All Labour's Fault?
By DullTrev (Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 10:02:50 AM EST) politics, labour, BNP, europe, elections, fun loving cowwqas. (all tags)
I am now represented in the European Parliament by Nick Griffin. That's not a good feeling. But like it or not, the BNP now has as many MEPs for the North West as the Liberal Democrats. Over in Yorkshire, the former leader of the National Front was elected, giving the BNP the same number of MEPs in that region as Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The various talking heads have said how awful this is, how the BNP will claim this gives them and their views legitimacy. And, well, the BNP will claim that. And, well, they'll be right.

You see, that's the point of democracy. Sometimes it throws up results you don't like. But that doesn't make them illegitimate - much as I may dislike it, the BNP put themselves up for election, and of those that voted, enough of them agreed with them for them to win seats.

But the key phrase there is "of those that voted". And that was a depressingly low number - in places. Overall turnout was 34.3% - down by 3.9% from 2004's 38.2%. But those figures mask the variation across the country.

In fact, in some areas turnout was up, though only marginally. The East of England, the South West, and the South East all went up by about 1%. But these aren't regions the BNP managed to do well in. The regions the BNP did well in have been traditionally associated with Labour. Obviously the proportional nature of this electoral system changes that a bit, but the ability of the BNP to claim seats must be seen, primarily, as a failure of not all parties, but of one - the Labour Party.

Let's look at the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber regions. In the North West, turnout went from 40.9% to 31.7% - a fall of 9.2%. In Y&H, turnout went from 42.6% to 32.3% - a fall of 10.3%. Put it this way: about a quarter of the people who voted last time didn't bother this time. That's pretty awful.

It gets worse for Labour. In hard numbers, about 470,000 fewer people voted in the North West - and Labour lost about 240,000 votes. In Y&H, about 363,000 fewer people voted - and Labour lost 183,000 votes. Half of the people who didn't vote had been Labour voters. In terms of their share of the vote, Labour lost 7% and 7.5% respectively - about a quarter of their share.

(Remember, even with a falling turnout, the share of the vote would stay the same, all else being equal. A declining share of the vote means, in this case, and in my opinion, that former Labour voters are overwhelmingly more likely not to have voted than those of other parties.)

These figures illustrate a catastrophic collapse of the Labour vote in these areas. In comparison, the Tory vote stayed relatively stable - in fact, their share of the vote increased by only 1.5% in the North West, and dropped by 0.2% in Yorkshire and the Humber. This wasn't a flight to the Tories - they stayed pretty much the same.

A very fair point to make is that the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber were all postal votes last time round. The other two regions that were all-postal last time were the North East and the East Midlands. This time, their turnout dropped as well. In fact, the North East's turnout dropped by more than Yorkshire and the Humber - it went from 40.8% to 30.4% - a fall of 10.4%. The East Midlands, however, had a more modest drop - from 43.4% to 37.1%, a fall of 6.3%.

But I think clinging to the hope the drop in Labour's vote is due mainly to the change from an all-postal ballot is wishful thinking. For a start, the drop in turnout was significantly larger in the areas Labour had previously been stronger - the East Midlands saw a much smaller drop. But, much more significantly, it ignores Wales.

Wales didn't have an all-postal ballot last time. But they saw the biggest percentage drop in turnout this time round - from 41.4% to 30.4%, a massive 11%. About 239,000 fewer people voted - and about 159,000 fewer people voted Labour. The Labour share of the vote went from 32.5%, the second highest of any region in the UK, to 20.3%, the fifth. And, for the first time since the Labour Party became a national party, Labour were beaten in Wales. And beaten by the Tories.

This wasn't a change from an all-postal ballot depressing turnout. No, this was the Labour vote not turning up. There could be many reasons for this. Anyone who has read my past few posts will know I think policy is a main one. Others will point to the expenses scandal hitting Labour harder than the other parties.

I think it's that we have reached a tipping point. And I don't know if Labour can recover from it.

More than 5 years ago, I gave a speech at the final hustings to become the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for a safe Labour constituency - my home. And because I cared about my home, and because I was worried about the path the Labour Party was on, I gave an honest assessment of where I thought we had been going wrong - ignoring our grass roots, not pursuing policies that would create a fairer society, introducing privitisation into health and education, and so on.

And I told my fellow party members that I wasn't worried about Labour winning in that constituency at the next election. But I was increasingly worried about the election after that, and the one after that. Because I felt the central Party had made a decision that they could safely ignore their heartlands, because they had nowhere else to go, no-one else to vote for.

And, you know what? They are right. The heartlands don't have anywhere else to go. But these European results show that they don't have to go anywhere to cause problems for Labour. They don't have to go to another party. They don't have anywhere to go. So they just stay at home.

(Incidentally, the other place strongly associated with Labour is Scotland. They, however, had a strong opposition to Labour that wasn't the Tories - the SNP. Turnout fell by only 2.4%. Labour lost about 81,000 votes. Coincidentally, the SNP gained about 89,500 votes. In Scotland, former Labour voters do have somewhere else to go.)

Now, I know that European elections are different from general elections. People vote differently, they protest, or they just don't care. But this election, the Labour heartlands have learnt an important lesson - they don't have to vote Labour. They can just... not vote.

That's why the BNP won seats - the Labour vote collapsed. In Yorkshire and the Humber, Labour needed only another 10,270 votes to have stopped the BNP getting a seat. In the North West, Labour would have needed another 60,000 or so - but their vote had fallen by about 240,000. (UKIP would have needed only another 2,449 votes, or the Greens would have needed 4,962.)

No, the election of the BNP isn't a failure of all parties. It's not a failure of the political system. It's not even a sign that the country is becoming racist. It's a sign that the Labour Party is failing, that the Labour Party cannot energise its core vote, that the Labour Party vote is collapsing.

It's a sign that the Labour government needs to start listening to what its party members and voters actually want them to do.

But because they didn't, because Labour failed, I am now represented in the European Parliament by Nick Griffin. For the next 5 years. Thanks a bunch.

< Rum. | Another Thin Man >
Fascism in the UK - All Labour's Fault? | 42 comments (42 topical, 0 hidden)
You really think he'll last five years? by darkbrown (2.00 / 0) #1 Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 10:42:35 AM EST

Why wouldn't he? by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #19 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 04:57:01 AM EST
Or do you think "Unite Against Fascism" will manage to top him?

(This is the UAF that believes "in freedom of speech for everybody but fascists.", and is paid for by UKian taxes, by the way).

[ Parent ]
No, I wasn't thinking about by darkbrown (4.00 / 3) #25 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 05:17:17 AM EST
Fascists against Facism. I just suspect or expect him to engineer his own downfall before the 5 years is up. Because he's a stupid cunt.

[ Parent ]
We can but hope. by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #26 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 05:27:55 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Change in voters mindset by Phage (4.00 / 2) #2 Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 11:32:30 AM EST
It's very interesting to see that the Tories can't capitalise on the failure of the Labour vote. I think Daniel Finkelstein has it about right..

He broadly agrees with you in that Labour failed becuase they took the heartlands for granted. But draws a wider picture in that voters are no longer voting in blocs the way they used to. So, the main parties ignoring the grassroots leads to apathy, and the result being swung by those who feel that anyone is listening at all.

The core vote, per se, no longer exists. The unions, as a bloc, were effectively broken by MT and big business will probably be so by the CCrunch. The entire political system will need to get back to their constiuencies and find out what the issues actually are for their voters.

Good analysis by Herring (2.00 / 0) #3 Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 12:30:33 PM EST
I have no idea what comes next though. Maybe politics willbe reduced purely to smiley corporate shills like Blair/Cameron with shouty idiots on the side. Maybe St. Vince will save us. The future isn't Scargill or Galloway though (fucking hope not anyway).

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

There are multiple factors at work by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #4 Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 12:55:54 PM EST
I don't think Gordon Brown can be solely blamed.

First, the BNP voters are generally ex-Tory not ex-Labour voters. (link link) If you want to blame a party leader, it makes more sense to blame David Cameron for moving the Conservative partly sharply to the centre. This looks especially sharp compared to his predecessor Michael Howard, who ran a "dog whistle" anti-immigrant campaign.

So, Cameron has alienated his racist voters, who've naturally moved elsewhere.

Second, if you look at the continent, a prominent fascist or quasi-fascist movement is generally the consquence of proportional representation. The question isn't really why British fascists are emerging: the question is why it took a while for it to happen.

One answer might be that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown up to now managed to diffuse BNP sentiments by operating from the political centre rather than the left, and by regularly announcing public clamp-downs on asylum-seeking and immigration. Only now has the combined effect of rising unemployment and the expenses scandal stopped this from working.

Finally, as I've pointed out elsewhere, there were left and leftish options for voters to express their discontent: the Lib Dems, the fringe leftist parties, Plaid Cymru, the SNP. But only the SNP made modest gains. This suggests to me that overall, the UK is moving politically to the right, just as in 1979. The election results, and the turnout, may just reflect that.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

What do you think of Paul Krugman's analysis? by lm (4.00 / 4) #5 Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 04:34:34 PM EST
Krugman's notion is that Labor caught the wrong end of the business cycle. Further, he argues that this unenviable position was made worse by Labor embracing the Thatcherite/Reaganite love of deregulation for deregulation's sake.

I thought it an interesting bit. The flip side of his thesis is that the only thing that saved the Democratic party stateside is that their opponents happened to be in charge when the chickens came home to roost.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
It's a good analysis by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #6 Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 04:59:09 PM EST
The economy is certainly a big factor in Labour's unpopularity. But there are other factors as well.

  1. Gordon Brown has no charisma at all.
  2. Labour underestimated the hostility towards a Prime Minister who was put in by the party without a General Election. I think Britons are increasingly influenced by Hollywood and expect a presidential-style election.
  3. After being in power since 1997, people want a change.
  4. The UK is far more right-wing than you would think from HuSi (unless you stick to Breaker's diaries). Labour managed to sneak in a few soft-left policies by sugar-coating them with Private Finance Initiatives and populist authoritianism against terrorists and paedophiles and criminals, but eventually the electorate was going to bounce back.
  5. The media oligarchs like the Barclays Brothers liked Blair, partly because he wooed them, partly because he bent over backwards to give them huge tax breaks and loopholes. (Robert Peston's book "Who Runs Britain" was good on that). Brown wants to tax them, so they've decided to change Prime Minister.

It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Hmmm by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #14 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 04:50:26 AM EST
  1. Yep.
  2. Nope, I think people were more accustomed to the Tory party way of toppling leaders; if Labour had had any semblance of a party only election they'd not had earned enmity.
  3. Yes. 
  4. Cheap dig, even for you.
  5. Still not decided on that.

[ Parent ]
No. by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #13 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 04:48:07 AM EST
Gordon "Texture Like Sun" Brown abolished the boom and bust cycle.

He also saved the world.

He tinkered with the regulation because he could, yes.  But like so many other things, Jonah Brown has the anti-Midas touch, being the accursed one eyed son of the manse that he is.

[ Parent ]
Those links are bollocks. by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #16 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 04:52:38 AM EST
Basically, "BNP voters prefer Cameron over Brown, therefore all BNP voters are Tory" is basically what they are saying.

Whilst many Tories may want a reasonable debate and a curb on immigration, the rest of the BNP's policies are too far left for a Tory to support (renationalising certain industries, for example).

[ Parent ]
Poor old Gordon by DullTrev (4.00 / 1) #30 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 08:46:07 AM EST
I didn't say that Labour voters were turning to the BNP.  In the north-west and Yorkshire and the Humber, the BNP vote went down.  But because of the proportional nature of the election, what kept them out was a much stronger showing for the Labour Party.  In fact, in the East Midlands (much less strongly Labour, but also affected by the change from an all-postal ballot) the BNP failed to get a seat because while their vote increased, the Labour vote didn't fall by as much.

Nationally, the BNP did gain a considerable number of votes (135,000 or so more - 2009 total was 117% of 2004), but this was more than matched by, for example, the Greens (who gained 275,000 or so - 2009 total was 127% of 2004).  This was no great breakthrough for the BNP.

As for other leftish options - The LibDems have been steadily repositioning themselves under Clegg to be more to the right.  For most of the UK, the LibDems had been the only 'credible' alternative party from Labour and the Conservatives.  Plaid has suffered from being the coalition partner (with Labour) in the Welsh Assembly.  The SNP did make gains - of approximately the same size as the losses by Labour in Scotland, implying that the leftish vote did swap.

Then you have the fringe parties, which, by nature, aren't a credible alternative.  Even so, last time Respect (nominally a leftish party) gained 252,216 votes.  They didn't stand this time, but Socialist Labour and No2EU, both who didn't stand last time, gained 326,351 votes.  The fringe leftish parties seem to have made some gains.

The picture is confused, certainly, but it appears that where there is a credible leftish alternative, such as the SNP, it gets votes.  Where there isn't, no-one seems to get the vote of disaffected Labour voters.

As to the country moving politically to the right, these results don't really seem to show that.  The Conservatives got about 200,000 fewer votes than the last European election - a year before a general election they went on to lose.  UKIP, hailing this election as a success, got about 150,000 fewer votes.  The Liberal Democrats, who have been repositioning rightwards, got 370,000 fewer votes.

The right isn't so much making gains as the left is abandoning the field.  And while the electoral results may be similar, the effect on society is much worse when you have a significant section of the population feeling there is no party they can support, that will actually represent them.

And it is the abandonment of that section of the electorate that I blame Labour for.

Oh, and I didn't mention Gordon Brown at all, to blame him or otherwise.

[ Parent ]
Er by DullTrev (2.00 / 0) #31 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 08:46:56 AM EST
What kept them (BNP) out previously, I mean.
[ Parent ]
What you're saying by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #36 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 10:28:41 AM EST
Is that Breaker's Constant Party has a niche to fill?

[ Parent ]
You're making a pleasant assumption by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #39 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 01:12:45 PM EST
That somehow the factors that caused a low turnout for everyone else, including other protest vote parties, somehow don't apply to the BNP.

I'd certainly like that to be true, but I haven't seen much evidence for it. A general election might just increase all the parties' percentages pretty much across the board.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
It's a guess, but by Herring (4.00 / 1) #42 Fri Jun 12, 2009 at 03:54:27 AM EST
the media were banging on about the increased support for the likes of the BNP. In that situation, isn't it likely that the BNP voters will be encouraged to turn out?

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Nowhere to go? by motty (2.00 / 0) #7 Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 08:02:36 PM EST
Round this way there are lots of ex-Labour party members like myself who voted Green this time, nose held or otherwise.

Obviously if you're a nanny-statist social democrat, the Labour party is as much your party now as it became when Blair took over and never mind how well it's all working out in practise - but if you're more a libertarian socialist, the Greens are looking more and more like the Sensible Party.

The interesting question is why aren't more ex-Labour voters voting Green? What's not to like?

I amd itn ecaptiaghle of drinking sthis d dar - Dr T

What's not to like by Herring (4.00 / 2) #10 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 02:45:04 AM EST
As mentioned elsewhere, their positions on medical testing, nuclear power and alternative medicine are driven by the idealistic hippy mindset rather than anything in the real world.

Apart from that, I agree.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
What's not to like? by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #18 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 04:54:27 AM EST
The fact that they'd ruin our economy inside two years?

[ Parent ]
How would we tell? (n/t) by motty (4.00 / 4) #38 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 12:50:21 PM EST

I amd itn ecaptiaghle of drinking sthis d dar - Dr T
[ Parent ]
Oooh that's a tough one! by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #43 Fri Jun 12, 2009 at 04:40:59 AM EST
I know - we could read their manifesto and policy documents!
  • bring the rail network back into public ownership
  • enforce slower speeds on the roads
  • tax air fuel to make flying more expensive
  • restore the rights of trades unions (including secondary picketing
  • advocate moving to more labour intensive organic agriculture.
No policy for defence that I could see in their list of policies.

* ban advertising or sponsorship of alcohol and tobacco.


  • bring offenders together with victims
  • early release for those on life sentences
  • overall reduction in consumption of animal products
  • divert the ¬£billions of development money still going into the nuclear industry into wind, tidal, biomass, solar power
  • everyone would be given a monthly carbon allowance free from the government. The rich would have to pay the poor if they wanted to use more
At about this point I have lost the will to go on ploughing through their policy documents, but I am sure the rest are all short term Marxist wishful thinking with an added sprinkle of vegetarianism.

[ Parent ]
Missed a last paragraph by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #44 Fri Jun 12, 2009 at 04:48:27 AM EST
Public services
  • Sources of greater public funding include funds released by making the tax system more progressive, including increasing income tax on the top earners, and public borrowing
  • It is no longer possible for the unions to
have too much power.

[ Parent ]
Nowhere to go by DullTrev (4.00 / 1) #32 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 08:50:12 AM EST

The Greens just don't really appeal to a lot of the people who are feeling that Labour has abandoned them. When your prime response to the financial crisis was to call for more schemes to insulate homes, it's not going to really make people see you as looking after them.

I see the Greens picking up a lot of middle-class former Labour voters, but I don't see them taking over as the main left party - and why should they? It's not what they are about.

[ Parent ]
totally irrelevant Canuck perspective by clover kicker (4.00 / 3) #8 Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 08:47:24 PM EST
background - Canada's population is about 2/3 anglo and 1/3 francophone. Canada is officially bilingual, federal gov't services are available in English + French.

Many of those opportunities are government jobs required to be filled by bilingual people. There are a lot more bilingual francophones then anglophones. It makes sense, learning English opens up many more opportunities then learning French. So most of these "bilingual" jobs get filled by francophones. Imagine the whining by redneck anglos.

The province of New Brunswick's population is about 2/3 anglo and 1/3 francophone. New Brunswick is Canada's only officially bilingual province, i.e. provincial services are in both languages, lots of bilingual-only government jobs. New Brunswick also happens to be a hillbilly hellhole with lots of rednecks.

By the late 80's bilingualism had been a dead issue in NB for years. But the utter collapse of the Tory party encouraged some of their fringe elements to fork a 1-issue party, that issue being the end of official bilingualism. They made a big splash and won several seats in the next provincial election, in fact forming the official opposition.

This spotlight KILLED the party, they were undisciplined kooks who had nothing positive to say, and spent a lot of time and energy infighting.

They never won another seat, the party dissolved a few years later.

The situation in France was similar, Le Pen made a big splash but couldn't sustain it.

Anyone want to bet the BNP can keep their shit together now that they're playing in the premier league with the big boys?

Also, does the BNP have any sympathy in the press? Certainly in NB the press loathed COR and gleefully covered every misstep.

Key point by bobdole (2.00 / 0) #34 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 10:14:22 AM EST
Certainly in NB the press loathed COR and gleefully covered every misstep.
This is enough to topple pretty much any politician today, especially in politics on the scale of EU where pretty much the majority of the voters have the minority of the information and voting pretty much on what they've read in the <insert-shit-rag-here>.

-- The revolution will not be televised.
[ Parent ]
It's not fascism until they're in charge. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #9 Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 09:29:05 PM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 2) #11 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 04:33:56 AM EST

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all he did was get out before the chicken came hom by darkbrown (2.00 / 0) #12 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 04:39:48 AM EST
e to roost.

I don't think that really deserves an "all." It's like saying all he did was scale mount everest twice while some useless celebrities strolled up mount kilimanjaro.

Of course, to all appearances, he didn't want to get out, Mr Charisma made him. But maybe that's just what he wanted us to believe.

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (2.00 / 0) #17 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 04:52:47 AM EST

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[ Parent ]
Essentially, yes. by darkbrown (2.00 / 0) #23 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 05:12:49 AM EST
I'm saying that getting out before it all goes to shit is all anyone in politics can hope to achieve. I'm also saying that if you don't choose you're own time to get out then it's less of an achievement.

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (2.00 / 0) #15 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 04:51:14 AM EST

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[ Parent ]
Blair by Breaker (4.00 / 2) #20 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 04:59:13 AM EST
Must be pissing himself right now.  Not only is he rich beyond the dreams of avarice, he's hung all the blame on the hapless accursed one eyed son of the manse.

His political nose and timing were truly his greatest talent, apart from being able to convincingly lie on camera.

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (2.00 / 0) #21 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 05:05:45 AM EST

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[ Parent ]
Partly all other parties fault too by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #22 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 05:07:16 AM EST
And the media.

By refusing to talk about the BNP, or debate them, they have become stronger as the anti-establishment party. 

The fact is, the BNP are a hard left party with an impossible to deliver manifesto.  Leave out the racism (which is what a lot of their representatives do), and debate them.  Instead of focusing solely on the racism (which due to the left shouting "racist!" every time immigration is mentioned has become a much devalued term of late), take them apart on policy. 

Vote BNP and you're voting to be made poorer.

Labour's recent vacillating over Gordo's leadership is going to see them annihilated in the next election.  I can only hope the LibDems take enough seats to form a credible opposition, for the good of democracy.

(Comment Deleted) by xth (2.00 / 0) #24 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 05:15:08 AM EST

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[ Parent ]
UKIP have too firm a line on Europe by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #27 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 05:30:48 AM EST
For there to be any coalition with the Tories, whose line it seems to be "Ummm, Europe, maybe, maybe not", depending on which way the press is blowing that week.

Which is why I will not vote for them.

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 1) #28 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 05:51:50 AM EST

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[ Parent ]
Might even by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #29 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 06:12:01 AM EST
Stiffen a few Tory spines as well.

[ Parent ]
BNP? Hard left? by DullTrev (2.00 / 0) #33 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 08:53:26 AM EST

Er... what?

Someone else explained this better than I can.

[ Parent ]
That was meaningless by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #35 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 10:18:55 AM EST
Meanderings into political history, not a point by point examination of the BNP's policies.

So - two for starters - BNP are big on a big state.  Last I checked that's a very left wing take on things.

Renationalise industries - very very leftwing.

And even the impartial political compass has them as left wing.

[ Parent ]
They put the socialism by jump the ladder (2.00 / 0) #37 Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 12:49:39 PM EST
Back in National Socialism. They are probably more working class in membership than Labour is now.

[ Parent ]
Fascism in the UK - All Labour's Fault? | 42 comments (42 topical, 0 hidden)