12 November 2006

Uncharted waters

He may be the latest but he is by no means the first. "He" is Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham in east London, where the BNP won 11 council seats in May's local elections

And Cruddas is warning that more and more disgruntled Labour voters are switching support to the BNP. Furthermore, he is suggesting that people in Labour heartlands have lost hope and have turned to the party in protest at mainstream politics.

As early as December 2003, Labour politicians have been raising similar warnings, then being the turn of Scottish MP Michael Connarty who criticised the government's treatment of asylum seekers, declaring that it could "fan the flame of the BNP".

More famously, we had Margaret Hodge in April this year, who claimed that as many as eighty percent of white families in her Barking constituency in east London had admitted that they were tempted to vote BNP in the then forthcoming council elections.

This was followed by the publication in the same month of a study for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. It indicated that up to a quarter of voters are considering supporting the BNP, the authors stating that this reflected feelings of "powerlessness and frustration" with the main political parties.

Then there was Frank Field, the former Labour minister who in June said that UK politicians were "living on borrowed time", arguing that it was only because the BNP were so inept that the debate had not taken off. Mainstream politicians had to address immigration, he said, "before the BNP stumbles on somebody with talent".

Of course, "mainstream politicians" have not addressed immigration – they have merely paid lip service to it believing, like the Conservative Party establishment last week, that the electorate is still in a mood to play games.

Jon Cruddas, at least, is closer to understanding what is going on – witnessed by the council by-election result on 26 October in Rotherham West. This is the archetypal "Labour heartland", where a turd with a red rosette could get elected – and often does. But, while Labour held the seat with 44.3 percent of the vote, BNP – standing for the first time, came a creditable second with 26.2 percent. And, had not an independent candidate been fronted as a deliberate "spoiler", creaming off 23.2 percent of the vote, BNP would have done better.

Interestingly, the Lib-Dems did not field a candidate, but the Conservatives did, expecting to gain from their rival's absence. While the previous May the Lib-Dems polled 21.3 percent, the Conservatives scored an embarrassingly low 6.3 percent.

The result had Tory blogger and self-acclaimed political commentator Iain Dale twittering in dismay, having totally failed to see it coming.

Had his finger been closer to the pulse, he would have seen the "straws in the wind" on 22nd April 2004, when in the Madeley Ward by-election (Telford, Shropshire), Martin Coleman of the BNP polled 13 percent of the vote (188 votes), only eight points behind the Conservative candidate who came third with 21.5 percent.

The real wake-up call came with the Euro-elections two months later and although the UKIP result was the big news, there were more important undercurrents, which were easily missed.

One person who didn't miss them was Mark Steyn who wrote that the political "mainstream" had become the minority. The only two parties most Britons had ever known couldn't muster 50 percent of the vote between them. Furthermore, between them, UKIP and BNP pulled 32.6 percent of the vote against Labour and the Lib-Dems whose combined share of the vote was 33.9 percent. "What, other than the blinkers of the media-political Westminster village, makes 32.6 percent the fringe and 33.9 percent the mainstream?" Steyn asked.

It was then that BNP noticed what they call the "mining town" effect, where their votes were appreciably higher in the old mining and steel towns than they were elsewhere. One of Iain Dale's own commentators had it:

The white local population are predominantly old-style working class, who would rather be burnt alive than vote Conservative. They dislike Liberals ("Tories with beards and sandals"), they really loathe TB's NuLab ("southern tossers"), and still hanker after the glory days of Arthur Scargill and the miner's strike. They have also had large-scale immigration dumped on them against their wishes and are a long way from the politically correct multiculturalism influences of North London.

So these OldLab supporters have the option of either staying at home or voting for the BNP. Large swathes of the North are in a similar position, which is why the likes of Jack Straw are trying to become more OldLabour in their approach to multiculturalism.

This is what happens when the three main political parties all try and stand on the same bit of the centre ground. Those who don't like it there have only extreme parties to vote for. Be prepared for large votes for the BNP and UKIP at the next election. DC be warned...
Up North though, UKIP is dead in the water, certainly in Yorkshire and Humberside, which leaves BNP. There really should have been no surprise at the Rotherham result. Yet, Mr Cruddas – in today's statement – is still able to assert that:

The BNP thrive in areas where people feel forgotten by the mainstream parties. We have to mobilise ordinary decent people against the BNP, on the streets, in workplaces and in local communities.
There are times when it is impossible to convey precisely the right flavour of a situation with the use of cold, clinical English and one has to resort to more colourful phraseology. And if there was ever a more appropriate use for the phrase, "heads up their own backsides", it would be hard to define it. Somehow, that phrase does so completely describe many contemporary politicians.

With their heads in the position – where the sun never shines – few of them saw more straws in the wind with the May local government elections. All the attention was in Dagenham where the BNP pulled 11 seats but up in Bradford, BNP contested 16 of the 30 wards up for grabs. They took 27.5 percent of the vote coming a close second to the Conservatives, pushing Labour into third and the Lib-Dims into fourth places.

The BNP were to repeat the trick in early October when they won a "surprise" 29 percent of the vote in a council by-election in Loughborough. Andrew Holders, the party's Loughborough organiser, took 478 votes to come second to Labour in Shelthorpe ward, Charnwood Borough Council.

There were also, of course, the two June by-elections in Bromley and Blaenau Gwent. In the hitherto rock-solid Tory seat of Bromley, the Conservative candidate, Bob Neill, only just got in with 11,621 votes against a strong challenge from the Lib-Dims, slashing a general election majority of 13,342 to 633.

UKIP came third, beating Labour into fourth place, taking 2347 votes, but what was especially interesting was that, collectively, the eight minority parties polled 4,518 votes. At the time we wrote that the cumulative effect of these minority parties was getting quite significant. It had definitely been a factor in the general election, where the UKIP/Veritas vote exceeded the Labour majority over the Conservatives in 28 seats, undoubtedly costing the Tories a significant number of seats.

Thus do we have a number of factors coming together. Firstly, we have a rebellious electorate that has ceased to act in accordance with its traditional, basically tribal mores. Secondly, we have a political class that has lost the ability to "read" its own electorate. Thirdly, we have polls which were basically designed to deal with a two-party system and have long since stopped properly measuring public opinion. Fourth, and finally, newspapers (and other media organs) which were once the bellwether of public opinion have so far diverged from their readers, listeners and viewers that they now represent the opinions only of themselves.

This can be seen even today, from the leader in The Sunday Telegraph which blithely asserts that, "No reasonable person disputes that … the British National Party is repellent."

That might once have been the case. But only in the last few days have we had Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller of MI5 telling us that her organisation is tracking 30 UK terror plots and keeping 1,600 individuals under surveillance, warning that the threat is "serious" and "growing".

This comes on the back of the London bombing, the Danish cartoon protests - where the BNP was the only political party that made a stand - and the "debate" over the wearing of veils.

We have also seen the recent conviction of Dhiren Barot, who has been sentenced to life after pleading guilty to conspiracy to murder people through a series of bombings on British and US targets. His invaluable contribution to "multi-culturalism" was the "gas limos project", a plan to blow up three limousines "packed" with gas cylinders and explosives next to or under target buildings in the UK.

And all the time, we see with our own eyes the growth of militant Islam on our own streets. This is while the politicians talk tough about immigration but do nothing and Blair is tells us that we face a "long and deep struggle" against (Islamic) terrorism - only he cannot bring himself to mention the "I" word.

Far from the BNP being "repellent", therefore, it is increasingly coming to represent mainstream public opinion - the only party so to do. It is leaving our politicians and their parties like beached whales, stranded on the shores of their own ignorance, complacency and arrogance, supported by a media which itself has completely lost the plot.

That puts us in uncharted waters but, amazingly, the politicians still think they are in command. So insulated from reality are they that they haven't even begun to realise that they are heading for the rocks and that the passengers have disconnected the wheel from the rudder.