B y Natalie Thorne, Dpt Editor
The recent demise of the BNP has been welcome on many fronts. For years it looked as though the British National Party was the place an extremist right-wing MP might come from. But with the party all wrapped up in leadership contests and internal arguments, it seems as though the threat from the BNP at least has abated.
However, the problem is that the minority of people attracted to racist policies has not declined. The disintegration of the BNP does not mean huge amounts of party members have suddenly realised immigration isn’t all bad, or that gay people should be allowed to marry, or that PC language is a good thing. There aren’t huge sways of ultra-conservatives suddenly putting on crocs and declaring free love just because Nick Griffin can’t keep his party together. The issue is still out there. The people are still out there.
And what is worrying is that another, more organised party seems to be attracting the bigot vote. UKIP started as a single-issue party. When it was founded that the message was clear – despite the far-right sounding name and some of the strong anti-immigration policies, UKIP was still quite centre. This may have been true in 1993, but only four years later in 1997, the very man who created the party resigned as more and more racists were attracted to it.
Last year, a report by leading academics Matthew Goodwin, Robert Ford and David Cutts suggested that the party was becoming a significant vehicle for xenohpobia and that its strong immigration policies were attracting a broader and more enduring support than the BNP. Even party leader Nigel Farage agreed that some EDL members may well be declaring UKIP as their party to hide their true allegiance when participating in the study.
Winston McKenzie’s recent comment that gay parents are ‘damaging’ for children is a prime example of where the party is heading. UKIP were quick to distance themselves from the suggestion same-sex partners are ‘unsuitable’ parents. The issue is that its strong, right-leaning policies are attracting racists, bigots and those who have found the Conservatives too soft and the BNP too badly organised.
Like the BNP, the party is attracting the extreme far-right, whether that is encouraged or not. While the party member knocking on your door may be a mild mannered retired well-known local, there are also a growing number of supporters who are much keener to see diversity curtailed. Although UKIP do not accept any members who have previously belonged to the BNP or National Front, there is of course no restriction to anybody voting for them. And with Conservatives shifting more to the left on issues such as homosexuality, the far-right vote does not have many other places to go.
So what can be done? The answer for most of us is not a lot. Wherever the right is lurking is where we will place our opposition. But for UKIP, the answer is a little harder. While wanting to win votes, the party is still keen to avoid a BNP style image. Unfortunately, its stance on issues such as immigration and gay marriage will always attract extremists and until this stance is changed, the party will be a temporary resting place for the fragmented right. As a single issue party opposing Europe, it is hard to see how it will ever manage this.