Legality, Legitimacy and Vigilance

As we all know, the British National Party is a fascist, racist, xenophobic organisation, dedicated, like its National Front antecedent, to fomenting racial conflict. Their politics of hate has promoted and continues to inspire numerous racist attacks against, and murders of, ethnic minorities in the UK. The vast majority of whites have come to terms with the fact the UK is a multi-ethnic nation and find the views of the BNP abhorent. Hence the furore that erupted when BBC Television decided to offer the BNP’s leader, Nick Griffin, the chance to participate in ‘Question Time’, their flagship programme of political debate. Buoyed by the publicity generated by the BBC’s cynical ratings ploy, Griffin has announced his intention to contest the Barking constituency at the next general election, where his party has about a dozen or so local councillors.

The BBC defended its decision to give the BNP a platform on the grounds that the party has significant electoral support and that their inclusion was consistent with its public broadcasting ethos. It is the business of government to ban extremist organisations from pubic media, argued the BBC’s Mark Thompson, not the corporation’s. Moreover, it was argued, the BBC would find itself in a difficult to defend charge of censorship in the courts. The controversy is all but forgotten but, to my mind, leaves a number of unanswered questions.

Democracy is a sham if it is not at least about playing by the rules. In the light of the High Court ruling that the racist constitution of the BNP is illegal, why were they allowed to contest the by-election for Glasgow North East on 12th November 2009 where they lost their deposit? I have asked a number of people this question without getting a satisfactory answer. Yes, the BNP have declared their intention to change their memebership rules which exclude non-whites. But it was with the same racist constitution, ruled illegal, that they contested Glasgow North East. How can a political party whose membership rules are deemed illegal be allowed to contest any election under our electoral laws?

If or when the BNP change their illegal constitution, I am sure they will find a way to circumvent the law, calculating that they will not be inundated with applications from blacks, Asians, Jews and immigrants. I assume that the law under which their constitution was ruled illegal was passed after the election of their 2 members of the European Parliament and their last batch of councillors. But if it precedes their election, what would be the implications for their legitimacy?

The ‘significant support’ that the BNP enjoys reflect a wider resurgence of fascism and xenophobia in Europe and Russia during the last two decades. It is at times of economic crisis, like the current global crisis, that the enemies of humanity seize the opportunity to exploit the misery of poor working class whites, scapegoating ethnic minorities, igniting ethnic strife. Those of us who know about the history of racist and fascist attacks and murders cannot afford to be complacent. Our watchword must be vigilance.

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