This year’s election looks likely to be the last for far-right British National Party (BNP), after Nick Griffin’s departure last year coincided with a seismic shift in far-right support towards UKIP.
A new-look BNP is contesting some seats in May, on the back of new party chairman Adam Walker’s recent announcement that “any extremist language or dogma is unwelcome”.
What he means by “extremist language” is uncertain, however. In its campaign for the Boston & Skegness Parliamentary seat, the party says: “Only BNP can ensure we do not slip further into the darkness of the horror of Jihad which is undoubtedly coming.”
To most, it matters not, since the BNP is no longer a force to be reckoned with. Anti-fascist group ‘Hope Not Hate’ said last year’s local elections heralded “the collapse of the BNP” after the party fielded 106 Council and Mayoral candidates, compared to 734 four years earlier.
How and when did it collapse? Its demise can be neatly traced to the last General Election, in 2010, following which a series of financial and organisational headaches weakened it to the point of insignificance as internal tussles took its toll.
In 2010, Griffin’s so-called “consiglieri” James Dowson left to form ‘Britain First,’ and in 2012, after another falling out with the party leader, Griffin’s chief lieutenant Andrew Brons left to form the equally ineffectual British Democratic Party.
All this had an effect when, a year later, less than 300 BNP candidates fared particularly badly in County Council elections, as the party lost its representation in key constituencies, including Burnley, where it had sat for over a decade.
Worse was to follow. In far-right circles, the party was seen as having lost out to the English Defence League for neo-Nazi sympathies, after the latter proved far more vocal in its hostility towards Islamist fundamentalism. An embarrassed BNP even had to ask to piggyback on an EDL march in Woolwich. The request was refused.
Finally, last summer, after losing his own seat in the European Parliament, Griffin filed for bankruptcy and left the party. To many, it signalled the end to the BNP’s relevance as a far-right threat, and consigned the primary hate figure of anti-fascist activists to the dustbin of history.
In whose direction will the far-right vote now go? A tweet from Griffin in November last year gives a clue. “I will hold nose & vote Ukip because it will help break up the Westminster system,” he tweeted. Assume many of his supporters will do likewise.
After years spent weeding out BNP ilk from UKIP ranks, Griffin’s endorsement was a headache for Nigel Farage, after having worked so hard to rebut criticism that his party was “the BNP in blazers”. For now, the Farage star still shines bright, and the party is far from set upon the self-destructive path of this now-defunct case study in nasty nationalism. For whom the Farage star shines is a different question entirely.