Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Bloodied but not beaten

Were you up for Nick Griffin? It wasn’t actually a ‘Portillo moment’, which has to be unexpected as well as pleasurable, but the chunderings of the Fat Fuehrer (‘It is going to be too late for Barking but it is not too late for Britain’) were a joy to behold. The BNP’s Barking battering, where it lost all 12 of its councillors as well as being beaten into third place in the parliamentary election, was the highlight of a good night for anti-racists, which saw the far-right party lose all bar two of the council seats it was defending.

We shouldn’t get carried away, though. The BNP may be doing a good impression of a party on the verge of implosion as elements turn on a leader who picked up 3,500 fewer votes than the BNP council candidates in the wards that make up Barking. But while its defeat in Barking was spectacular, as it was in its second major target area, Griffin’s former ‘jewel in the crown’ of Stoke-on-Trent, its overall performance was one that any socialist electoral alternative at the moment would die for.

Nationally, the BNP won 563,743 votes (1.9 per cent) in 338 seats. That compares with 192,746 (0.7 per cent) votes in 117 seats in 2005. In other words, the BNP averaged 1,663 votes per candidate in 2010, a slight increase on the 1,647 votes per candidate it achieved five years ago.

The party’s absolute vote has held up well, and it has established small bases for itself across wide swathes of the country. Away from the headlines, in 10 seats in Leicestershire, for example, it got between 3.2 and 6.5 per cent of the vote, saving three deposits saved and getting 18.1 per cent (745 votes) in a Leicester City Council by-election. In Bradford, its candidate Paul Cromie was elected with 2,212 (30.8 per cent), beating the Tory by 15 votes on a 66 per cent turnout.

The BNP’s large-scale loss of councillors on 6 May was due in large part to the higher turnout from holding council elections on the same day as local elections, rather than reduced BNP votes. Even in Barking, many of the party’s councillors would have been re-elected if the turnout had been the same as in 2006. All but one of the Green and Socialist Alternative councillors in Lewisham, and Green councillors elsewhere in London, were defeated for the same reason.

The BNP may be bloodied but it is far from beaten yet.

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