Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nazis in Neath, Wales and the BNP

Peter Hain reacted strongly, on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, to news that the BNP had done a street stall in the heart of his Neath constituency. There is a video on youtube posted by the BNP of their people giving out leaflets criticising Hain- but I won't dignify them by linking to it.

Hain said:
"They are a force that has to be confronted and defeated whenever they appear from beneath their stones. Their poisonous influence is disastrous for any community where they gain a foothold. We have seen where it has happened elsewhere. We have seen hatred spread and in every possible way. It's terrible news for any community - especially a God-fearing, respectable place such as Neath, which has a fine tradition of community caring, of respect for people whatever their background, whatever their beliefs and whatever the colour of their skin. I will be consulting party colleagues and others to make sure they are confronted wherever they appear next."

Very strong words, but Hain is discredited at the moment. The BNP seem to be focusing on building a presence in Wales with a view to obtaining a respectable vote in the Euro elections. The threat here is virtually absent compared to the real danger of them winning a European Parliamentary seat in parts of England. But civilised people should still be concerned about their attempts to build some kind of momentum in parts of West Wales. Online blogs appear to be the internet focus of their organisation and publicity in Wales- in particular they have 2 blogs based in South-West Wales and their activists frequently comment the online versions of the South Wales Evening Post, and the Llanelli and Carmarthenshire papers. Rather than being a strength, this does reveal some weaknesses, in that they are a pretty small band of people, and that people that focus mainly on political campaigning on the internet might have less social skills in appealing to people on the doorstep or at election times. In short, it's a waste of time taking them on over the internet, but campaigning against them on the streets gives a natural advantage to the more sane, credible political parties.

In a Welsh context, the BNP have never been succesful. Perhaps because Wales isn't perceived to have a race problem, they have never won a seat at the County Council level upwards, compared to scores of council seats in Englands. However, this article by Jon Cruddas warns that the BNP may find more resonance now that we're in a recession. Peter Hain might go a way towards redeeming himself if he suggests some ideas of how to take on the BNP in South-West Wales, and if he begins criticising Gordon Brown's economic policies, which have after all made some people vulnerable to picking up the BNP's fascist message.

The BNP can excite and inflame people on the left, in Wales and anywhere else, when really they do not achieve significant support on a national level in the UK. Especially as the vast majority of Wales has never seen a BNP leaflet, a point might be made that they shouldn't be given any comment at all in Wales, let alone be made the subject of blogging or political discourse.
But because it is Holocaust Memorial Day I think it is worth saying that for the sake of those who have died because of hatred and fascism, we cannot afford to take them lightly.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog.

    I'm not one for sticking my head in the sand and hoping the BNP will go away, but the protest that he has organised today seems to be giving them the publicity they seek.

    It's also given the BNP supporters who sit and Google BNP all-day the chance to put their comments on the Evening Post site. You get the same sort of comments whenever they are raised on-line in any local paper.

    I remember back in Crewe in the 80s, the National Front were selling their newspaper outside Barclays Bank. Considering they were happy to trade in apartheid South Africa, this seemed especially ironic. At our Labour branch meeting our gut reaction was to organise something, but in the end we left it, and we never saw the NF again.