October 02, 2009
Posted by Denise
There's something of a schizoid feel about the BNP membership's mindset at the moment. Half of them appear to believe that the party's electoral story since the June elections has been one of unremitting glory, while the other half have taken a long cold look at their candidates' dismal post-June local by-election performances and realise that the BNP is in serious trouble.
The leadership has clearly read the runes, and despite repeated claims of on-going progress, has ensured that election reports have largely disappeared from the BNP website. Even Martin Wingfield has been reduced to near silence, while the normally enthusiastic remnants of the party's recently purged blogging army can barely bring themselves to mention the latest embarrassments.
The election of Griffin and Brons, and three county councillors, masked the stark fact that in the middle of what Griffin himself called "the perfect storm" the BNP barely raised its voting percentage. All through the late winter and spring immigration related stories came thick and fast, and to cap it all the expenses scandal broke as the nation geared up to go to the Euro polls.
Conditions in which a fascist and racist party should expect to take mighty electoral strides forward had never been better. What more could the BNP ask for - public concerns about immigration almost continually to the fore and a near universal disillusionment with elected politicians, both intersecting in a notoriously low-turnout election never taken entirely seriously by British voters, and in which electors are prone to give the more esoteric parties the benefit of the doubt.
Yet the BNP did not take mighty electoral strides. Even in the midst of "the perfect storm" it put on less than 2% over its previous performance. By any yardstick that was a dreadful showing, but the unusual circumstances in which the elections were fought masked something even more fundamental, and that is that in anything approaching normal conditions the BNP vote percentage would have gone negative.
Unhappily we are saddled with Griffin and Brons, but that in no way alters the fact that, at the very best, the BNP stalled on June 4th.
Of course, those BNP members thrilled with the election of Griffin and Brons saw nothing but spectacular success, and were in no mood to engage in any sober analysis of events. Certainly, the wiser heads in the leadership were never going to encourage them to look at the disturbing picture behind the apparent triumph, and so the gloating refrains of "Nothing can stop us now" and the perennial "Onwards and upwards" tripped merrily from BNP mouths. So high soared their expectations that many seriously believed the election of the BNP's first MP in Norwich North was a real possibility.
In our report on that by-election we told of how the BNP, clearly having made no impact in the constituency and on course for a thumping defeat, abandoned its cod clerical candidate and his helpers to their fate and ceased to offer any support at all. It was too embarrassing even to mention.
Knocked out in Nuneaton
The week before Norwich North went to the polls the first real indication of the BNP's true electoral position came in a local by-election held in the Arbury and Stockingford (Nuneaton) division of Warwickshire County Council on July 16th.
The candidate was Martyn Findlay, already a sitting councillor on Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council. Findlay claims to be an effective local councillor, and certainly doesn't suffer from a shortage of publicity. He had the advantage of having been the BNP's candidate in the Arbury and Stockingford division just six weeks previously, on June 4th, when he scored a respectable 25% share of the vote.
With a 25% launchpad Findlay, buoyed up by the Euro triumph, had every reason to expect an increase in his vote, and the thought must have crossed BNP minds that they were about to celebrate the election of a fourth county councillor.
By now, however, the worst of the expenses storm had abated, and conditions were returning to normal.
Findlay's share crashed from 25% to 14%, two thirds of his vote evaporating.
This was a stunning reverse - surprising if you were a believer in the myth of June's success, not quite so surprising if you weren't.
It was, though, just one by-election out of many to come, and there was still the test of Norwich North on July 23rd.
Scuppered in Stockport
Norwich North sent the wretched reverend packing with a derisory 2.7% vote and a place among the joke candidates, but on the same day that Norwich North went to the polls, so too did the voters of Reddish North in Stockport, and Dormanstown in Redcar and Cleveland,
As in Arbury and Stockingford, in both wards the BNP had a record of standing candidates, and their votes could be directly measured against previous performances, which had been of the middling variety.
Reddish North had been fought in 2008, the BNP coming in third in a field of four, beating the Liberal Democrats into fourth place with 402 votes, or 14.5%.
Faced with a UKIP candidate on July 23rd the BNP was unable to sustain even that modest showing, losing half its vote to come bottom of the poll with 7.9%.
The excuse of a UKIP candidate wasn't available at Dormanstown. This ward had last been contested only three months previously, in April, when in a field of four the BNP came third with 305 votes and a 16% share. On July 23rd they again lost half their vote, their share tumbling to 9.4%.
On the same night a first time BNP candidate in Wellingborough Swanspool struggled to reach 10%.
Bust in Broxtowe
If Martyn Findlay's dreadful performance the week before had given cause for concern, the four results on the 23rd (Norwich North counted on the 24th) confirmed that all was not well with the BNP and the electorate. The bubble seemed to have burst - but never say die, not with Sadie Graham's vacated seat at Broxtowe Brinsley coming up for by-election the following week, on July 30th.
Graham first fought the seat in 2003, where, in a straight battle with Labour she took 43% of the vote. In 2007, in a four horse race (herself, Labour and two independents) she convincingly won the seat with a 43.99% share. What happened next we need not go into, but from early 2008 she sat as an independent, and eventually ceased to sit at all, necessitating her removal.
In fairness, it was always going to be difficult for the BNP to retain Brinsley, which they liked to pretend "isn't really a BNP seat anyway", and the party's electoral sages predicted a close-run contest.
The candidate was the appalling and treacherous Nina Brown, a Brinsley parish councillor who likes to attend German Nazi folk festivals. Whatever her expectations the result showed that the contest had been anything but close-run.
In a field of five Brown came second, but her vote share was 28.3%, a staggering fall of 15.6%, well behind the winning Conservative.
In a mere three weeks then, in four seats previously contested the BNP had suffered four calamities.
August provided no opportunities to compare the BNP's votes, but of note was an unimpressive performance in King's Lynn Gaywood, where the 12.8% BNP share mirrored that gained in the recent county council elections, and the party managed only a lacklustre 9.9% in Blackpool Stanley.
Something else was becoming evident, and that was the BNP's failure to contest some wards previously fought, offering no explanations. On August 13th they failed to contest Scarborough Hertford, and on the 27th failed to appear at Harrogate Starbeck. It was also noticeable that the BNP was failing to stand first time candidates in areas where it claims to be well organised.
Hobbled in Hewarth
As September opened the gloom continued. On the 3rd first time candidates appeared in Medway Luton & Wayfield and Plymouth Ham, respectively obtaining a miserable 6.58% and a joke 2.9%.
September 10th saw the BNP field four candidates, two first timers and two in wards previously fought. The first timers stood in South Tyneside Westoe and Harborough Welland, neither of them impressing with just over 11% of the vote (the absence of a Labour candidate in Welland helped the BNP considerably), but in the two previously contested wards the sorry tale of decline continued.
In York Hewarth the BNP share plunged from 13.2% to just 6.68% as two thirds of their 2007 vote disappeared. In Daventry Drayton matters were even worse, the BNP again losing two thirds of its 2008 vote as its share plunged from 33.11% to 14.35%.
Thus far then, the BNP met with disaster in all six seats it had previously contested.
September 17th should have seen the BNP contest at least three by-elections where it had a record of standing, and arguably two others where it claims to have an organisation - but no BNP candidate stood anywhere on the 17th. The party's beyond-a-joke 2008 showing of 1.5% in Birmingham Sparkbrook was, understandably, something it did not care to repeat, but the failure to stand in Redcar and Cleveland South Bank (15.8% in October 2008) and Amber Valley Ripley (20% in 2008, plus two sitting councillors) is inexplicable.
By now the scales were beginning to fall from even the most optimistic of BNP eyes, and rumours of internal dissatisfaction with a remote and authoritarian leadership, appointments of incompetent cronies to positions of power, lack of organisational support for branches and groups, appeal fatigue, Griffin's craven cowardice in the face of an EHRC inspired court action and the cavalier treatment of individual activists, some of whom appear to have jumped ship, was leading to open dissension, which may have something to do with the BNP's vaporous performance on September 17th.
Five by-elections took place on September 24th, each of them in districts known to have a BNP organisation, but the party fought only two, both of them previously contested.
Broxtowe Toton and Chilwell was never a happy hunting ground for the BNP, the party scraping just over 7% in 2007. It would be difficult to do much worse, but Dave Brown, husband of Nina (see above) somehow contrived to do it, helped on his way to humiliation by the circulation of leaflets depicting his attendance at the same German Nazi folk-fest as his wife.
The idiotic Brown took the BNP down to a 3% share, receiving 58 votes, just a quarter of the 2007 figure.
Three Rivers Hayling held out some prospect for the BNP, inasmuch as the party believed it could hold its 2008 30.3% share and second place (UKIP took 4% in the same election). In the event Labour fought a hard campaign that saw its vote more than double and its percentage rise from 32.3% to 53.4%. With the Conservative and Liberal Democrat votes hardly moving the squeeze was put firmly and painfully on the BNP.
Of all four parties standing it alone lost votes, and derived no benefit from the lack of a UKIP candidate. The BNP dropped to third place, its share crashing to 18.8%. Disbelieving BNP supporters have ever since been demanding to know how Labour "fixed" the election.
Eight attempts to defend its vote to date, eight thumping reverses.
Abandoned in Allestree
Coming right up to date, on October 1st the BNP failed to nominate in Sandwell Wednesbury South, despite claiming to have chosen Terry Lewin as its candidate and allegedly having begun campaigning. In 2008 the BNP took a 15% share in this ward, a very respectable starting point for a party that never tires of telling us that it cannot be stopped.
So why the failure to nominate? Well the BNP isn't saying, but the shambolic condition of the party in the recently "reformed" West Midlands may have something to do with it.
On the same night disappointment fell in the way of a first timer in Kettering Northfield, a grim 8.2% failing to meet with expectations of a minimum 10% in a ward the BNP claims to have worked.
And the misery continued in Derby Allestree, a ward previously contested in 2008 when the party achieved a modest 10.89% and last of four contenders with 563 votes. On October 1st their achievement was even more modest, the BNP share falling to 6.37% and 242 votes.
Allestree was unwinnable for the BNP, to be sure, but in the scheme of things the by-election was significant since it is the ninth consecutive electoral contest in which we can measure current BNP performances against previous outings - and in all nine we have seen the BNP fail not only to make headway, but fail even to maintain their vote share.
The full story:
(* first time fought ** failed to nominate)
Derbyshire CC Kirk Hallam 12.0% *
Warks CC Arbury and S'ford 14% (25% -11%)
Wellingborough BC Swanspool 10% *
Stockport MBC Reddish North 7.9% (14.5% -6.6%)
Redcar & Cleveland UA Dorm'stown 9.4 (16% -6.6%)
Tameside MBC Denton North 13.6% *
Broxtowe BC Brinsley 28.3% (43.99% -15.6%)
K Lynn/W Norfolk DC Gaywood Chase 12.8% *
Scarborough BC Hertford **
Blackpool UA Stanley 9.9% *
Harrogate BC Starbeck **
Medway UA Luton & Wayfield 6.58% *
Plymouth UA Ham 2.9% *
S Tyndeside MBC Westoe 11.74% *
Harborough DC Welland 11.1% *
City of York UA Hewarth 6.68% (13.2% -6.52%)
Daventry BC Drayton 14.35% (33.11% -18.76%)
Redcar & Cleveland BC South Bank **
Birmingham MBC Sparkbrook **
Amber Valley DC Ripley & Marhay **
Broxtowe BC Toton and Chilwell 3% (7.3% -4.3%)
Three Rivers DC Hayling 18.83 (30.34% -11.5%)
Sandwell MBC Wednesbury S **
Kettering BC Northfield 8.2% *
Derby UA Allestree 6.37% (10.89% -4.52%)