As the deadline for the close of nominations in the BNP's Leadership Challenge draws near, I thought it may be helpful – for the benefit of any passing trolls – to give a quick run-down of the pro's and cons of your various contenders.
Past Baggage: Holocaust denial, a history of making inflammatory, racist statements and the small matter of once having made a speech in which he outlines how the BNP are just going to “pretend” to not be racist bigots, but they are really. No matter how Griffin tries to squirm his way out of this one, it'll always be there, both in print and on video. This alone should bar the man from ever gaining the public trust. In much the same way as my once collecting every album recorded by Donovan should automatically wreck my own chances of ever running for public office.
A Divisive, Dictatorial Party Leader: No leader of a modern political party has ever run his or her outfit in the way Griffin conducts his. Concentrating all power to his own diktat and sacking, suspending and excluding perceived opponents at will, Griffin has alienated so many people in his Party that the result was inevitable.
Choice of Friends: Jim Dowson, Clive Jefferson and Arthur Kemp. Not exactly the Bloomsbury Set of politics.
No Grasp of Media Presentation: From the downright idiocy of the Marmite episode to his bizarre appearance on Question Time – an hour spent wriggling, giggling, propounding his bizarre racial theories and generally demonstrating the kind of incisive grasp of human history we haven't seen since the days of Eric Von Daniken – Griffin may see himself (and be admired by his followers) as a seasoned old TV pro', but to the rest of the Nation he's got all the charisma, presence and easygoing charm of Peter Sutcliffe guest-presenting Loose Women.
Financial Dealings and Allegations of Nepotism: Look. There might be a perfectly innocent explanation for all of the allegations. It could be that everything Griffin and Dowson do is open, honest and above board. It could be. No, it really could. Honest.
Owns a suit.
Owns a suit. Several suits. All the same. Assuming he's trying for a Martin Bell, Man-In-The-White-Suit-Saviour-Of-British-Politics shtick, the choice of a muddy beige is unfortunate, in that it merely comes across as second-division. It's like Superman couldn't be bothered one day and decided to wear trackies and a polo shirt instead.
An Obvious Spoiler Candidate.
Loose Cannon: Allegedly suffers from a drink problem. Although no-one outside of his close circle will ever know for sure, Barnbrook's appearances at Mayoral Questions and various episodes captured on video in the past certainly point to a man with – how best to say this? - some eccentric ways about him. The very fact that he can share the same room as Boris Johnson and, by comparison, make the Mayor look a model of coherence and gentlemanly decorum speaks volumes.
You've got me there.
Lack of Personality: Such a lack in fact, as to constitute a potentially dangerous “Personality Vacuum”, as proposed by scientists a CERN. If, the theory goes, he were to come into contact with another such Personality Vacuum – say, an Orlando Bloom or Michael Gove – the resultant Personality Black Hole could suck in all charisma for miles around. Also, he's the spitting image of Patrick Malahide, who I don't think I've ever seen playing a Good Guy.
Past Baggage: Butler, although he attempts to portray himself as the Fresh Start Candidate, carries much the same baggage as Griffin: The NF past, several less-than-sensitive articles and pieces of writing under his name and a seeming complicity in everything the Leadership got up to until he lost his BNP job. It has been easy for the Griffin Camp to portray Butler as a Man With A Grudge.
A level of support among senior Party Figures and influential characters of the far-Right. Richard Edmonds, Jonathan Bowden, Michael Barnbrook, Nick Cass, Scott McLean, etc. Unfortunately, the sad truth for Butler is that while these people might be well-know to anoraks like us, they're probably a mystery to the lumpen majority of Members, whose limited grasp of their own party is that Nick Griffin IS the BNP (and they've never heard or read a bad word said against him, at that).
So that's it. Not much of a choice. Saying that the BNP tends to attract the Confused, Antisocial and downright Sleazy is a little like saying that the Nobel Prizewinner's Club appeals to fairly bright people, or that there are a surprising number of young, single men at a sci-fi convention. The truth is, of course, that Griffin has so rigged the entire process as to virtually ensure his own continued stewardship of the rapidly sinking enterprise.
A change of Leadership would make little difference to us – they're all cut from the same grubby cloth. The Press and the undemanding Membership may be fooled for a while, but the damage, this time, runs so deep that it's hard to see how they can ever pull back from the brink.
Whatever the next step is, come Tuesday, things look bad for “The REAL Opposition Party”™. Talk of bankruptcy, sex scandals, shady financial dealings, splits, expulsions... What next? The tragic disappearance of Griffin from a French Beach, leaving behind only an extra-large, neatly-folded cummerbund?
The Far-Right will always be riven with factional infighting: It's the one thing they share in common with the Far-Left (as a student I once shared a flat with another Socialist. Within a fortnight the two of us had split into five opposing factions). This time, though, they've decided to take the whole, tottering edifice down with them.