The talkboards and chatrooms have been busy over the last couple of days with talk of numbers., Specifically, the numbers of those attending meetings held by the rival camps in the BNP.
“70!” Shout Eddy Butler's camp of Monday's meeting in Yorkshire. “40! No – 35!” Yell the Griffin camp - “And we get more than that!”
It's like watching tramps fighting in a puddle over pennies.
The Griffin camp are increasingly cagey these days about claimed numbers for their meetings. Tired of being laughed out of the (chat) room with claims of “a packed hall last night listened with rapt attention to the words of wisdom of our Dear Leader. A collection raised in excess of a quarter of a million pounds.”, they often prefer now to leave the figures out of it and deal in euphemisms: “a lively audience” or “one of the most successful meetings for a long time”.
To hear them brandish their figures you'd think we were talking about Glastonbury-sized events at the very least. But 70 people? From the whole of Yorkshire? 80 to 100 people (at a meeting graced with the presence of their Leader) in London? In Derby, a friend runs a pub that hosts a monthly meeting of a long-established model railway club. He never has less than 90 turn out for it.
Of course, both camps will illustrate their meeting reports with photographs. The Griffin side's pictures now have a familiar mise en scene - a medium close-up of the Speaker with just a handful of the audience visible. A cynic might almost suggest that the framing's kept tight to disguise the acres of empty seats, the tumbleweed blowing through the room and the three people at the back who thought it was quiz night and got the day wrong.
The BFP (both Parties) haggle over whether their Membership is a few dozen or an even fewer dozen. There are “Nationalist” groups out there whose numbers of breeding pairs have fallen so low that the United Nations have them on the special protection register.
As ever, of course, these are the very people who try and present themselves as “The Saviours Of The Nation”. Given the numbers involved, and assuming they're probably not gifted with super powers (in which event 4 would probably do it), we can assume the Nation is quite okay as it is, thanks.
And in the background is the suspicion that they're all desperate to latch onto the sort of numbers the EDL are currently boasting. The BNP for one, despite their public “proscription” of the EDL and all its works early on in their life, continue to cuddle up to them on any number of “Patriot” websites and blogs and, occasionally, in public (most recently in Barnsley). BNP Members are spotted in the crowd whenever the EDL hold one of their drunken rampages (sorry-that should read “demonstrations”), and yet they still remain in Griffin's fold.
My own theory about the EDL is that they aren't so much a “political” force as an unpleasant fad. A bunch of sheep who enjoy being part of a big gang and causing a rumpus. Obviously, they're currently a lovely little earner for the iffy likes of “Tommy Robinson” and his chums (and, in a way, it's a shame they're not a “Party” because their accounts would make as interesting a read as the BNP's), but most of them are about as “political” as toddlers, and as with all trends they'll move on and one day be as hard to find as Kajagoogoo fans.
But everyone - BNP, BFP, NF, BFP, EDP – would love to capture just a fraction of their numbers. And their money, obviously.
One thing about the Anti-Fascists, be they UAF, CARF, or any number of smaller organisations (and surprisingly few Anti's – like myself - are actually paid-up members of any formal group): We're remarkably consistent in the numbers who will turn out for the Cause. Last year, 8000 people turned out on in filthy weather in Barnsley for the Love Music Hate Racism Carnival. 8000 people?
The BNP could only boast a fraction of that for their last “Festival”.
“Folk Against Fascism” - formed as a reaction to Griffin's attempts to co-opt folk music as being somehow “theirs” - has grown in a couple of years to a large, lively and professional outfit. Just seeing the amount of people wearing the badge at the recent BBC Folk Awards should send a message to him that he was barking up the wrong tree. Again.
But the bottom line – the only numbers that really matter – are the amount of people who will actually vote for the Far-Right: And those are figures that speak for themselves.
Very few. And even fewer every year.
But now I'm falling into the trap of boasting about numbers; shouting about how we've got more Supporters than they have. Honestly - it's pathetic...
(But we have.)