May 16, 2007

Turning right - a review of last week's Radio 4 documentary on the far-right

[In fact, a review of all bar the last few minutes which was missed because the tape ran out. We weren't going to bother using this because of the damn tape but a few people have asked what the programme was like so this is for them.]

A most peculiar programme, as most who listened to it would surely agree. It never quite managed to get to any particular point - something that might possibly be blamed on the constant attacks on the BBC's alleged bias towards the political left or right, depending on who is claiming bias at the time.

It begins in a Hampshire village, complete with duck pond and ex-Tory, ex-UKIP, now BNP organiser Roger Robertson. Robertson's political acumen is astounding. He blames immigrants for all Hampshire's ills (whatever they are), particularly last year's hosepipe ban. As we've pointed out before, the BNP chooses not to look at poor investment by the profit-fixated water companies nor the huge changes that are becoming apparent because of global warming - but immigration as the sole cause of water shortages.

The interviewer asked Robertson to take him to meet a typical BNP-supporter in the village. Robertson, a foot-shooting buffoon surely destined to lead the party in the future, took him to an elderly female supporter who promptly and helpfully announced; 'I suppose in a way I'm racist'.

A Cllr Haffey, who lives in the village next door, is an outspoken opponent of the BNP, pointing out how much damage has been caused by nationalism over the last century or so and how the BNP's leader and most of the officers that surround him have criminal records.

Robertson's unnamed acolyte, when asked about the BNP's reputation for thuggery, said that we had that completely wrong, going on to claim, oddly, that what we must be thinking of is Mosley's Blackshirts. After all, she pointed out, a lot of BNP supporters are Christian. So there.

The 2004 State of the Nation poll, which was the basis of the Joseph Rowntree Trust's assertion that 20-25% of the voting public would consider voting BNP in a future election, which led to Margaret Hodge's highly-damaging statement before last year's local elections, has recently been updated with the 2006 results, showing that the figure has dropped to around 10.3%, which bodes a bit for the BNP.

This ties in rather neatly with the dismal results of the most recent local elections where the BNP's optimistic dream of gaining a further 50-60 seats turned into a gain of just one (now lost thanks to a BNP councillor defection) despite a record-breaking 750 candidates.

The programme then moved to Barking and Dagenham where the leader of the BNP contingent on the council, pornmeister Richard (Dickie to his friends, believe it or not) Barnbrook, was interviewed. Curiously the interviewer chose not to ask Barnbrook about the lies told by the BNP to gain its seats (Africans for Essex, for example) nor to pick him up on his odd assertion that the BNP was there to represent the 'indigenous' population including first and second generation Africans and Asians, nor for his bizarre and unlikely claim that 1 in 5 first and second generation minority groups voted for the racist BNP. Rather the interviewer, in a brief spasm of interviewing prowess, mentioned the poor performance of Barking and Dagenham's BNP councillors.

According to the leader of the council, Charles Fairbrass, the BNP's attendance record is appalling - around 51% - which Fairbrass suggests is a direct result of the fact that they simply didn't expect to win. He also criticised the BNP contingent for not turning up to the training sessions for new councillors.

Barnbrook had no hesitation in accepting the attendance figure of 51% and the non-attendance at training sessions but blamed that on the fact that many of the BNP councillors work and, the training sessions being held during working hours, they simply couldn't get the time off. Curiously, though unsurprisingly, the interviewer allowed this to slide, though he should have pointed out that councillors are legally entitled to time off work to attend to council business (including training sessions) and receive generous payments to make up for any shortfall in wages. Besides that, if anyone has stood for council without checking with their employer first, they're an idiot.

Barnbrook also supervises the councillors for the BNP nationally. Strangely he appeared completely ignorant of all the serious convictions of the councillors he's supposed to be supervising. When asked about a BNP councillor convicted of assaulting his wife and a police officer, racially abusing a group of Asians and being banned from every football ground in the country, Barnbrook claimed to be unaware of him. Also James Lloyd, who left the tenancy of the Blue Lagoon pub at Tipton after a shooting and various other violent incidents and amid police claims that he failed to co-operate with the subsequent investigations. And what about the BNP councillor convicted of three assaults on members of his wife's family (David Enderby)? Again and again, Barnbrook claimed not to know anything of these individuals and, sadly, the interviewer gave up.

The programme then moved to the cosmetic changes that have been made to the BNP. Nick Griffin, busily re-writing history, stated that the BNP evolved out of the old National Front, where there had been a 'neo-fascist strain', a 'racist strain' but not, according to him, a 'thuggish strain', describing any suggestion as 'massively over-exaggerated'. When asked if all this was behind the party, Griffin said yes, but it all takes a long time. It certainly does - the BNP moved away from the NF in 1982, a quarter of a century ago.

Griffin 'accepted' that anti-semitism had been a part of the party ethos but was no longer. When asked if he still believed the Holocaust was the hoax of the 20th Century, he responded;

'No, I do not.'
'What made you change your mind?'
'Primarily European law. If I say that now or believe that now, I'm liable to be extradited to France...I believe what the law says I must believe.'

Startlingly, the interviewer didn't take this any further.

Moving on to the BNP's attempted exploitation of Christianity for its own ends, the programme interviewed former BNP councillor (deservedly ousted in May this year) and fake-vicar Robert West, the leader of the BNP front-group, the Christian Council of Britain.

West, sounding uncannily like Andy Hamilton, was allowed to sermonise on what he perceived to be the evils of multiculturalism, claiming the purity of races as 'God's will', a phrase that certainly made me nervous. Picking selected chunks from the Bible, he spoke against race-mixing, claiming that God's command is that nations should live apart.

The Anglican Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, rejected this outright, stating that the claims made by West were similar to those made in South Africa to justify apartheid.

'It's nonsense, it's wrong and it's not at all in the spirit of the Gospel... I think what the BNP is doing is making use of a flag of convenience, namely the Christian heritage of the country. In the past they've spoken about the 'real' religion of the country being pagan worship of the Norse gods.'

From there, the programme went off to Griffin and West's bizarre ideas on Islam, neatly and concisely demolished by Inayat Bunglawala, spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, then drifted into apocalypse-mode with a discussion about the possibility of civil war.

Griffin quoted the arguably-insane Rear-Admiral Parry, who claimed last year that Britain would be in the grip of civil war within five years. While acknowledging this and stating that he believed this to be true, Griffin also stated that he expected the BNP to be in government (by which we assume he means would have enough MPs to control the government) by 2040, indicating that he at least has a rich fantasy life.

Finally, the programme wondered if, after its dismal performance in the recent local elections, the BNP can still hope to become a serious political force. Professor Peter John of Manchester University responded:

'I don't think so...Local campaigns maybe - nationally, no.'


Anonymous said...

Ah, thanks for that (im the same anon who asked for it) but its a shame that we cant hear the interview, even if it misses a bit out. Is it possible to upload the tape into mp3?

Antifascist said...

Not from here I'm afraid. I did the review on the day it was broadcast and re-used the tape for the News Quiz on the Friday. If someone lets me know they have a copy of Turning Right I'll pass it along.

Yesterday is the New Tomorrow said...

Apropos your comments regarding councillor probity, is the Tom Butler you quote this one?,,1975379,00.html

Antifascist said...

Yes, that's him. But before you leap to the attack on the grounds that he may have got pissed on one occasion (or not, of course), compare it with this bunch of loons: