That Will Teach Him

On Monday 10 October the BBC aired a Panorama shockumentary film about the British National Party (BNP). This was the latest in a series of ‘exposés’ about that organisation, previous ones having been Channel 4‘s Young, Nazi, and Proud (2002), the BBC’s ‘BNP: Under the Skin’ (another Panorama film from 2005), and the 15 July 2004 edition of BBC One’s The Secret Agent.

Unlike its predecessors, this film, made by Darragh MacIntyre, did not focus on that party’s discussion of race and immigration (what he referred to as ‘racism’), but rather on the BNP’s financial management and accounting practices.

The film also enjoyed the participation of former senior party officials and employees, who had fallen out with the party leader and Member of European Parliament (MEP), Nick Griffin. These included the former party fundraiser, Jim Dowson; the former Director of Publicity, Mark Collett; the former treasurer, John Walker; former webmaster Simon Bennett; former party Administrator Marion Thomas; and former party worker Alistair Barbour. According to MacIntyre, he also spoke to various others, off the record, including David Hannam.

As a method of inspiring caution towards Griffin and his party among lukewarm supporters the film is effective. It reinforces earlier news reports about the BNP’s current financial troubles and persistent late filing of accounts and, more damagingly, presents its accounting practices as governed by a semi-criminal ethos. Only those with first-hand information, those sensitised to media tactics, and those who do their own research before forming an opinion will come to a nuanced—although not necessarily more positive—view.

The case is made by the former BNP officials, who in the film state that invoices were faked so as to comply with the Electoral Commission’s rules; that the party lied about its accounts; and that Griffin broke the European Parliament’s rules by extracting money from his member’s expense account and diverting it towards funding national party work. According to the film, for example, Nick Griffin rented a unit in an industrial estate in Cumbria to use as offices for his work as MEP, but also rented the unit next door to use as national party headquarters, apparently so that the latter could siphon off electricity from the MEP’s offices, and thus have the European Parliament pay the bill for electricity that was used for party work within the United Kingdom. MacIntyre concedes that when the European Commission investigators arrived at the site they found no evidence of an electricity scam, but one can easily imagine why, as all it would take to transfer electrical costs onto another entity’s bill is to run an extension cable. Yet the assertion is unsubstantiated, so MacIntyre films Alistair Barbour stating that for Griffin it was all about getting their noses in the trough and getting as much as they could out of the European Parliament.

Things look even worse when the film reveals how Nick Griffin chose to respond to MacIntyre’s requests for an interview. Evidently fed up with the BBC’s efforts to discredit him and his party, Griffin was reluctant to be interviewed to respond to the allegations—in the past he has complained of negatively biased selective editing by the mainstream channels. After some thought, however, he agreed to appear in the programme, only it seems he did so after recognising an opportunity to turn the tables on the BBC. In what was evidently revenge for what he considers the ambush of the BBC’s Question Time programme two years ago, he formatted the ‘interview’ like a press conference, with a reverse Q & A. The film shows Griffin first ending a statement about BBC bias in reporting BNP politics (as he would have expected, the statement was left out in its entirety) before making a swift exit and then having the BNP’s own cameras turn on the BBC before Simon Darby (the National Media Spokesman) launches a series pointed questions. In other words, Griffin orchestrates a televised ambush. The resulting video was gleefully posted on the BNP website shortly after it was made as a ‘taste of their own medicine’ exercise. (It is instructive to contrast this footage against Panorama’s version of this incident.) I say things look worse, not better, because the exercise, satisfying as it may have been for Griffin and BNP supporters, highlights to what degree the BNP is a reactive, rather than an active, party: they allow their tactics, approach, and character to be defined by their enemies; and thus, even when they go on the offensive they are still fundamentally defensive.

On the whole, the BBC film paints a picture of Nick Griffin and the BNP leadership as corrupt, opportunistic, thuggish, and incompetent. Of course, this is as one would expect from an organisation with a strong Leftist bias and a record of persistent negative reporting about their chosen bogeyman, the BNP. In reality, however, the BBC programme only scratches the surface, for one can find much more detailed and equally colourful—but ultimately tedious—background information elsewhere, courtesy of former members’ blogs, local news reports, the BNP website, and more.

In an earlier article I pointed out that many of those who share the party’s official views and policies for the United Kingdom, would worry about a BNP government. Not only is there an amateur quality to their operation, despite efforts to present themselves more professionally, but their approach betrays a rough-and-ready, quick-and-dirty, pub-brawl character when responding to challenging situations. Evidently this has much to do with access to money and the attitudes that result from the fact of marginality. It must also be in the nature of populist parties to be this way. The mainstream parties, who enjoy all the assurance of social legitimacy and access to professional advisors, manage much more successfully to appear respectable despite being fraudulent and corrupt on a much larger scale.

Indeed, the phrasing used by Mark Collett when discussing the party’s wins in the European Parliamentary election of 2009 is telling, as he says that it was thought at the time that the BNP would ‘now operate like a legitimate party’. Even if Collett’s phrasing was merely unfortunate, it betrays a culture within the BNP that in personnel terms has been defined by its lowest common denominator as well as by the marginality contrived by establishment academics, politicians, and media content producers, all of whom regard the BNP as essentially criminal. There is a subtle but crucial difference between realising that an electoral victory will enable members to operate as a professional party, and realising that said victory will enable members to operate as a legitimate party. The former suggests greater access to resources will reflect positively in party organisation and management; the latter suggests the party did not consider itself legitimate to begin with, which is different and independent from being considered legitimate by the establishment or the mainstream of society.

As bad as it all looks in the programme, a few comments about it are necessary.

One of them has to do with the BNP’s finances. An accountant hired by the BBC to assess the party’s accounts and financial position deems the party to be ‘technically insolvent’, and it has been reported that the party is £570,000 in debt. This is peanuts when one thinks of the Labour Party’s debts in 2010, which amounted to £16,600,000; or those of the Conservatives, which amounted to £13,000,000; or those of the Liberal Democrats, which amounted to £1,600,000. Even accounting for membership size, while the BNP’s debt burden is significant for a party of 14,000 members, said debt burden is £40 per member, while the Labour Party’s is £85 per each of their 200,000 members, and the Conservatives’ is £45 per each of their 290,000 members. Only the Liberal Democrats are better off. All the same, the Panorama film reveals that the BNP managed to triple their income between 2007 and 2009, which approached £2,000,000 that year. Conversely, it does not reveal that at least some of the debt has been accrued fighting the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), who did not like the idea of Whites organising politically as Whites. The BNP was not able to sign up new members while the court case dragged on. And, however much the BNP may leave to be desired, the EHRC case was a clear attempt at hobbling the party economically. The haters at the EHRC have no interest in having a party like the BNP be compliant with equality legislation; on the contrary, I am sure they would have preferred it if the BNP leadership had refused to comply, as that would have meant that the party, along with any other that sought to organise Whites polically as Whites, would no longer be recognised or allowed to operate as such.

Another is that the programme makers’ emulation of EHRC’s economically targeted approach appears to signal a change of emphasis in the establishment’s tactics. Nick Griffin is an MEP because a great many people voted for him, not caring if doing so was considered ‘racist’. The fact is that these voters felt the BNP addressed concerns that they had and wanted to make known to mainstream political parties, having noticed that said parties’ leadership only worries about those concerns when the BNP advances in the polls. ‘Vote for anyone except the BNP,’ said Conservative Party leader David Cameron in 2006. By focusing on allegations of maladministration and corruption, rather than on ‘racism’, it is clear that the hope is to undermine the confidence of supporters and thus make it even more difficult for the party to fund itself. This would indicate a possible recognition that an increasing number people are tired of the constant accusations of racism and no longer give a damn about being thought politically incorrect—that, in other words, the establishment’s ‘anti-racist’ ideology no longer enjoys the force it once did, creating the need for attacking the opposition’s status rather than their morality.

Yet another is that the programme treats former BNP officials and workers rather sympathetically. The viewer learns nothing about them, except their former positions, the fact that they left the BNP, and their being disillusioned with Nick Griffin and his ‘officer core’. Hard evidence seems scarce, and the viewer is presented mostly with a series of assertions. This has made it easy for Griffin to dismiss his critics as being disgruntled individuals with axes to grind. There is an unpleasant cynicism at work here that, as usual, insults the viewer’s intelligence.

What is interesting is that, as the allegations are presented in the programme, Griffin’s misdeeds—the fake invoices, the undisclosed donations, the misuse of expense accounts (all of which also occur within the mainstream parties)—all seem aimed at improving his party’s economic standing, rather than enriching him personally. His car, until recently, was a Skoda.

This contrasts with the corruption uncovered within the mainstream parties during the parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009, where members of parliament got their noses in the trough to enhance their personal lifestyles.

Convicted thief Elliot Morley, for example, former Labour MP for Scunthorpe, stole £16,800 from the public purse—that is, from people like you and me—by claiming £800 a month in respect of a property in his constituency for 18 months after the mortgage had ended. Convicted thief Jim Devine, former Labour MP for Livingston, stole £8,385 from the public purse by claiming against expenses using faked invoices. Convicted thief David Chaytor, former Labour MP for Bury North, stole £13,000 by claiming rent for a house which he owned, using a fake tenancy agreement with his daughter. Former Labour MP for Wirral South, Ben Champan, falsely overclaimed £15,000 against interest on his mortgage. Millionaire peer Amir Bhatia was told to repay £27,446 as a result of false claims against a second home. Tony Blair was luckier than his colleagues, as records of his expenses were shredded ‘by mistake’ when efforts began to have them published.

In the case of the Labour politicians, we have individuals who do not believe their own ideology: they use the language of social justice, redistribution of wealth, and class resentment, yet they clearly want to live the good life, and, though in some cases they already enjoy great wealth, they do not mind redistributing income extracted from the poor or the middle class in order to top up their personal bank accounts. In the case of Griffin, the film suggests a politician who is genuine ideologically, but who follows through with unethical and criminal practices. The latter would seem driven by a pub-brawl approach to politics, a deep hostility towards and mistrust of mainstream institutions, and the fact of marginality, a limit situation that intrinsically generates a need for bending rules, exploiting loopholes, and resorting to unorthodox, crude, and opportunistic tactics of dubious legality. Parts of this approach may be intellectually justifiable where an establishment has used the law to suppress dissidence, as in the case of certain speech laws, but outside of these specific areas this is not the case, and the BBC may have realised this and sought to exploit it accordingly.

Divisions, falling outs, and dillusionment has caused defections to rival parties; some of the former officials and employees who appeared in the programme are now working for them. These rival parties are small, however, and it may take many years before any of them gains brand recognition. The media and political establishment no doubt hope that by undermining trust in the financial management and accounting practices of the main nationalist party they will foster a climate of suspicion within nationalist politics as a whole, causing rival parties of a similar mould to find it more difficult to add members and obtain donations. And so long as they have limited economic means they will find it difficult to look important and like they have good prospects, both of which are essential given the human tendency to side with winners—being on the side of the winners makes a person feel good about himself, because he aspires to be like the winners and to count them as friends, since that sends out the message that he too is a winner.

From a broader perspective, so long as establishment institutions remain in the grip of, or are defined by, a Leftist ideology it will make little difference politically whether the BNP survives its present crisis, splinters into smaller parties, or disappears altogether. Its utility in recent years has been as a recognisable option for those wishing to scare mainstream politicians into re-thinking immigration and the state-sponsored policy of multiculturalism. The mainstream political and media establishment know full well there is no prospect of a BNP government, but this does not stop them from fearing that BNP advances in the polls will make it seem ‘OK’ for White voters openly to criticise and organise as Whites against policies that run counter to their interests and desires as an identifiable group. A film like the one discussed herein has the same aim as earlier ones that focused on so-called ‘racism’, the message always being that ‘if you support these guys, you’re supporting criminal thugs, so beware!’ It will not change anyone’s minds with respect to the fundamental issues of immigration and multiculturalism: those who favour current government policy will find themselves confirmed in their views; those who think the media has a Leftist bias will also find themselves confirmed in their views—even if they would not want the BNP in power; and the apolitical majority who simply adopt prevailing mainstream opinion will find no reason to change. The film is really for this latter group—it exists as a reminder of where the boundaries of acceptability lie, as well as a general deterrent against investigating alternatives.