So Nick Griffin has been saying offensive things about Nelson Mandela and has now visited Syria. Why? It is very simple. UKIP have dominated the media. Their principle vote winner is their tough stance on immigration and a secondary one is the demand for a referendum on Europe. In the North West, in the only region that counts for the BNP any more, Griffin is trying to grab back some of that airtime, and he is going to be willing to go to extremes to do it.
If the European Elections are conducted in a media environment dominated by immigration and Europe, with a background of continuing austerity and little difference in approach between red, yellow and blue, Griffin will still be hopeful of retaining the 8% the BNP gained last time. By using this dogwhistle effect, he hopes to attract back during the campaign hardline anti-immigration votes at a time when UKIP will be under increased scrutiny and may be making an effort to promote that they are both inclusive and multicultural (discuss!) and playing down any element of racism.
Most commentators don't think Griffin will get close this time but I still think the BNP will poll around 7% in the North West region and it will only take a last minute scare story to boost them back into contention. You only have to look at how close it was last time under the PR system for the context.
There can be no complacency regarding the BNP in our region in 2014. I'll outline three key reasons why:
1) Griffin has nowhere else to go or to campaign. The splits that have devastated the BNP mean that they have nowhere else in the country where they will be expending effort or finance. They will stand everywhere to ensure they get a party election broadcast, but every resource, financial and in terms of their remaining activists, will be focused on this region.
2) The 7.7% we won last time wasn't enough for us to win a seat as we were the 6th placed party. Actually, if you are the 6th placed party in a region like ours it is nearly impossible to win a seat. However the threshold for the 5th placed party to win a seat this time might be less than the 8% the BNP won in 2009. To test this out for yourself, use the D'Hondt calculator, input Labour, Conservative and UKIP votes between 21 and 23%, then put in Lib Dem, Green and BNP votes between 8 and 12%. Remember there are also minority parties, like TUSC/NO2EU, the English Democrats and SLP, who have no chance of winning a seat, but also have the effect of lowering the threshold needed. In conclusion, it is plausible that as little as 7.5 to 8% of the vote may be enough to win a Euro seat in the North West.
3) It's all about the money, money, money. If we spend £50,000 in the North West campaign, we will have met all of our fundraising targets and we'll be running our biggest ever campaign. The BNP expenditure on their campaign will be far higher. In First Past the Post elections, the BNP can be outworked and intensive work from Labour now they are back in opposition, has led to most BNP councillors losing their seats. PR elections are based on a different strategy and the BNP strategy will be to target their resources as effectively as they can into areas that had a high BNP vote in 2009.
So how much will the BNP be able to spend?
A Daily Mirror report in 2010 said:
"In addition to their £84,000-a-year salary, MEPs are entitled to spend £220,000 annually on administrative and constituency support. But it appears the BNP may be using this money to bankroll its leadership.
Griffin's website records that he employs Tina Wingfield and her husband Martin, plus Clive Jefferson, part-time. Andrew Brons also employs Martin Wingfield and the BNP candidate in Morley and Outwood, West Yorks, Chris Beverley.
Also on the EU payroll is Griffin's bodyguard. Others believed to be funded by the taxpayer include Eddy Butler, the party's head of elections."
So there is an income of over £300,000 a year from European funding to consider.
Nationally, the BNP in the first quarter of 2013 attracted donations of £32,000 compared to £23,000 for the Greens. Most of that BNP funding will be getting focused into the North West, while the Green donations are there to cover all of England and Wales, albeit with a little bit extra in targeted funding for developing regions.
So there will be no complacency from me in this campaign. There were too many good people in our region last time who either didn't vote, were persuaded that "the only way to beat the BNP was to vote Labour" [factually wrong and damaging] or who opted to vote NO2EU (which became TUSC) or for the SLP. Those votes could have denied over £1 million in funding to the BNP, but we have to respect individuals made those choices on what they thought was the best available information at the time. This time, it is clear that the Greens offer the best progressive vote to ensure the BNP don't win a seat.
If you want to help, offers of activism are crucial, but as you can see it is the need to get a level playing field financially that will be crucial for us. If you can help on that please visit Green Action and donate.