I’ve shared a tweet earlier today that unusually does not reflect my usual positive attitude about our prospects for the Euros. It highlighted the donations received by political parties in Quarter 2 of 2013, as recorded by the Electoral Commission. You might have thought Nick Griffin and the BNP were down and out. You might have thought that they won’t be able to mount a credible campaign next year. You might even be focusing on UKIP as the main nationalist threat in British politics. You would be wrong.
The BNP have had a terrible four years since Griffin and Brons were elected in 2009 as their two Euro MPs. They have been financially mismanaged, they have fought internally and they have split into two groups after a very close leadership contest. Last year the BNP accounts showed liabilities of over half a million pounds. Their membership was falling and it looked like they could collapse financially. That hasn’t happened. The explanation why is found in the latest Electoral Commission quarterly donation figures and 2012 accounts.
Despite a decline in membership during 2012, the BNP received some substantial legacy income. The claims by the BNP treasurer that even more legacy income will be received in 2013 have been substantiated by these latest quarterly donation figures from the Electoral Commission. From the point of view of their Treasurer, they are now back in the black financially and funds raised from this point until the election are not going to be used to pay off a huge debt, but instead will be channelled into the single electoral objective, which is to re-elect Nick Griffin.
So why do I think they continue to pose a real electoral threat. Let’s challenge some of the assumptions that are being made:
Myth 1: The BNP don’t have any activists left and won’t be able to run a campaign
That the BNP have less activists than in 2009 is absolutely true, but those members who remain are absolute diehard Griffin loyalists. They have been reduced to a rump, but there are no splits left and they will come to the North West to leaflet, and they will donate to and support Griffin in 2014.
Myth 2: You need lots of activists to run a successful Euro campaign
It definitely helps if you are a small underfunded party, if you have a lot of activists, but it isn’t an essential requirement in a Euro Election. In both 2004 and 2009 UKIP won seats in the North West despite a notable absence of any activism at a local level. What they did have was money.
Myth 3: UKIP’s rise will stifle the BNP
In the North West in 2009 more than one in four voters backed the BNP, the English Democrats or UKIP. One in four. The rise of UKIP at the expense of both the Tories and Labour leads to a possible scenario that UKIP, the Tories and Labour will all poll in the 22 to 24% range here in the North West. They would each win 2 seats, leaving the Greens, Liberal Democrats and BNP all capable of winning the remaining 2 seats with 7.5% or more of the vote (less than the 8% needed last time).
UKIP became the anti-politics vote in 2009 because of the expenses scandal, with huge national coverage. The BNP got lots of Griffin “will he / won’t he” win a seat coverage here in the North West. It is as you were. If the national climate of the Euro Elections is fought against a backdrop of anti-immigration and anti-European sentiment, there is no reason to suggest that the BNP won’t be able to attract those supporters again. They didn’t vote BNP in 2009 because of local casework by BNP activists or door knocking, but they did so because they recognised the BNP brand. That remains strong despite us enjoying the BNP infighting over the last few years.
Myth 4 – voting Labour is all you need to do to stop the BNP
This tactic works at a “First Past the Post” election. The BNP threw everything they had at a Cumbrian County Council seat in Maryport during the last local elections, gaining 41% but losing to Labour. This tactic doesn’t work at a Euro Election. An absolutely key point that people have to recognise is that whether Labour gets 22% (2 seats) or 27%+ (almost certainly 3 seats), it will not stop the BNP winning a seat if they get 1/3rd of the Labour vote share. In 2009 another 5,000 Green votes would have stopped Griffin winning a seat, but Labour would have needed an extra 50,000.
It is also worth pointing out that 9 months before the last Euro Elections, Labour’s General Election polling figures were at 32% nationally - this month they are polling at 35%. At the time of the 2009 Euro Elections they had dropped to around 25% in General Election opinion polls and in the North West they polled just 20.4% in the PR system used for Euro Elections.
The Labour Party is doing marginally better under Ed Miliband than they were doing under Gordon Brown at the same stage, but not hugely. I believe Labour is on track to gain the 27% to 30% they need for a third seat in this Euro region, but the idea that they could poll 36% to 40% or more is unrealistic. Any claims that they alone can beat the BNP are misleading.
Myth 5 – the BNP don’t have enough resources to run a Euro campaign
In the next 9 months Nick Griffin alone will draw a salary of around 63,000 euros and that is before you consider the 300 euros a day in expenses for simply attending the European Parliament. He won’t be badly off after 4 years and 2 months of an MEP’s salary. In comparison, the North West Green Party currently has around £45,000 raised or pledged for our Euro campaign. So basically, Griffin’s own personal income in 9 months will exceed our entire budget as we currently stand.
When you look at the BNP’s income for the next 9 months, do you think that will be evenly spread across 10 Euro regions, or do you think it will be entirely concentrated into the North West to retain Griffin’s Euro seat and a foothold in British political life? The question is entirely rhetorical. Every resource the BNP have will go into re-electing Griffin. It is simply complacent if we assume they are already defeated. We must work until every last vote has been won.
The Conclusions I am Drawing
- The BNP can lose vote share, perhaps dropping as low as 7.5% and could still win a seat depending on how (badly) Labour, the Tories and UKIP do
- The BNP will run a fully funded campaign in the North West, even if they barely achieve more than putting together a deposit to contest the other regions
- Labour in the North West are already expecting to win 3 seats in the Euro Elections but 4 seats is not a realistic possibility so Labour alone can’t stop the BNP, whatever claims they might make in their literature this time around
- The Green Party needs to beat the BNP in 2014. That alone does not guarantee that Griffin won’t win a seat, but if we gain 9% and beat them, it is difficult to imagine a situation where they can gain a seat as a 6th placed party (try using the D’Hondt calculator to test out scenarios)
In the next couple of weeks you’ll be hearing more from me about our dedicated campaign to attract those who didn’t vote last time, but who share the disgust we have about having a convicted racist representing our region as an MEP. In the meantime, if you want to help support us here in the North West, please visit our Green Action website. The Greens had donations of just over £27,000 in Quarter 2 of 2013 compared to nearly £96,000 for the BNP. Our money will be used nationally and spread over many regions, while the BNP will focus all of their resources here in the North West. We need your support to level the playing field.