Sunday, 23 November 2008

Should the British National Party be allowed to speak at universities?

First published at

The decision at Exeter University to overturn a ban on having the British National Party to speak there is in some ways, an admirable one.

Freedom of expression is now an entrenched part of our social and political makeup, guaranteed under the Human Rights Act 1998, so the fact that young academics are involved in exercising their right to uphold this is a positive example of student activism.

Entertaining those with an unfamiliar and controversial viewpoint is also useful in promoting healthy debate.

The British National Party are a legitimate organisation, and the fourth largest party in the United Kingdom. They also claim to have the most visited website of any political party, proving their popularity. So the decision is a good one then?

Many MPs in the past week have come out to say that they are a racist party, including Harriet Harman, the Women’s Minister, on the Channel 4 News.

The British National Party would argue that this is a witch-hunt between the liberal-left media and the mainstream political parties. Nick Griffin, the BNP leader and his colleague Mark Collett were acquitted on charges of inciting racial hatred after a retrial. They were secretly filmed by the BBC for Panorama.

However, their ideals are not tolerant, and their website makes no point of hiding it:

“IMMIGRATION – time to say ENOUGH!

On current demographic trends, we, the native British people, will be an ethnic minority in our own country within sixty years.

To ensure that this does not happen, and that the British people retain their homeland and identity, we call for an immediate halt to all further immigration, the immediate deportation of criminal and illegal immigrants, and the introduction of a system of voluntary resettlement whereby those immigrants who are legally here will be afforded the opportunity to return to their lands of ethnic origin assisted by a generous financial incentives both for individuals and for the countries in question.

We will abolish the ‘positive discrimination’ schemes that have made white Britons second-class citizens. We will also clamp down on the flood of ‘asylum seekers’, all of whom are either bogus or can find refuge much nearer their home countries.”

Simplistic answers, playing on peoples fears, and a lot of rhetoric. But inspiring to someone. Will the BNP get a surge in support if they speak at universities?

Alternatively, would banning them from speaking and leaving them out of the media force them further underground?

Much of their policy is trivial: they wholly support good old-fashioned imperial weights and measures, definitely something worth arguing over…

Some borders on ludicrous- the BNP calls for the selective exclusion of foreign-made goods from British markets and the reduction of foreign imports- a sure-fire way to stop other countries trading with us.

Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, has admitted over the weekend that the rise in support for the BNP is a result of failures by the three main political parties. The rebranding of Labour since 1997 into a ‘catch-all’ party, means grassroots Labour supporters, generally the white, working-class, feel unrepresented.

At the same time Nick Griffin became leader of the BNP and saw this as an opportunity to shake off the extremist image to make the BNP electable. They have been intensively campaigning in disillusioned communities asserting patriotism, Britain for the British, and to many people, answers where they thought there were none.

This has all coincided with the leaking of the personal details of the 12,000 members.
Why so secretive if they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong? Serving Policemen aren’t allowed to be members- what does that say?

Scarily, but unsurprisingly the Internet is allowing them to get their message to more people, and target young (and more impressionable) people.

But increased support for extremist parties always happens when a country is in economic turmoil, lets just hope someone gets their act together soon…

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