On a previous comment thread, regular contributor to this blog Paul Cain repeats the allegation that the BNP's success in gaining 2 seats in the European poll is down to Labour neglect. Paul says,
"Is it any wonder that when New Labour spent more than a decade telling its natural constituency that they are racist bigots, then said voters respond by saying "If you're going to call me a racist bigot, I'm going to vote like one"?"
Paul reflects a commonly-held view in the media that BNP voters are predominantly ex-Labour, feeling betrayed by the direction of New Labour. But is this assumption correct?
I'm indebted to Hopi Sen, who publicises some key research on the UK Polling site. Drawing on a huge poll by Channel 4 in the run-up to the European elections, it finds that those voting BNP were, "more likely to be C2DE social class, likely to read the Sun or Star and almost certainly not a broadsheet, they are likely to work in a manual occupation... They are also likely to come from a Labour supporting background - 47% of BNP voters say their parents voted Labour."
So far so good. But at this point, the 'Labour as progenitors of the BNP' theory falls down. BNP voters were more likely to have favoured Cameron over Brown, and positioned themselves roughly on the right of the political spectrum - in other words, what pollsters would call 'working-class Tories'.
The analysis makes for fascinating reading. A majority of BNP voters, unique amongst all the other parties, disagreed with the statement “Non-white British citizens who were born in this country are just as ‘British’ as white citizens born in this country”. As the piece notes,
"Large majorities of every party’s supporters agreed that there was no difference in intelligence between black and white people…except for BNP supporters, where only 41% agreed. Almost half (49%) of BNP supporters thought employers should discriminate on grounds of race in favour of white people (compared to 11% in the general population), and 58% thought most crime was committed by immigrants (22% in the general population). 72% of BNP supporters wanted the government to encourage voluntary repatriation, compared to 27% of the country as a whole."
It came as no surprise to me that BNP voters were more likely to believe in classic conspiracy theories such as the 'Holohoax' or Jewish world domination, but not, interestingly to any great extent. The BNP leadership is therefore way off beam from the views of most of its own (temporary) supporters.
Where does all this leave us? Concerns about immigration predominate amongst BNP supporters, but these are worries which are high on the agenda of other voters too. The Government has responded and introduced new controls to address the issue, but clearly myth has become dangerously entangled with fact on this combustible issue. One voter told me, for example, that they knew that asylum seekers received a year's worth of benefit up front when they came to this country, and then weekly allowances. As a local councillor, I've heard repeatedly before the complaint that immigrants receive cars and mobile phones free of charge.
Fiction has become dangerously entangled with fact. I'll be blogging on the implications of this for the 3 main parties at the weekend.