Thursday, June 11, 2009

So who voted BNP last Thursday?

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.


Mike Barker said...

This sociological analysis is all very revealing, but the BNP thrives on attention from others: the "oxygen of publicity" as it is often called.

On the Tuesday evening before Polling Day I was out leafletting in the Bank Top area of town when I bumped into a group of four local trade unionists leafletting the same streets with a "Don't vote BNP" message.

When I arrived home there was a different leaflet on my doormat in Central ward with a "Don't Vote BNP" message. To my surprise, when I unfolded it, it was from the Labour Party (probably didn't have anything positive to say about themselves ;-).

I would suggest the result of these leaflets could be the exact opposite of what was intended. By highlighting the fact that many people were indeed considering voting BNP (or why bother to distribute the leaflet?) the Labour Party and Trade Unions gave the BNP a democratic legitimacy and suggested to waverers that voting for the BNP was just another choice on the ballot paper which could be chosen without recrimination (after all, frankly, how many people actually read much more than the headlines on these leaflets, which were all about the BNP).

Now, if such leaflets were being distributed to Labour wards across the country, it's no wonder that many people saw the BNP option as just another legitimate protest vote, rather than as a vote for a bunch of ugly racists.

Paul Cain said...

Coun Wallis:

I, too, saw the UK Polling analysis. Fascinating, I agree.

Yes, the majority of BNP voters said they preferred Cameron over Brown and positioned themselves to the right of centre.

At least, now they do.

I wonder what they would have said if you'd asked them 12 years ago?

I note they're all C2DE social groupings: Prime Labour territory.

Nearly half said their parents were Labour voters. All came from stereotypical 'working class' backgrounds.

So, isn't it just as likely to say that they've been forced rightwards after being ignored by their traditional party - Labour - for so long? Isn't that a far more likely explanation for this shift than the one you posit?

New Labour has been obsessed with the issue of race and gender/sexual identity since day one.

Such an approach, in my view, sits entirely awkwardly with the attitude of most British people I know: one of tolerance.

Most of us, instinctively, are too busy worrying about keeping ourselves afloat to give a monkey's about the sex lives/race of other people.

New Labour gave the general issue of identity a far greater importance than it ever had before 1997. There were, initially, good reasons for that: inequalities undoubtedly existed.

But New Labour never knew when to stop as Harriet Harman's recent attempts to introduce new 'equality' laws (in reality, inequality laws) demonstrates.

You institutionalise division by funding various community groups representing ONLY small sections of British society.

Jack Straw labels English Nationalism as violent, per se, and utters the word "Inshallah" at the end of interviews in a bid to curry favour with Muslim voters in Blackburn.

The theme of the last 12 years, as Eric Blair predicted, is that the British Left is ashamed of its nationality and has tried to surpress even benign expressions of it. (A very general statement, agreed: if the blog had room I'd include a long list of examples.)

Is it any wonder, then, that voters, seeing other groups' identity being "celebrated", thought they'd like a slice of that?

The BNP is the logical conclusion of New Labour's obsession with identity.

The BNP is essentially ridiculous because it leans on an ill-formed concept: British identity.

It's not something many of us had thought about before, but you forced us to.

Just look where the BNP vote has gone: the North West, Yorkshire and Humberside, Dagenham and Barking: Labour turf.

These are your people.

You forced them into the arms of the BNP.

You are to blame.

Ian W said...

Must agree with Paul

If Labour was not seen to be so much for itself and a little more the Labour of old these "floating voters" would not of floated.

What with the MP's expenses scandal, the economy and many other Labour gaffs I do think its a case of "he who sews the wind, must be prepared to reap the whirlwind"

This could just be the start come the next general election, I only hope that No. 10 has lots of mirrors so Gordon can look out and see just who got the Labour party into its present pickle.

I was one of those grass roots always Labour voters but after the last few years it would take an act of God for me to put an X on a labour vote.

BNP Dawn said...

Well lets have a look at the BNP in Darlington. The Organiser is an ex Labour supporter as is the party treasurer. My Father was an ex Union rep for a major Darlington employer and was asked to stand for Labour in the old Haughton ward. Hilary Armstrong MP is also alleged to be related to a local BNP activist.
Stockton organiser James McPherson once stood as a labour candidate. Ferryhill BNP candidate Andrew Fowler is also an ex Labour activist.

So I think it is fair to say that locally the BNP draws quite strongly from traditional Labour ground.

However the BNP enjoys support from all political directions. A former Conservative councillor from Harrowgate Hill has been a Member and supporter of the BNP for years. (apart from 1 year when he overlooked renewing(the year that the card carrying members list was leaked)).