‘Mission accomplished!’ proclaimed the BNP’s post-election analysis. ‘The BNP has emerged from four weeks of hard campaigning … as Britain’s fourth largest party’ it went on. ‘Our progress is measured and steady, rather than euphoric and erratic, deep-rooted and growing.’
Overly ‘euphoric’ might be one way of describing the BNP’s claim to fourth-party status. The party’s reasoning is based on its scoring a higher average number of votes per candidate at the election than either the Greens or Ukip. The average vote polled by BNP candidates was indeed higher than its minor party rivals: the fascists scored an average of 1,620, while the Greens polled 1,387 and Ukip 1,230. An important omission from the BNP’s analysis, however, is that that the party stood only 119 candidates, whereas the Greens had 202 and Ukip 497. Overall, the fascists contested less than a fifth of UK constituencies and its share of the national vote was a disappointing 0.74 per cent.
The BNP’s average score of 4.2 per cent in the seats it did contest, however, does represent a slight advance on the 3.9 per cent it achieved in 2001. The party also managed to field more than three times as many candidates than the 33 it put up at the previous election. So, despite the fourth party nonsense, is the BNP’s claim to be making ‘measured and steady’ progress really correct?
In some areas of the country, the results achieved by Nick Griffin’s party are indeed worrying. In Barking in London, BNP candidate Richard Barnbrook polled 16.89 per cent of the vote, less than one point behind the second-place Conservative candidate on 16.98 per cent. In neighbouring Dagenham, the party’s candidate achieved 9.3 per cent, despite a well-organised campaign against it by the anti-fascist group Searchlight. Yorkshire and the West Midlands regions also saw a higher-than-average turnout for the fascists. Nick Griffin secured 9.2 per cent in Keighley, although this was less than the 13.1 per cent achieved by the party’s candidate in Dewsbury, David Exley.
Behind these few well-publicised successes, however, the overall national result for the BNP was a lot less promising. In many areas, where the party had performed well in previous local and European elections, the far-right vote failed to turn out. The BNP’s results in London fell well below its expectations, polling only one-third of the votes obtained in many boroughs in last year’s assembly elections. The party’s average vote of 3.1 per cent in the north-east and the East Midlands was also disappointing, given that it polled over six per cent in both regions in the European elections, with several constituencies seeing votes of over 8.5 per cent. In the north-east, East Midlands, south-east, south-west, London (with the exception of Barking and Dagenham), Wales and Scotland, the BNP failed spectacularly, losing its deposit in all of the 38 constituencies it contested. Other than in Barking, the party did not come close to achieving a second place, and finished a poor fourth in many of its target seats.
Therefore, although the BNP has shown it can win at a local level, it has yet to prove it can come anywhere near to winning nationally. If the BNP’s rate of ‘measured and steady’ progress continues, it will be a long time yet before the party gets a jack-booted foot through parliament’s door.
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