Griffin, the BNP, and the BBC Redux

>> Sunday, October 25, 2009

I, and several others, suggested that in the wake of Nick Griffin's appearance on the BBC, support for his non-racist British National Party would not appreciably increase. Indeed, Andrew Rawnsley writes a scathing, at times hilarious, piece in "Comment is Free" in today's Observer, in which he admits surprise that Griffin turned out to be "a big, blubbery wuss . . . a nervous, sweaty, shifty, amateurish and confused man, manically grinning when confronted with his back catalogue of repulsive quotes and occasionally venting bursts of incoherent nastiness."

In fact, his own party is critical of his appearance on Question Time for not going far enough, for attempting to portray the Party as modern and moderate, and, worst, for not being prepared: "Maybe some coaching could of been done so that Mr Griffin could of answered any questions articulately."

However, while Rawnsley points out that:
The more people see of the BNP, the more poisonous they will see them to be. I take that view even though they claim – not a boast to take at face value anyway – that they got 3,000 new recruits from a programme watched by an audience of 8 million. So the BNP's "breakthrough moment" won over, on his own figures, less than half of a thousandth of those exposed to its leader.
A YouGov poll conducted for The Times in the aftermath of Question Time has some surprising findings -- surprising if considered without context. It's common for any hyped appearance by political actors to receive a polling bump following said appearance, the most obvious of which is the "convention bounce" that the two nominees for the U.S. Presidential election receive following their convention appearances. The same largely occurs in the UK with the party conferences. I interpret this as no different. Indeed, those who would vote for the BNP if an election were held tomorrow increased from 2% prior to QT to 3% in this poll: neither a large boost, and well within the margin of error for a sample size of around 1300. In other words, meaningless.

More interesting, and likely to scare more people, is that 22% of respondents would "seriously consider" voting for the BNP in an upcoming election. Again, I'm not terribly worried that the UK will suddenly become a fascist state (at least not more of a fascist state, at any rate). We don't know the motivations for these responses, but my strong suspicion is that it has far more to do with the general mood in the UK regarding Parliament and the major parties considering the ongoing MP expenses scandal and a general if perhaps unarticulated disquiet with the electoral system. On the latter, the third Labour government was elected with only a little more than 35% of the vote in 2005, meaning 65% of those who voted voted against Labour and Tony Blair / Gordon Brown. Hence I suspect that this vague support for the BNP is a classic manifestation of protest voting, which will (and has been -- the EUP election as an example) manifest itself to greater degrees in second-order elections: those that don't matter as much if at all.

Again, Rawnsley:
The BNP has two main sources of support. At the core are extreme racists. The greater and softer section comes from disaffected voters who feel ignored and disenfranchised by the conventional parties and to whom the BNP presents itself as a stick with which to beat the political establishment.
Hence, I'm not terribly worried about Griffin's QT appearance dramatically inflating support for the BNP. There were only 3,000 more membership applications filed out of the 8 million viewers, and his own party isn't terribly happy with his performance.

The only people happy with the performance are likely the BBC.


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