The issue of British identity is a thorny one to say the least. Many have tried to define it, only to be hobbled by their own rhetoric.
That doesn't dissuade the BNP, however. David Ottewell, over at the Manchester Evening News's politics blog, has unearthed the far-right party's bizarre system of ethnic classification, which can be found in its membership rules. Only people from this bewildering list of categories are allowed to join:
The indigenous British ethnic groups deriving from the class of "Indigenous Caucasian" consist of members of: i) The Anglo-Saxon Folk Community; ii) The Celtic Scottish Folk Community; iii) The Scots-Northern Irish Folk Community; iv) The Celtic Welsh Folk Community; v) The Celtic Irish Folk Community; vi) The Celtish Cornish Folk Community; vii) The Anglo-Saxon-Celtic Folk Community; viii) The Celtic-Norse Folk Community; ix) The Anglo-Saxon-Norse Folk Community; x) The Anglo-Saxon-Indigenous European Folk Community; xi) Members of these ethnic groups who reside either within or outside Europe but ethnically derive from them.
Two questions arise. First -- wouldn't it be a lot easier just to say "white people"? Yes, but that would undermine the BNP's shaky claim not to be a racist party. (That claim will soon be tested in court, in any case, via legal proceedings launched yesterday by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.)
Second -- what on earth is a "folk community"? Does it involve bells and handkerchiefs? Once upon a time, the far right was all about grand visions. Here's Oswald Mosley, quoted in 1968:
The tragic paradox of our existing situation is that the fear of losing our individual cultures is the main impediment to a true union of Europe while in practice nothing less than the power of a united Europe can protect and maintain our present national civilisations.
Now, here's the BNP leader Nick Griffin in 2002, interviewed by the Observer's Andrew Anthony.
When I ask [Griffin] to name his ideal political state, he thinks for a while and then says: "In some ways middle mediaeval England, at a time when serfdom had given away to huge numbers of people owning their own plot of land and having access to the village commons".
Not only bigoted, but afraid of the modern world too, it would seem.