Ten reasons why the BNP isn't "left-wing"

Norman Tebbit describes the BNP as "left-wing". I beg to differ

I gave Norman Tebbit a warm welcome to the blogosphere earlier this week, but I'm dismayed to see that he's joined those who absurdly seek to redefine the BNP as "left-wing". I'm inclined to argue that to label the BNP as either left-wing or right-wing is to lend the party's "policies" a degree of ideological coherence they don't deserve. But even so, the increasingly popular argument that the BNP is left-wing deserves to be resisted, and here are ten good reasons why.

1. The BNP's political doctrine is based on theories of racial supremacy and hierarchy. Those on the right may have the ghost of a point when they explore the economic similarities between Stalinism and state fascism, but no far-left party has ever endorsed white supremacism.

2. The party may support widespread nationalisation but it's the end not the means that counts. The left supports nationalisation in the belief that it will further economic equality. The far right supports nationalisation in the belief that it will further the power of "the nation".

3. It has pledged to raise the inheritance-tax threshold to £1m (was this before or after the Tories?). Not much sign of left-wing egalitarianism there.

4. Unlike the "far-left" CND (to borrow the right's own definition), the party supports Britain's continued possession of nuclear weapons.

5. It opposes "left-wing" comprehensive education and would reintroduce academic selection at 11.

6. The party supports immediate withdrawal from the EU. Is this necessarily right-wing? Several far-left groups such as No2EU also support withdrawal. But those on the right who describe the BNP as "left-wing" are the very same people who portray the EU as an inherently left-wing institution. They can't have it both ways.

7. Like its fascist predecessors, the BNP is opposed to free trade unions.

8. The BNP opposes civil partnerships, supports the reintroduction of Section 28 and maintains a section on its website called "Liars, buggers and thieves". Even the most misguided conservative has never described homophobia as "left-wing".

9. It has pledged to repeal the Human Rights Act. For good or ill, the mainstream right has largely chosen to define human rights as a cause of the liberal left. It's therefore rather contradictory to describe a party that doesn't believe in them as "left-wing".

10. Appearing on Question Time, Nick Griffin declared the BBC to be part of a "thoroughly unpleasant ultra-leftist establishment". As my colleague Mehdi Hasan has argued, genuine lefties know that the BBC is predominantly right-wing.

 

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496