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.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.