Online shop reveals the true BNP

The BNP's Excalibur stocks a "Golly Collection". Need any more proof of the party's racist nature?

The BNP's attempts to adopt a mask of respectability are proving ever more effective. From winning its first seats in the European Parliament to Nick Griffin's infamous appearance on Question Time, the far-right party is edging its way into the political mainstream.

But how can we oppose the politics of race, fear and hatred and stop the "normalisation" of the fascists? The answer, as demonstrated by the newly established Expose the BNP website, is to show the party's true nature, rather than lazily reporting its vision of Britain's doom.

This is remarkably easy to do. While party propaganda and Griffin's speeches carefully avoid racist references, such a deeply prejudiced organisation cannot conceal its core beliefs.

Potential voters should visit Excalibur, the BNP's online shop, which betrays an unhealthy interest in race and genetics (which, despite Griffin's denials, are obsessions the Nazis shared).

Four Flags: the Indigenous People of Britain is a booklet the BNP says "proves that the vast majority of the British people have ancestors going back to the last mini-Ice Age more than 12,000 years ago".

Although this may seem irrelevant in the context of the coming general election, it demonstrates the main appeal of the BNP -- especially when it is coupled with exaggerated claims about immigration. This is the party's technique for creating fear of an Immigration Invasion (the name of another book that Excalibur sells), which it says is destroying Britain.

Excalibur also boasts the "Golly Collection", a range of items based on the dolls now widely seen as racist, especially since a 12-year-old girl burned one at a BNP event. The party refused to comment on what place the dolls had in a shop whose stock includes DVDs on the Zulu wars and books such as Race, Evolution and Behaviour and Folk and Nation: Underpinning the Ethno-State (which Griffin co-authored).

The website also sells T-shirts bearing the slogans "It's cool to be white" and "British by birth: English by the grace of God" as well as one that warns asylum-seekers: "Don't unpack, you're going back."

Even with a small membership of about 14,000 and limited electoral support, the BNP is damaging to British politics and society, not least because two of its members represent us in the European Parliament.

To ensure that Nick Griffin joins Oswald Mosley as an unpleasant footnote in the history textbooks, politicians must challenge the view that the BNP is the only party with a clear immigration policy, addressing the concerns of people who feel that immigration is out of control, but without pandering to bigotry and intolerance.

Journalists must challenge popular myths, rather than repeat misleading claims that fuel the BNP's politics of fear.

What they fear is the truth -- that no one will vote for a party of hate. To see the truth for yourself, just visit their online shop.

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The Tinder dating app isn't just about sex – it's about friendship, too. And sex

The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, as I found out quickly while using the app.

The first time I met someone using Tinder, the free dating app that requires users to swipe left for “no” and right for “yes” before enabling new “matches” to chat, it was an unqualified success. I should probably qualify that. I was newly single after five years in a committed relationship and wasn’t looking for anything more than fun, friendship and, well, who knows. A few weeks earlier I had tried to give my number to a girl in a cinema café in Brixton. I wrote it on a postcard I’d been using as a bookmark. She said she had a boyfriend, but wanted to keep the postcard. I had no date and I lost my page.

My Tinder date was a master’s student from Valencia called Anna (her name wasn’t really Anna, of course, I’m not a sociopath). When I arrived at the appointed meeting place, she told me I was far more handsome IRL (“in real life”) than my pictures suggested. I was flattered and full of praise for the directness of continental Europeans but also thought sadly to myself: “If only the same could be said about you.”

Anna and I became friends, at least for a while. The date wasn’t a success in the traditional sense of leading us into a contract based on exclusivity, an accumulating cache of resentments and a mortgage, but it had put me back in the game (an appropriate metaphor – people speak regularly of “playing” with the app).

According to Sean Rad, the co-founder who launched Tinder in late 2012, the service was invented for people like me. “It was really a way to overcome my own problems,” he told the editor of Cosmopolitan at an event in London last month. “It was weird to me, to start a conversation [with a stranger]. Once I had an introduction I was fine, but it’s that first step. It’s difficult for a lot of people.” After just one outing, I’d learned two fundamental lessons about the world of online dating: pretty much everyone has at least one decent picture of themselves, and meeting women using a so-called hook-up app is seldom straightforwardly about sex.

Although sometimes it is. My second Tinder date took place in Vienna. I met Louisa (ditto, name) outside some notable church or other one evening while visiting on holiday (Tinder tourism being, in my view, a far more compelling way to get to know a place than a cumbersome Lonely Planet guide). We drank cocktails by the Danube and rambled across the city before making the romantic decision to stay awake all night, as she had to leave early the next day to go hiking with friends. It was just like the Richard Linklater movie Before Sunrise – something I said out loud more than a few times as the Aperol Spritzes took their toll.

When we met up in London a few months later, Louisa and I decided to skip the second part of Linklater’s beautiful triptych and fast-track our relationship straight to the third, Before Midnight, which takes place 18 years after the protagonists’ first meet in Vienna, and have begun to discover that they hate each others’ guts.

Which is one of the many hazards of the swiping life: unlike with older, web-based platforms such as Match.com or OkCupid, which require a substantial written profile, Tinder users know relatively little about their prospective mates. All that’s necessary is a Facebook account and a single photograph. University, occupation, a short bio and mutual Facebook “likes” are optional (my bio is made up entirely of emojis: the pizza slice, the dancing lady, the stack of books).

Worse still, you will see people you know on Tinder – that includes colleagues, neighbours and exes – and they will see you. Far more people swipe out of boredom or curiosity than are ever likely to want to meet up, in part because swiping is so brain-corrosively addictive.

While the company is cagey about its user data, we know that Tinder has been downloaded over 100 million times and has produced upwards of 11 billion matches – though the number of people who have made contact will be far lower. It may sound like a lot but the Tinder user-base remains stuck at around the 50 million mark: a self-selecting coterie of mainly urban, reasonably affluent, generally white men and women, mostly aged between 18 and 34.

A new generation of apps – such as Hey! Vina and Skout – is seeking to capitalise on Tinder’s reputation as a portal for sleaze, a charge Sean Rad was keen to deny at the London event. Tinder is working on a new iteration, Tinder Social, for groups of friends who want to hang out with other groups on a night out, rather than dating. This makes sense for a relatively fresh business determined to keep on growing: more people are in relationships than out of them, after all.

After two years of using Tinder, off and on, last weekend I deleted the app. I had been visiting a friend in Sweden, and took it pretty badly when a Tinder date invited me to a terrible nightclub, only to take a few looks at me and bolt without even bothering to fabricate an excuse. But on the plane back to London the next day, a strange thing happened. Before takeoff, the woman sitting beside me started crying. I assumed something bad had happened but she explained that she was terrified of flying. Almost as terrified, it turned out, as I am. We wound up holding hands through a horrific patch of mid-air turbulence, exchanged anecdotes to distract ourselves and even, when we were safely in sight of the ground, a kiss.

She’s in my phone, but as a contact on Facebook rather than an avatar on a dating app. I’ll probably never see her again but who knows. People connect in strange new ways all the time. The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, but you can be sure that if you look closely at the lines, you’ll almost certainly notice the pixels.

Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad