Immigration not important to the BNP? The facts suggest otherwise

A surprising manifesto launch - plus Nick Griffin's theories on chimpanzees and ethnic conflict.

Backed by a man in St George-themed fancy dress, the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, launched his party's manifesto in Stoke-on-Trent today. Perhaps surprisingly, Griffin was keen to play down the importance of immigration to the party, preferring to focus on a call to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and a pledge to restore manufacturing. (You can hear how shaky Griffin's grasp of economics is in this interview with Today's Evan Davis.)

"There's nothing new about immigration in this document," said Griffin, waving a booklet titled Democracy, Freedom, Culture and Identity. "There's a whole different emphasis in this manifesto."

In fact, the manifesto offers "voluntary repatriation" to ethnic minority Britons and promises to review all citizenship grants awarded since 1997. But the change of emphasis is part of Griffin's ongoing drive to present his far-right party as a non-racist, legitimate political choice.

The trouble is, Griffin appears to have forgotten to tell that to his supporters. A study by academics at Manchester university (PDF) of what drove people to vote BNP in the 2009 European elections found that racial prejudice is "the strongest driver of BNP support, while anti-immigrant sentiment and populist hostility to the political mainstream are also significantly correlated with BNP voting". Tellingly, 31 per cent of BNP supporters agreed with the proposition that black people were "intellectually inferior" and 45 per cent said that non-whites were "not really British".

Griffin, who was convicted of incitement to racial hatred in 1998, is aiming to gain power by attracting a broader coalition of voters but, despite his protestations to the contrary, ethnicially divisive politics lie at the heart of the BNP's project. Here's what he told the New Statesman in an interview last year, when asked why a multicultural society couldn't work:

Almost every era of horror and bloodshed and brutality in human history has been because different groups don't get on. Thirty to 40 years ago, the scientists studying chimpanzees thought that they basically eat fruit, sit around all day, chase each others' wives and have a great time. What they now know is that chimpanzees launch genocidal wars against neighbouring bands of chimpanzees, which would suggest that my rather more suspicious view of human nature is right . . . Immigration has to be stopped, things have to be undone. If my vision of Europe is the one which ran from now, then no-one is going to get hurt in the future. If your way runs, you run the risk of your idealism having created the next Rwanda, the next Bosnia.

Another aspect of the manifesto Griffin chose not to highlight was its attack on Muslims, under a section headed "Countering the Islamic colonisation of Britain". (If you read my report on the BNP's election campaign in Barking, you can get some idea of how this anti-Islam message is going down on the doorstep.) Here's an extract from a speech Griffin made to party activists at a branch meeting in 2006 (quoted here by Peter Oborne), which suggests the focus on Muslims, rather than other religious or ethnic groups, is merely a pragmatic choice:

We bang on about Islam. Why? Because to the ordinary public out there, it's the thing they can understand. It's the thing the newspaper editors sell newspapers with.

Meanwhile, over at the Expose the BNP blog, Dominic Carman, Griffin's unofficial biographer -- and Lib Dem candidate for Barking -- has a list of ten questions for Nick Griffin.

UPDATE: the Nothing British about the BNP blog has expertly dismantled the manifesto.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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Could Jeremy Corbyn still be excluded from the leadership race? The High Court will rule today

Labour donor Michael Foster has applied for a judgement. 

If you thought Labour's National Executive Committee's decision to let Jeremy Corbyn automatically run again for leader was the end of it, think again. 

Today, the High Court will decide whether the NEC made the right judgement - or if Corbyn should have been forced to seek nominations from 51 MPs, which would effectively block him from the ballot.

The legal challenge is brought by Michael Foster, a Labour donor and former parliamentary candidate. Corbyn is listed as one of the defendants.

Before the NEC decision, both Corbyn's team and the rebel MPs sought legal advice.

Foster has maintained he is simply seeking the views of experts. 

Nevertheless, he has clashed with Corbyn before. He heckled the Labour leader, whose party has been racked with anti-Semitism scandals, at a Labour Friends of Israel event in September 2015, where he demanded: "Say the word Israel."

But should the judge decide in favour of Foster, would the Labour leadership challenge really be over?

Dr Peter Catterall, a reader in history at Westminster University and a specialist in opposition studies, doesn't think so. He said: "The Labour party is a private institution, so unless they are actually breaking the law, it seems to me it is about how you interpret the rules of the party."

Corbyn's bid to be personally mentioned on the ballot paper was a smart move, he said, and the High Court's decision is unlikely to heal wounds.

 "You have to ask yourself, what is the point of doing this? What does success look like?" he said. "Will it simply reinforce the idea that Mr Corbyn is being made a martyr by people who are out to get him?"