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.

Getty
Show Hide image

A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear