Grass roots upwards
British National Party Chairman
“Hard pounding, this gentlemen, try who can pound the longest.” The Duke of Wellington’s famous comment during the hardest part of the Battle of Waterloo pretty much sums up the elections of May 2007.
A cannonball of theirs: We lost sitting councillors where the opposition had had years to prepare a no-holds barred local onslaught backed by the combined might not just of their own electoral machines but also the resources of various fabulously wealthy ‘third party disparagers’. A cannonball of ours: In Len Starr’s seat in Burnley, in Stoke and in Brinsley, we overcame that pre-prepared onslaught to hold or win seats. A cannonball of theirs: Even tremendously effective local BNP political work in parts of West Yorkshire was outweighed by postal vote manipulation and ward-by-ward tactical voting ploys by all three main parties. A cannonball of ours: The impact of grass-roots community politics work gave us a string of outstanding breakthroughs and near misses in the East Midlands.
Then another of ours: We won even more town and parish councillors to add to the dozen we had elected unopposed on close of nominations a few weeks earlier – small steps on their own, but each one is another BNP campaigner with a foot on the ladder of local government.
All through the night of Thursday 3rd May and the following day, the hard pounding continued: Stoke Labour party took on our Steve Batkin, one of the hardest working grass-roots councillors of any party in modern times, and managed to take his seat after a recount. But in doing so they let us walk through an open door in Bentilee ward.
Despite a huge increase in the quantity and quality of follow-ups in Scotland, our vote in Glasgow fell. Though not by as much as the other minority parties, so that we moved up the party placing ranks, leapfrogging the Scottish Unionist Party and UKIP.
Good news from Wales
We took nearly ten per cent of the vote in Wrexham, and in Wales as a whole we secured more votes than the Greens and UKIP – despite both parties spending far more than we did. Then came the bittersweet realisation that just 2,000 more votes in North Wales would have made Enys Hughes our first Welsh Assembly Member.
Hard pounding indeed, with disappointments and advances in almost equal measure, but the overall verdict has to be that, in the majority of our target seats, a coalition of the old parties, the public sector unions and the media out-organised us and pegged us back.
Now, it may be that Labour’s mastery of the expanded postal vote system introduced a few years ago is at its high water mark. Having their key officials in Leeds caught red-handed by the Sunday Times abusing the system and telling activists to flush opposition votes down the toilet can only make Labour more cautious and pile more pressure on the Electoral Commission to get a grip on this scandal.
And by next year the Brown Bounce factor that helped Labour this time will also have worn off. Conversely, however, just as last year’s elections were against the weakest and least popular sitting councillors in most three seat wards, and this year’s were against more popular second place councillors, next year’s will be against the best that the other parties have to offer. So things aren’t going to get a whole lot easier.
Moving up a level
So here’s the bottom line: Several years ago our improvements in our own electoral machine caught our opponents off guard and gave us the string of victories that made us the story of successive elections. But the shock and humiliation of losing to the BNP forced the other parties to up their game. So from shock firsts we’ve been forced down to good but shell-shocked seconds. And that is where, by and large, we will stay unless we learn the lessons of May 2007 and take our game up a level as well.
Labour and the LibDems have learnt to concentrate on mobilising their own core vote (the elderly, ethnic minorities and the local functionaries of Brown’s welfarist empire), while their leftist allies combine expensive smear sheets and phone calls targeted at especially at postal voters to depress our vote. This is why, from key seats up and down the country we got reports of sitting Labour councillors trudging round the streets putting out their election addresses by themselves. Their activists weren’t sitting on their hands, they were manning telephone banks to identify pro- and anti-BNP voters and work on them accordingly.
In our best areas our people easily ‘won’ the traditional battle of the leaflets, often dropping three or four to every house in a ward for the single one put out by Labour.
But that’s the problem. We’re assuming that the public are as interested in political issues as we are; that they can be won over or mobilised by political concerns about the long-term.
Some can, which is why our vote (more than 300,000 in total in the English District and Borough contests, an average of 14.7% of the electorate) is so substantial and held up well even though we were fighting so many more seats in so many frankly weaker areas. But the majority are left cold by party politics, which is why nearly two-thirds of the electorate didn’t vote for anybody.
Our politicised hard core may well grow with external events, but even so we’ll be very lucky under remotely ‘normal’ circumstances if our core vote comes to exceed that of Labour and the LibDems and the minorities combined – and, make no mistake, that is what we’re up against.
And since trusting to luck is never a good policy, we are not going to. Over the last few days I have been in frequent and lengthy discussions with a number of our key election experts and organisers. Together we have analysed these elections, worked out how we have been pegged back and why in some places we bucked that trend and won, and begun to design an even better election-winning machine for the future.
More will appear on this subject in the new editions of Identity and Freedom, and much more will be rolled out at training seminars around the country and at the Summer School.
Grass roots upwards
For now it is enough to point to the fact that all our wins - bar one or two where the effort of keeping us out of Ward A simply left Labour unable to stop us in Ward B – came in places where our candidates and a handful of local helpers have been particularly effective at getting involved in real grass-roots community politics, and in using local newsletters to tell everyone in the ward that we are a ‘Good Thing’ for them and their area.
It is now crystal clear from these experimental operations that seeing our people do good and practical things for their community not only reinforces the willingness of our politicised supporters to go out and vote BNP, and undermines the effectiveness of the anti-BNP smear sheets, but also mobilises on our behalf an additional section of the essentially non-political population.
This, then, is where we have to go from here – rolling out the experience from these successful experiments to become the norm for every BNP branch, group and even lone activists.
Perhaps we should not have had to wait until such hard pounding forced us to take a long hard look at the shifting balance of power in the conventional political arms race between us and our opponents over the last year or so. After all, there is nothing new in defeated opponents learning new tactics to turn things around. Neither is there anything new in viewing the role of the organised nationalist movement as a sort of school that moulds first individuals, then groups, then entire communities, remaking them and turning passive, selfish consumers and observers into active citizens building a better future.
But being aware of this point in theory, and setting out to turn it into practice are two different matters. For the last few years we have been fortunate enough to be able to win seats while directly indulging our passion for politics and political argument. Until Brown’s ‘economic miracle’ heads South and other ‘events’ change the political landscape, those days are gone.
Electoral progress can and will be made over the next couple of years, but only by those who model what they do on our winners this time around, and not on what we did to win over the previous few years.
The first step will be raising the profile of, and the value placed upon, community politics work. We are already working on ways to do this, and they will be rolled out in the months ahead. Just to give one example, Martin Wingfield and I have already agreed that, from now on, Freedom will not be carrying reports of internal meetings, except occasionally in new areas or if there is something particularly unusual such as a huge collection for an especially useful cause.
From now on, if you want to see your branch or group’s name in lights and photographs in Freedom or on the regional news pages of the website you will have to press your Organiser to arrange a community clean-up or celebration, or one of a hundred other ostensibly non-political things that can be done to improve the lives of local people and the standing of our future candidate in one of our target wards. If you want to be in our headlines, if you want me to spend a day in your area, then you’d better plan to get me in overalls and high-viz jacket. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and get covered in mud!
The conventional politics won’t go away, of course, indeed it is our aim to step up the internal education process which turns protest vote new recruits (and there are plenty of those to be signed up over the next month or so, provided they are contacted and visited promptly) into fully-fledged and well informed nationalists. It is only what we are going to be doing with those new activists and older ones alike that is going to change:
Less about politics, more about people – for it is by serving the people that we will secure enough extra votes to keep our bandwagon rolling towards the power we need to have a serious impact on politics and the future.
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