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The current state of British Politics
My flist is full of people being shocked because the BNP won two seats in the European elections.

I am just surprised that they are surprised. What surprises me is that the BNP does not gain more votes, because I meet the people who express BNP-type views (in private) often enough. I also overhear them on the bus and the tube and the train. Do my flist never travel on public transport and listen to other people talking? Have they not spoken to their parents' and grandparents' friends? Or are they all highly educated, middle-class liberals? (The answer to that one is probably "Yes.")

The BNP is an abomination, but in most countries in Europe there are equivalent parties which poll anything between ten and twenty percent of the vote. To think this is otherwise is to have a far too rosy view of human nature. We are tribal by instinct. Our weapon to fight that instinct is reason, and for that to work people have to be educated and encouraged to think. A lot of people have no real experience of this kind of education, and some may not be capable of reason.

The new BNP MEPs are representative of these people, many of whom are ignorant rather than malevolent. The problem with a proper representative democracy is that it represents everyone [who votes].

It isn't a great victory for the fascists. It is simply the way democracy works. What we should be celebrating is that fewer people actually voted for them than in the last European election, despite the fact that they were not caught up in the expenses issues.

And, while I am all for urging people to vote, you all might remember that the profile of the average BNP voter is male and over 55. Judging by those overheard conversations, there are plenty of BNP supporters who are younger than that. I suspect they do not vote so be careful what you all wish for.

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Brava! Very well put.

I read somewhere yesterday 'It's not the rise of fascism, it's the rise of apathy'.

I think you're right.

Two thoughts on this that I expressed in my own journal ( http://philmophlegm.livejournal.com/98511.html?mode=reply ) :

If you look at the changes in the share of the votes in the two regions where the BNP got MEPs, they mostly took votes off Labour. The knuckle-dragging element of Labour supporters vote Labour because they blame their own failures on the rich. It's a small step from that position to blaming their own failures on immigrants.

Worse than the BNP's two MEPs is Sinn Fein - IRA's one (gaining more votes than anyone else in Ulster). The BNP are a nasty bunch of bigots, but they've never to my knowledge killed 1,800 people.

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I agree. What depresses me is that people like this are out there. The answer is, as you say, better education. But instead with have a conflict-fanning set of red top newspapers.

This government (and past ones) do not actually talk about education - they talk about training.

I remember when someone suggested they replace religious education with ethics. I thought this was a great idea because ethics cannot be taught without teaching people how to think. It's all about logic and reason and working your way through to morality. The screams of rage not just from religious leaders but from politicians and teachers had to be heard to be believed. The objections seemed to be, primarily, for that very reason - that kids would be taught to think for themselves.

I was one of those who expressed surprise, but I don't live in Britain. Fortunately, I don't often hear things like that on the public transportation which I use.

Thanks for the perspective. I'm reminded that Hitler had vast public support, it wasn't all that long ago on a historical scale, and I've never thought those attitudes were confined to Germany.

We have our own problems. There is serious anti-immigrant hostility. There was the killing of Dr. Tiller, and the kind of people who support it. Yet lately we've avoided significant blocs based on hostility to specific segments of the population. Maybe it's because we had them for such a long time (e.g., the Ku Klux Klan) and nobody wants them back. I just hope it stays that way.

I live not far away from an area with a BNP elected local Councillor, which, typically, is an area of skilled manufacturing workers which has had large amounts of redundancy, and lots of immigrant population.

However, to be honest, I see posts on the Net and on the News of Republican politicians expressing views that would have BNP members nodding.

You can't put large numbers of people into categories, as I am well aware from my family history.

As it happens, I am half German. Both my parents were in their respective armed services during the war. My father was a Royal Engineer who built oil tanks and pipelines, both under the Channel (the PLUTO project) and across France, Holland and Northern Germany, often under fire. During the latter stages of the war my mother was in the German air spotter corps, stationed just outside Pennemunde - I am named after her commanding officer. My German Granny never spoke of Hitler, I am told, without adding, "Das Dummkopf", but my youngest uncle was a party member, a member of the SS and died defending Hitler's bunker in Berlin.

(And yes, as a half-German child in the 50s I did experience prejudice in the UK.)

We all have to be careful of our freedoms, but I, personally, I a much more afraid of the gradual erosion of our freedoms by the mainstream parties than I am of the lunatic fringe.

Well said. I wasn't in the least surprised either. Two reasons for the vote, I think -- one is, as you say, in your second par. The other is the voters' way of punishing the main parties for the expenses scandal and the recession -- a lot of people (particularly erstwhile Labour supporters) simply didn't vote.

Yes. I doubt that many people voted for the BNP as a protest - it just looks like it because Labour voters did not vote at all.

I can offer an anthropology POV. The youngest primates (and the less aware -- i.e. "uneducated" -- ones) respond quickest to simple, loud directives from Alpha primates. When there is a threat to the pack from the outside, they respond even more predictably. They are more easily manipulated by the pack leaders. Politicians know that so they play upon it to get predictable, measurable results.

And yes, it does seem to range around 20%.

As you know, I can deeply sympathize having just come through the last eight years of US Republican hell. :(

Power corrupts.

I rather agree with Arthur C. Clarke (I think in The Fountains of Paradise) that no-one who wants power should be allowed to have it, and leaders should be dragged screaming and kicking into their posts.

Our two major parties start off well enough, but they both take more and more control to themselves as time passes. This is what has happened with the Labour party and is why I won't be voting for them. It will happen with David Cameron's Tories some time in the future.


I agree completely - although I don't find being educated and middle class a bar to people holding and expressing what are, at heart, the same views as the BNP. They just express them in a more oblique way. I'm am now strongly reminded of Bremner, Bird and Fortune's dinner party sketches and the two middle-middle/upper-middle couples who are all the more grotesque because they are only lightly exagerrated. I also know a fair number of educated white working and lower-middle men who, if scratched, will express similar sentiments about immigrants and the failure of multiculturalism whilst still managing to despise the BNP.

I am interested that the profile of the average BNP voter is that old. I would have expected twenties or thirties, the age where white men seem to become aggrieved because - somehow - they feel they are disadvantaged in the work market in relation to women and any men who are not white. (Of course, in most cases, this is simply that the old privilege that automatically comes with being white and male is finally starting to erode. A bit.)

My area is a mixed race Labour safe seat and when Labour loses votes they tend to go to the BNP because the BNP talk a language that appeals to disenfranchised working class white men. Ignorance and the inability to think critically breeds hatred.

Sadly, having observed my own children's secondary education, I suspect these levels of ignorance will rise. There seems to be no concept of a rounded education anymore. My kids (12 and 15) are being furiously trained to produce GCSE results without any of the breadth of education that I (a grammar school girl) and Mr S (a secondary modern boy) both recall as being integral to our schooling. Subjects that used to require you to think your way into another point of view like History or English Literature are either narrowly focussed on producing set answers (History) or barely exist as a subject anymore (Literature)

I'm not suggesting formal education is a panacea but the possibility of producing a generation of children with as little depth of knowledge or ability to think as I'm seeing now is really quite frightening.

Yes. This.

As I said elsewhere on these threads, no Government is interested in education, only in training for the workforce.

Oh, so very true
I expressed very similar views about BNP voters today when someone said it was just a protest vote

One facet of this is that the BNP produced nice looking leaflets that did not talk about racism as such, but about things that worry many people, such as the appparent inequality between the treatment of criminal and victim, and other issues that the mainstream politicians appear to ignore. I guess that some people who voted for the BNP did so for other reasons than racism.

Also, I assert that it is not racist to believe that the population of the UK has been rising, due to immigration, fast enough to cause problems such as (but not limited to) inadquate infrastructure. For a long time the government stance that it was racist to question how many people the UK could comfortably support. Even now it may not be safe to mention the question of overpopulation in some groups, for fear of accusations of racisim. Maybe some people have overreacted against this attitude.

I agree - it's shocking how many people don't even feel enough shame to preface their racism with, "I'm not a racist but".

My experience is that there are a lot of women 55+ who have some of the worst views. Or maybe they are the ones who are quickest to assume that people around them share their opinions?

All in all, I'm relieved that the results of the elections wasn't worse.

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