'Dog bark' politics
10 July 2009
On Wednesday Nick Griffin, BNP leader and newly-elected Member of the European Parliament, told the BBC that boats carrying illegal immigrants to Europe should be sunk as they cross the Mediterranean. In an attempt to show his humane side, he insisted that he did not want anyone to actually die: "they can throw them a life raft and they can go back to Libya".
He has followed this up with an interview four Channel 4 News, in which he described Islam as a "cancer" that needed to be treated with "global chemotherapy":
In an interview with Channel 4 News, Mr Griffin, who has just been elected to the European Parliament, said there was "no place in Europe for Islam".
He added: "Western values, freedom of speech, democracy and rights for women are incompatible with Islam, which is a cancer eating away at our freedoms and our democracy and rights for our women and something needs to be done about it".
The BNP leader said he agreed with a candidate for the Flemish far right party, Vlaams Belang, who had declared: "We urgently need global chemotherapy against Islam to save civilisation."
This is the opposite of the 'dog whistle' politics that some mainstream politicians are accused of employing when they talk about immigration. Griffin is barking as loudly and as often as he can, in the knowledge that he will attract the attention of an outraged media every time he expresses a yet-more shocking opinion.
The BNP, for all its electoral success, is still a relatively small party. There are large parts of the country where they have few activists and the growth in their vote has been far from uniform across Britain. Griffin and the BNP now have a platform in Brussels from which they can circumvent any lack of local resources, or the no-platform policies deployed against them, and speak directly to their supporters via the media.
Griffin's words also give an indication of who he is trying to speak to. He is unlikely to be ignorant of the numerous recent reports of violent attacks on Muslims in Britain and abroad; the BNP tracks these news reports assiduously. Searchlight's recent polling, while identifying the expected socio-economic reasons why people vote for the BNP, also gave a sobering insight into the racism of many of their voters. If not quite a return to the open incitement of Griffin's days in the National Front, this new rhetorical assault shows clearly where the BNP's priorities and prejudices lie, and what they think they need to be saying to satisfy their current supporters, and attract new ones.