Historians on the British National Party

9 06 2009

The BNP continues to attract a great deal of attention in the British media.  I’m inclined to think that much of this angst is unwarranted, as the BNP remains a very marginal force in UK politics. The parallels people have drawn between the so-called rise of the BNP in the wake of the credit crunch and the Nazi seizure of power in the Great Depression are lurid and unhelpful .

The Guardian,  the left-leaning London daily, asked a number of leading historians to comment on the BNP. None of these scholars thinks that the BNP poses a real threat to British democracy. I’m posting this link because the Guardian contacted some of the world’s leading historians, including Eric Hobsbawn, Michael Burleigh, and Richard Overy.

Flawed Globe and Mail article on the far right in Europe

9 06 2009

Doug Saunders has published a deeply flawed article on the alleged rise of the far-right in Europe. The danger is that the Globe’s Canadian readers  will accept Saunder’s flawed interpretation as accurate.

I normally like Doug Saunders’s work, but his article on the recent EU elections is a travesty of the facts. I will speak about the UK situation, which I know best.
First point: the BNP, which is clearly a racist and fascist party, saw its share of the popular vote fall in this election from the 2004 election.  Saunders wrongly suggests that the BNP is rising in popularity. Moreover, the BNP’s share of the vote is small.

Second point:  Saunders suggests that UKIP is, like the BNP, a racist party and that the jump in support for UKIP shows that Britons are becoming more racist. This is not the case. UKIP is a hard-right party like the old Canadian Reform Party. It believes in tax cuts, deregulation, is against the minimum wage, and it wants to pull out of the EU. UKIP admires the free market economy of the USA. It is not, however, a racist party, although it is opposed to the open immigration policies that have allowed many Polish and other Eastern European workers to come into the UK.

Third: European countries can’t really be compared to Canada, which is very much an immigration country. Britain is a densely populated island that has been inhabited by the same ethnic groups for many centuries. It isn’t Canada, which is sparsely populated and proud of its cultural diversity. One of the things I like the most about Canada is the sheer tolerance of Canadians. Canadian multiculturalism is a great success, something of which I am very proud.