Friday, 14 March 2008

Have We Reached A Disenfranchisement Tipping Point?

It looks like it. Things are getting rather interesting...

"Take a look at the comments on this CiF piece warning of the dangers of a BNP London Assembly member. The usual anti-BNP Guardianistas are simply overwhelmed - not by BNP supporters, but by people totally disillusioned with NuLab, some of whom are almost nihilistic in their desire to give them a shoeing. I've not seen so much weary contempt for a party ... I'd say a rough split in the comments is 10% basically supportive (anti-BNP), less than 5% pro-BNP, another 5% who might vote for them to poke a finger in the NuLab eye, and 80% a-virulent-plague-on-your-house stuff - the most wounding coming from ex-Labour voters.

Interesting times."
- Laban Tall (UK Commentators) (bolding mine)

I do read and post on Comment is Free, but I confess this thread passed me by, probably because I expected it to cover well-trodden left vs far-right ground. It is an article by Jennette Arnold, the only black member of the London Assembly, concerning the possibility that the BNP could gain a seat on the assembly. The article is pretty uncontroversial, so for it to attract 339 comments was at first glance surprising. Then I started reading the comments...

A sample:

"The point is not that the people posting here, in the main, are BNP supporters. It is that none of the main Parties has any right to expect my vote. The lazy slimey maggots have to *earn* it and frankly they are doing a p!ss poor job of it..." - MoveAnyMountain

"What a state our attempt at democracy is these days when all we can do is vote on the negative. In my experience those who do vote (and in my age brackett its not a lot) only do so to spite another party (keep the tories out! punish labour for the iraq war etc...)
This is probably the same reason a lot of people vote for the BNP. To voice their dissatisfaction with the two and half parties that supposedly represent us. Even my dad (a lifelong labour support and Guardian reader) toyed with the idea of a protest vote for the BNP."
- lazaroumonkeyterror


"[New Labour are...] a government that promised to deliver us from sleaze but has more fingers in more pies than the Tories ever did.
In fact a party that doesn't really believe in anything except it should stay in power and do exactly what it likes without scrutiny or complaint and we should all be ever so grateful.
The problem is the alternative is EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME, except that just maybe they wouldn't have pissed quite as much money away in the process.
Honestly listen to them, they REALLY think they are doing a good job. I mentioned it before but the report on education did really say education today would have been better if Labour did precisely nothing at all since 1997 and left the system alone to run itself..."
- haardvark


"Yes the BNP are a nasty, racist and divisive bunch of quite intelligent individuals (the knuckle dragging skinhead days are long-gone), Bbut look at yourselves - greedy, adulterous, insular, arrogant, liars. So are you worth saving? Sadly, no. For you to be salvaged you need destroying first.
Remember also what New Labour is responsible for in Iraq. Can you see the BNP being that evil and killing that many people?
When you abandon the whip system and represent the wishes of the majority of your constituents on every issue irrespective of your party policy, then you are worthy democrats. Until then you're just fascists with a very large allowances budget.
I have absolutely no intention of ever campaigning against the BNP ever again. Not because I like them, I don't, I think they're scum. I just think the rest of you are worse."
- Holyhead


The exclamation by one staybryte a third of the way down the thread is, I believe, an accurate reflection of how people all across Britain feel about the political system. The sentiments expressed on Comment is Free (as close to a cross-section of society as it's possible to get on the blogs) are looking more and more like they might have come from the Devil's Kitchen all the time. Staybryte's response to the BNP London Assembly really captured the feeling I'm talking about:

"Something weird's going on. I don't like making big predictions but something is afoot.
Posters here from left and right, Pikey, Twolegsbad, Danny69, BumbleDL, lazaroumonkeyterror, haardvark... to name a few
Ex-Labourites, rank Tories, cynics, libertarians, socialists, confused disillusioned political drifters like me...
People are REALLY PISSED OFF. The feeling towards all politicians isn't just cynicism, it's out-and-out fucking HATRED. I smell panic in this article, and in a few others I've seen recently.
We may be in for interesting times. We may look back fondly on the days of apathy."
- staybryte


At one time there were alternatives in British politics. If you didn't think much of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Government, you could vote for Neil Kinnock. There were real political differences between the two parties. Now, it all seems to be an amorphous mass. The old canard, "whoever you vote for, the Government gets in", has never been truer. Iraq war, EU, database state, inheritance tax, prohibition of drugs, higher salaries for MPs. Different colour flag, same old story.

As I declared in a similarly frustrated post last Friday, I've signed up to the UK Libertarian Party (LPUK). They promise to offer a real change to the awful, stagnant party politics we currently have. And maybe, just maybe, LPUK has formed at just the right time to capitalise on the disenfranchisement so many people feel over the actions of those in power.

Look at those comments I quoted above again. Take a look at the rest of the thread (some of the other replies to Jennette Arnold are even more strongly worded, nihilistic in their sentiments as Laban suggested - some even suggested voting for the BNP just to send a warning to the main parties!) and tell me that a party like LPUK isn't sorely needed!

5 comments:

ActonHighStreet said...

Interesting stuff, Ian, but I wonder if you're overplaying your hand just a little.

You say:

"At one time there were alternatives in British politics. If you didn't think much of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Government, you could vote for Neil Kinnock. There were real political differences between the two parties. Now, it all seems to be an amorphous mass. The old canard, "whoever you vote for, the Government gets in", has never been truer. Iraq war, EU, database state, inheritance tax, prohibition of drugs, higher salaries for MPs."

I think perhaps some of your examples reflect yours and my prejudices a bit-you mention the Iraq War-opposed of course by one major party (the Lib Dems) and significant chunks of the Labour and even Tory parties, the EU (depsite Cameron's centrist noises, I'm sure you agree that a Tory govt would take a different line on Europe), the "database state"-the Tories have shown clear blue water between themselves and New Labour on ID cards, for example and "the prohibition of drugs"-something I'm sure you'd agree was hardly a field of great difference between Labour and the Tories back in the 80s.

The political landscape has changed in this country, it's true, but not always towards a blurred central vision-look at the rise of the Nationalists and the Lib Dems since devolution and since Iraq and look at figures like Ken Livingstone-whose administration may be elected as Labour, but is hardly the same thing as the party in Westminster, which is no bad thing.

I wish you well in your political endeavours, but I think that suggesting that the British people are more pissed off with their elected representatives than they were in 1997 is perhaps a tiny bit ahistoric.

And as regards the original article and it's commentators-your readers should remember that a vote for the BNP is not an "up yours" or a threat to Gordon Brown or to David Cameron at all, but to those members of our society that the BNP and their supporters turn their rhetoric against-and that includes friends of yours, mine and many of the posters over at CiF.

QT said...

This isn't what I expected. For you to be defending the Tories against me perhaps demonstrates in its own way just how far we've gone down the extraordinary track I was talking about in the post.

The Tories taking a different line on Europe? I have no faith in that whatsoever. In fact, I expect them to do just what NuLab have done: Say what it takes to get elected and then do exactly what they bloody well want once they get that five-year mandate - i.e. a repeat of the early 90s approach to Europe.

ID cards? Notice I didn't say 'ID cards', I said 'database state'. Big difference, as you well know.

Prohibition of drugs? OK, perhaps it wasn't an issue in the 80s but then neither were 'Iraq war' and 'database state'. But it's another issue it would be nice to see some kind of sense on from at least one of the parties.


"I wish you well in your political endeavours, but I think that suggesting that the British people are more pissed off with their elected representatives than they were in 1997 is perhaps a tiny bit ahistoric."
I don't think it's that they're more pissed off with their political representatives than they were in '97, it's that they're more pissed off with the rotten system as a whole.

I covered the final paragraph of your comment in Saturday's post.

DLBumble said...

I think you have been taken in by the BNP's propaganda machine. Any article attacking them attracts their supporters like flies to you know what. a lot of them (mainly the ones whose knuckles aren't dragging on the floor) can be more subtle that to say "i'm sick of nulabour, vote bnp". so instead they say "i'm not a bnp supporter but... [insert bilious/vile/offensive comment here]". you can usually spot them by the use of such language which, as you rightly points out, more than verges on hatred. don't be taken in by them.

QT said...

@dlbumble: I did have that concern about one of the ones I quoted (but then I decided I was being neurotic). Two of the others, though, are regular CiF commenters and are not BNP supporters.

dirtyeuropeansocialist said...

What about the evil BNP man who claimed rape was trvial.
How do you allow such sick bullies in your party.
Only Paedoes insult I.