It won’t cause much controversy to point out that Nick Griffin is a total wank stain. But since this week marks the end of Nick the nazi’s reign at the helm of the BNP, it would be a real shame not to dishonour him in some way.
The problem really is where to begin/end when discussing what’s wrong with the neo-fascist activist who led the most successful far-right party of the naughties. So let’s start a fair bit before the beginning. In 1948, while heckling a meeting of the Communist Party, Tory councillor Edgar Griffin met fellow repugnant right-winger and future wife Jean. The couple spawned the future fuehrer in 1959 and by the age of just 14, Nick was reading Mein Kampf and going to National Front meetings.
The racist toff attended Cambridge University where he became more involved with the far right, setting up the Young National Front Students society. His work for the party continued after graduating, writing for various white nationalist and neo-nazi publications. The young Griffin was a keen adherent to many aspects of the National Front ideology (anti-Semitism, organised racist violence, holocaust denial) but also a key figure in the development of some of the more bizarre thinking of the period. As a member of what was known as the “political soldier” faction within the NF, Griffin and Co. suggested that far from being a bunch of dangerously violent louts, they were actually soldiers fighting for a new kind of politics, between communism and capitalism, the “Third Way” (c) Tony Blair, several years later. This shiny new world would see the skinheads of the NF seek to align themselves with like-minded individuals across the globe, like Colonel Gaddafi (c) Tony Blair, several more years later.
Suddenly loving dictators who weren’t Hitler proved a bit much for many in the National Front and the party split into multiple factions, with Griffin leaving in 1989 and dropping out of politics altogether between 1990 and 1993, with the exception of that time he organised a meeting to gain support for holocaust denial.
The British National Party, itself an offshoot of the National Front looked set to be just another failed fascist project. Founded in 1982, they fielded 53 candidates in the 83 General Election but managed to gain less than 15,000 votes overall and when party founder John Tyndall was jailed for inciting racial hatred a few years later, the writing was almost on the wall. The complete collapse of everything else on the right meant by the early 90s, almost by accident, the party were the most credible electoral vehicle for racist politics. They began to make a breakthrough in 1993, winning their first council seat and going on to take a 13% share of the vote in the seats they contested in the 1994 local elections. With success came increased scrutiny and the fact that so many key figures were blatant Nazi thugs with a history of involvement in the National Front was seen as being too much for your average voter. Their sole councillor didn’t last the year and they tanked at the next local elections in 1998.
From this defeat, Nick Griffin, who had joined the party in 1995, saw his opportunity – having watched the successful rebranding of Labour and seeing the success of the National Front in France, he reckoned he could transform the fortunes of the ailing BNP. In the leadership contest, he presented himself as what he was, a posh Cambridge educated bully boy much like the rest of the political class, the kind of atrociously vicious and evil wanker people might actually vote for.
With a new-found air of respectability and a conviction for incitement to racial hatred under his belt, Griffin was chosen as the man to lead the party. Despite mostly kidding on he wasn’t a former NF member who believed in violent fascist revolution, the grim reality was never far away. Griffin applauded the London nail bomber and BNP member, David Copeland, who killed 3 people and injured 70 in a homophobic attack and party members, much like their leader, continued to regularly be found guilty of racially motivated offences. They maintained violently hardline rhetoric on homosexuality, criminal justice and immigration but nonetheless, the BNP was gaining members and picking up votes.
A rising current of Islamophobia in the West, following the onset of the “war on terror” was a perfect opportunity for Griffin and his nazi pals. By talking about “Islam” and “Muslims” instead of “blacks“ and “Asians“, the party could pretend they weren’t racist and were just saying what most of the mainstream politicians were implying. Buoyed on by an immigrant bashing media and by a Westminster class which looked uselessly corrupt and out of touch, the party grew in strength over the next 5 or so years.
I’m going to cut short my potted history here and get straight to the good bit – the downfall. The official tale is that the decline of the BNP can be attributed to that time Nick Griffin went on Question Time. We’re told that the best way to fight fascism is to invite it on the Beeb or have it round for some tea. Aside from this being bollocks on every level, the evidence for this claim is non-existent. Griffin and the BNP’s poll ratings went up after his appearance, the fact there was a whole show dedicated to everyone shouting at him helped him play his outsider card, bravely battling against the establishment with only the help of his millionaire backer and the national broadcaster. Our good friends at the Daily Mail, who have form supporting fascists, declared the event a “stage managed onslaught.”
It should also be understood that the rise of the BNP was not exactly what it was made out to be. By the time Griffin was elected an MEP, the cards of the far-right party were already marked. The BNP didn’t just grow and grow, they generally broke through and quickly fucked off again. In Burnley, their early stronghold, they had just 1 councillor left when Griffin took his seat in the European Parliament.. The Burnley party, who seemed to mainly turn up pished at meetings and brawl with each other were hated by Griffin, who saw them as an embarrassment and the feeling was mutual. Much as you’d expect from someone who’s clear aim is to be a fascist dictator, he wasn’t really into a diffuse power structures/loads of local fascists who hadn’t got the memo about kidding on they were really respectable.
In 2010, when Griffin predicted that the BNP would take control of Dagenham Council, they actually lost all 12 seats. Perhaps it was their plan to institutionalise all unemployed women under 21, perhaps it was their policy of taking all children away from single parents families or perhaps it was their suggestion that instead of building new social housing, they would put 1,000 “whites only” caravans in a field, who knows…
The finances of the party became increasingly messy in 2010 when they parted ways with notorious conman, Jim Dowson. Dowson ran a massive factory in Belfast where Office Angels temps would cold call people in an attempt to fundraise for the BNP. After a bust up with Griffin, Dowson fucked off to bring his “fundraising techniques” to Britain First, one of the many splinters from the BNP. Of course, Dowson has now had a bust up with Britain First (apparently he thinks the
paramilitary keyboard army might be attracting extremists and even racists…who knew??). Griffin ended 2013 by declaring himself bankrupt, for only the second time in his life, having the cheek to say something about the recession, despite being on a basic salary of £82,000 with a mere 210,000 Euros in expenses on top.
While money was one factor, the constant internal wars between Griffin and his critics were another. By the time the 2007 BNP membership list was leaked by a disgruntled former member in late 2008, it was joked that most of the list would have either left or been expelled by Griffin anyway. Alongside splits by the British Freedom Party and Britain First (to name but a few), the BNP’s other MEP Andrew Brons left and formed his own silly party.
Scotland wasn’t spared the infighting and the Scottish BNP has had more leaders during Griffin’s tenure that it’s healthy for us to count, each leaving after about a year or so after a massive bust up with Griffin – Hammy, Baillie, Raikes, the list goes on. The old BNP Scotland crew had a wee reunion last year, courtesy of our good selves but failed to secure a conviction for the alleged incident, said by one fascist to have brought a “dishonour worse than death” on Nick Griffin and the Scottish BNP (according to “Norse Law” which as we all know is what governs interactions on Buchanan Street on a Saturday afternoon) While we would more accurately describe what may or may not have happened as “nicking their banner from a bin”, we feel legally obliged to inform you that all this remains not proven, so sayeth the Scottish criminal justice system.
Anyway, back to our Griffin – between all the expulsions, purges, sackings, resignations, mysterious banner misplacement etc., Nick had a habit of making enemies of his friends and friends of his enemies. I
t’s hard to know what the standards are for nazi leaders but everyone who left the party always made a point of saying Griffin wasn’t a very nice one.
The rise of the English Defence League is often touted as one of the factors in the BNP’s undoing. The EDL offered a beer fuelled, taps aff day out for all the family – they attracted both hardline neo-nazi elements who were put off by Griffin’s pretend respectability and casual racists who weren’t about to start delivering leaflets about more frequent bin collections in a future BNP-run borough. In characteristic fashion, Griffin slagged off the EDL and both organisations said the other one was racist and their members couldn’t join it. When the EDL and their fellow defenders of the union, the Scottish Defence League had a big bust up and went their separate ways because the SDL were seen as being too loyalist (LOL), Griffin forgot he had just said they were all racist thugs and instantly teamed up with the SDL, declaring them “fellow patriots” just to piss off the EDL (and probably get it round whichever Scottish organiser he was purging at that particular moment, we can’t remember). The BNP looked tired and of another era by comparison to the EDL and those likely to be attracted to the new street “army” were unlikely to hold politicians in very high regard. By this point, Nick Griffin was a politician, a shit politician.
While all of this was going on, a much more electable racist was creeping up on nazi Nick. Nigel Farage didn’t have any convictions for racism or a violent history in the National Front, he’d never praised clerical dictatorships or the KKK in theoretical white nationalist journals and most importantly, he knew he could rely on party members to deliver “the message” for him (and occasionally sack the ones who delivered it a bit too effectively). While UKIP engage in open and explicit hatemongering, Farage himself often relies more on implication and inference. Griffin never quite mastered that and just sat on Twitter spewing racism, sexism, homophobia and (in case Scotland’s feeling a bit left out) sectarianism. While much was made of our two nazi MEPs, it was UKIP rather than the BNP who were the real breakthrough of 2009 and beyond.
With no money, no membership and a mere handful of councillors and with what seemed like dozens of other far-right sects on the ballot paper, the 2014 Euro and English local elections were never going to be a shining moment for Nick Griffin. By the end of the weekend, the BNP had just 2 council seats left and Nick Griffin was out of Brussels and out of luck. The man who had spent the last 15 years declaring that the BNP was “not a racist party” concluded that they got tanked because UKIP had won “the racist vote.”
It was only a matter of time before his bunker moment but we can’t help thinking the little Hitler has gotten off pretty fucking lightly. If I was going to overthrow Nick Griffin, I’d maybe manage more than a mealy-mouthed press release about times coming and good wishes for future endeavours.
So what now for Nick? Well, he’s already being trying out a few career paths on the sidelines. He started his own cookery show, offering traditional British fare. Griffin may well attempt to refashion himself as a masterrace chef, like a less hate filled version of Gordon Ramsey. Or maybe he could take up a job as a bookseller. If rumours are to be believed , one of Nick’s more outlandish fundraising drives took him to Libya, to meet his good pal Colonel Gaddafi. He asked the Colonel for cash for the party but was instead offered many thousands of copies of Gaddafi’s “Green Book” which Griffin and his cronies grudgingly accepted and have been haplessly punting ever since. Maybe now he’s semi-retired from fuehrering, he can dedicate more time to continuing to spread the message of the Colonel, like the good British patriot that he is.
Maybe he’s destined for the scrap heap. After spending the better part of a year spewing out anti-Roma and anti traveller sentiment, including making frequent jibes about scrap metal, Griffin sent an email to BNP members where he mentioned that now might be a good time to sell their wares and suggested a party fundraiser to go and…find some scrap metal.
Even the dump would be too good for the man who put a suit on and frog marched around for the last decade and a half. The BNP’s success, however limited, had consequences. Wherever they gained ground, racial tensions and the violence associated with it increased. It’s also not that his racists in suits model wasn’t effective, it’s just that Nick Griffin now finds himself the wrong racist in the wrong suit. The nazi Nick becomes the nasty little Nigel but the wheels of hate continue to turn.
The legacy of the Griffin’s BNP lives on, not just in UKIP or the many splinters across the far-right but in the now mainstreamed rhetoric of the political class, from the Coalition Government’s “Go Home” vans to Labour’s “British jobs for British workers.” British nationalism is hardly a minority pursuit. There is also little guarantee the party he used to lead won’t find some way back, it has before. But for now, we’ll take a tiny bit of comfort in the fact that this particular wanker has less money, less power and less pals than he did 5 years ago. Fascist leaderscum and fascist leaders go but Nick Griffin was and is a truly rancid wanker.