Confessions of a Political Animal

March 4, 2009

The BNP and the fear of the other


Does the above chart show that multi-culturalism works?

By itself, no, but it could be read as making some interesting points about the impact that experience of diversity has on the likelihood of people to support far-right, anti-immigration parties, such as the BNP. The Animal’s chart doesn’t tell us anything particularly new – it is a well known fact that the BNP does best in heavily white areas – but after inputting the data for it, I was surprised at just how strong the correlation was. The chart plots the proportion of the population in each London ward that is of white ethnicity (caveat emptor: these figures are from the 2001 census. From a social scientist’s perspective, 2011 just can’t come soon enough) against the vote share achieved by the BNP in the cross-London Assembly list section of the May 2008 elections. This is probably the most appropriate election to use, as it requires voters to select a party, rather than a candidate, thus removing mostpersonality factors: this was also the BNP’s strongest section, with their overall vote share narrowly propelling Richard Barnbrook into the London Assembly.

My second chart confirms the picture hinted at by the first: (more…)


November 20, 2008

Now that’s what I call an obssession

griffinWhat was your reaction when you heard that the BNP’s membership list had been published on the internet?

a) A sudden desire to see whether any fascists lived on your road? b) A certain gleefulness that such a vile party had come a cropper in this way? c) A little salivation at the prospect of BNP members losing their jobs? d) A mild concern over the data protection issues involved? e) Or maybe you thought ‘Aha, here’s a chance to have a bash at someone who used to be Mayor of London’?

If your answered mainly ‘e’, then you are Andrew Gilligan, and I claim my £5. The Animal’s favourite scribe has dedicated his Evening Standard column to pushing the centre-right’s usual line regarding the hard right: “oh look, aren’t they small and insignificant, if we generally downplay them and pander a bit to the prejudices of their supporters, they’ll go away.”

Gilligan headlines his article “Now we know what little threat the BNP poses” and bases his assumptions on the fact that the membership list shows a relatively small number of members in London generally, with unsurprisingly, very low numbers in the inner boroughs. But surely this was news to no-one – it was always assumed that the party’s membership was somewhere in the vicinity (more…)

October 22, 2008

Boris: Racism ends in 13 days, official

Apologies for the Boris-centered nature of this blog at the moment – but the man keeps on delivering the goods, so to speak, and it would be rude to ignore him.

The news following the mayoral election that Mr Johnson would be keeping on writing his column for the Daily Telegraph, at a rate of a cool quarter of a million per anum, was met with a mixture of surprise and outrage. Now the outrage is reasonably understandable, but the surprise really shouldn’t be. The problem is that many of the Mayor’s critics fall into the trap of dismissing him as a bumbling fool: but the truth of the matter is that he is a highly skilled political operator, and the retention of the column is a crucial part of his operations.

Johnson is clever enough to work out that the day-to-day routines of running London are not, in themselves, going to be enough to keep the Mayor in the national media eye. In fact, it won’t even necessarily keep you in the Evening Standard. This problem becomes all the more acute when your conception of the job of Mayor seems to boil down to running bus design competitions for 11 year olds and passing off your predecessor’s achievements as your own. So what’s a Mayor with greater political ambitions to do? The answer is quite simply: keep on with your previous career as a professional controversalist – especially when past experience shows that you can shrug off any ensuing criticism through your ‘loveable’ bumbling persona. So over the (more…)

October 20, 2008

Two audiences: two messages

Back to the future with Dominic Grieve - on transport and immigration

Back to the future with Dominic Grieve - on transport and immigration

I blame Phil Woolas. In making his factually-limited and politically dangerous statement about curbing immigration during a recession, the immigration minister seemed to be going out of his way to legitimise as large a number of right-wing myths (‘coming over here, stealing our jobs’) as possible. Apart from the logistical idiocy of curbing economic immigration at a time when the Chancellor has rediscovered Keynes and is looking to bring forward a number of major infrastructure projects (as un-exclusively predicted by The Animal), Woolas has effectively given the government’s stamp of legitimacy to the inflammatory principle that foreign workers ‘take’ British jobs and that immigration is ‘out of control’. Beyond the succor that such a shift in the terms of public debate give to the extreme right, from a Labour point of view there should also be concern that Woolas’ statement has effectively allowed the Conservatives to claim that they were right all along and that it is somehow practical or desirable to set a limit on inward migration to the UK.

Inevitably, Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve (you know, he was brought in after that other guy went off in some sort of huff…) has sought to make hay today from the apparent government u-turn. In an article in today’s Evening Standard Grieve says

bit by bit, the Government is increasingly talking about immigration in terms that mirror what the Conservative Party has been saying with consistency for years. 

The worrying thing is that, in a way, he’s right. Of course, Grieve’s conclusion is (and I hope for the sake of race relations in this country that he is right) that the government won’t follow through on its tough words and that only the Conservatives can be trusted to ‘manage’ the migration system. But to be fair to Grieve, whilst his words are tough and the dog-whistle message to the knuckle draggers is certainly in there, he (more…)

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