The BNP: Egg Stains On Democracy

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 20:52 | Filed in Politics

Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, and elected MEP for the North West was pelted with eggs as he tried to hold a press conference.

I’m no fan of Nick Griffin or the BNP. Indeed, in the build up to the European election, I voiced my disagreements with the BNP on more than one or two occasions. Indeed, when I heard Nick Griffin had been pelted with eggs, my initial reaction was to make a joke about it:

I might have been against the BNP (indeed, I still am) but I cannot condone throwing eggs at them. Particularly if half-bricks are nearby.@ThePickards

But actually, my sentiments are far much more towards the first part of that tweet than the second.

Like it or not, the BNP were democratically elected. In a democracy, you are not entitled to harass and assault (look, if people threw eggs at you regularly, you’d expect it to be considered criminal, wouldn’t you?) other people simply because they have a different point of view to you, particularly if they have been democratically elected.

The BNP, for all that I see them as a racist organisation standing behind a thin veneer of respectability, and for all that I abhor them and their policies, have been democratically elected. If people didn’t like that — particularly those in the North West or North Yorkshire — they should have got off their fucking backsides and voted for someone else. Every single person who didn’t vote increased the BNP’s percentage, and that is why they were elected. If you are one of these people, you’re responsible.

However, while I might not like it, they were democratically elected. In a democracy you have no right to silence those with whom you do not agree. In 1997, Labour swept to power. Some Conservatives would have liked this. Would they have had the right to egg Tony Blair? No. Not then, and not later when everyone else was sick of him either. Would we have the right to egg David Cameron, should he achieve the seemingly very possible and become Prime Minister in 2010? No.

Do we have the right to heckle them? Yes, I think that’s fine. As long as we’re not dealing with personal abuse, and we’re criticising their actions, or their policies, then I think that’s fine in a democracy. But not throwing things. Not harassment or intimidation. And before someone pipes up that the BNP can harass and intimidate people, the point is that those uniting against fascism ought to hold themselves up to a higher fucking standard than that of the BNP, otherwise seriously, what is the point?

If you want to live in a democracy, you have to be prepared to live by the rules of that democracy. Those that don’t like it can go back and live in some other non-democratic country. That might sound like BNP rhetoric, but that’s precisely the impact that Unite Against Fascism seemed to be trying to achieve. That’s it’s fine to silence someone we don’t like; that it’s fine to abuse them.

Weyman Bennett, the joint national secretary of Unite Against Fascism, confirmed later that his group had organised the demonstration and pledged that it would continue to attempt to disrupt Mr Griffin’s public appearances.

“What people wanted to demonstrate is that their filthy politics are not welcome here,” he told The Times.

Times Online

Well, Weyman, I don’t welcome your filthy, abhorrent, and anti-democratic practises either. I’d be quite prepared to Unite Against Fascism, but not if it means I’m expected to act in a bully-boy blackshirted manner.

I was — and indeed still am — dreadfully disappointed that our country elected some BNP MEPs (although pleased not to see one in the North East). But I am even more disappointed in Weyman Bennett and Unite Against Fascism, who have achieved something which is truly remarkable. They have:

  • allowed the BNP to be painted in a good light;
  • given Nick Griffin the moral high ground;
  • made it look like the anti-fascist movement are the bully-boys; and
  • made it look like Uniting Against Fascism is a bad idea.

Weyman, I hope you’re bloody proud of yourself. You’ve betrayed the democratic principle, and you’ve probably actually managed to make people more sympathetic towards the BNP. Next time you’ve got a bright idea, just don’t bloody bother, okay?

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10 Comments to The BNP: Egg Stains On Democracy

  1. Cole says:

    June 9th, 2009 at 9:22 pm

  2. iamadonut says:

    June 9th, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    ‘democratically elected’ – with the abortion of pr that we’re saddled with. i can’t see how anyone polling 8% of the european vote can claim any democratic legitimacy or claim any high moral ground.

    i agree the uaf the tactics weren’t too bright (the guy on channel 4 was early 1980s anti-nazi league central casting), but not much better than the ‘not in my name’ rubbish.

    i’m with margaret hodge. debate them and show them for what they are – thugs, hatemongers and opportunists.

  3. JackP says:

    June 9th, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    i can’t see how anyone polling 8% of the european vote can claim any democratic legitimacy

    I know what you’re saying there, but ultimately they won those seats: complaining about the PR thing afterwards is like asking for the play-offs to be scrapped because you finished third and got knocked out in the semi-final. All the teams knew what the rules were when they entered the competition…

    I’m with margaret hodge. debate them and show them for what they are – thugs, hatemongers and opportunists.

    That sounds like the right idea to me too.

  4. Mr Matt says:

    June 9th, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    The gummint managed 15% of the vote, and that includes the “pig in a red rosette” votes. Perhaps if they had managed to portray themselves as anything other than a bunch of morally corrupt and intellectually bankrupt third raters then such a large vote would not have gone to the extreme far right.

  5. Theresa Cronin says:

    June 10th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I dont agree – people have a right to protest. Moreover, I think that there are many models of democracy, and this one appears to be deeply flawed if it allowed the BNP to gain two seats despite widespread dismay and protestation.

    In essence ‘democracy’ isnt simply a method of counting but a moral system – and it is my personal belief that under this system the individual (and political parties) not only gain rights, but also shoulder a number of responsibilities. And ‘democratic freedom’ in this instance, is only guaranteed insofar as it does not interfere with the rights of others.

    In my view, since the BNP fundamentally direct themselves towards the restriction of the freedoms of other citizens, they have in essence flouted the democratic contract, and cannot necessarily expect to retain the rights they are so keen to strip from others.

    In which case being pelted with eggs is not only a justifiable form of protest by the common man – but underlines our own responsibility to take more effective action against the party and its views. Hiding behind the argument that ‘the ballot box told me I had to accept it’ is little more than a form of moral cowardice. As my Grandmother used to say ‘all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’.

  6. Ro says:

    June 10th, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    There’s a big difference between demonstrating against the idea of, say, higher taxes, and demonstrating against, say, the idea that people who aren’t white can’t possibly be English and are lesser human beings. Eggs? What are eggs in comparison to what Nick Griffin would do to this country were he in power? It was childish at worst, but it sent a clear message: democratic election does not excuse fascism, nor do you have our support as a nation. Frankly, it amazes me that someone with a criminal conviction for inciting racial hatred can stand for election at all.

  7. JackP says:

    June 10th, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I would argue ‘hiding behind the ballot box’ would apply if I was being asked to break the law, or to allow someone else to. Nick Griffin – odious as he may be – was not breaking the law by having a press conference.

    And yes, I think it’s right to demonstrate. To heckle. But not this egg-throwing business. I’d be more up for this sort of presumably entirely legal action.

    I do not feel that we in a democracy can restrict the democratic rights of others, no matter how unpleasant we find their views. The answer is not to do nothing but to educate, to inform.


    Frankly, it amazes me that someone with a criminal conviction for inciting racial hatred can stand for election at all.

    Yeah, me too. Unfortunately, it would appear that them’s the rules.

    However, while I know, and fully understand your point about what would happen should the BNP get in power, the use of eggs is – while in a small way – using force to crush an opposing view. And that is something I can never support.

    Of course, you’re welcome to disagree, and I promise not to egg you :-)

  8. Theresa Cronin says:

    June 10th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Jack Said “I do not feel that we in a democracy can restrict the democratic rights of others, no matter how unpleasant we find their views. The answer is not to do nothing but to educate, to inform.”

    This sounds like liberal nonsense to me – who are you planning to educate exactly? I think you are assuming that the people who voted for NG did so because they were too ignorant to understand what they were doing – rather than intelligent people who made an already informed choice that fundamentally conflicts with the values of the majority.

    If anything needs to be done in this respect, I’d suggest that tackling poverty and improving job prospects for the swathes of young working class men abandoned by our enthusiastic embrace of the service/information society, would be both more appropriate and less patronising.

    Moreover, I fundamentally disagree with the idea that we should not restrict the democratic rights of others – we do it all the time when we lock someone up for committing a criminal offence. And nor do I subscribe to the idea of a universal freedom of speech – if that ’speech’ interferes with the rights of others. Which is why the incitement to religious and racial hatred (as well as things like child porn) are already illegal in his country.

    Of course holding a press conference isnt illegal – but it does lend an air of legitimacy and acceptability to the values and policies of the BNP – just as throwing eggs in front of the TV cameras sends a clear message that these values are not welcomed or condoned by the vast majority of voters who did not and would not vote for the BNP.

    But perhaps more importantly – this group did not restrict NG’s democratic rights – and nor did they lobby parliament to do so – rather, what we witnessed would be more appropriately considered a conflct in the exercise of democratic rights. Between the right to freedom of expression and the right to protest. And in my view this was not only a perfectly legitimate form of protest – but a decidedly effective one too.

    The problem here is not the egg throwers but a combination of a group of people failed by the current myth of the meritocracy, and as iamadonut suggests a system of PR that we didnt vote for.

    And saying we “knew what the rules were when [we] entered the competition” seems to me to actually stand in the way of reforming the system to stop this kind of political horror from happening again.

  9. JackP says:

    June 10th, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    …I was suggesting that the people who had been taken in by the ’spin’ were the ones that needed to be informed and educate.

    I’ll reiterate: I have no objection to the protest; it’s the throwing things I object to. A right to protest does not, in my mind, include throwing things at people…

    The BNP highlight the problem with PR (that smaller parties/extremist groups get more of a say); but the first past the post system is not without its problems either – you could achieve more than 50% of the vote nationally but still end up being in opposition, for example.

    Look at the English Democrat in Doncaster. That wasn’t PR…

    However, I guess that while we may have different approaches, we’re still broadly on the same side :-)

  10. Mike says:

    June 12th, 2009 at 12:10 am

    I’m with you on this one Jack.
    People tend to bang on and on about how wonderful democracy is (and how we should ensure it adopted globally by hook or by crook), until it stops working for them.
    After that, you may as well be throwing sour grapes as throwing eggs.
    Eggs probably hurt a bit more though.

    Over here (AU) there’s a system of formally fining those who don’t vote. Maybe it’s time to bring that into force in the UK, and penalise the real abusers of the democratic right to vote (ie those that don’t exercise that right).

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