The Guardian by Matthew Goodwin | Friday, 4 May 2012 | Click here for original article
Nick Griffin comes out of the local elections facing the fact that his attempted strategy of BNP 'modernisation' lies in ruins
BNP chairman Nick Griffin. Photograph: Ian Gavan/Getty Images
"Hammered by Labour – same as everyone. No surprise, no disgrace", tweeted BNP chairman Nick Griffin as the scale of his party's total obliteration in the local elections became clear. Griffin and the BNP went into these elections hoping to stem its electoral demise, which was triggered by a combination of infighting and the party's failure to break through at the 2010 general election. Today, the party leaves the contest facing the daunting realisation that it is no longer a significant player in British electoral politics. Put simply, the BNP's electoral challenge is over.
Here are some facts that will be facing Griffin this afternoon, as he sits down to consider how he might possibly sustain the morale of a dwindling and disgruntled base of foot soldiers. At the time of writing, the BNP has lost 10 of the 12 seats that it was defending.
Long gone are the days when the party could claim dozens of local councillors. Furthermore, gone are the days when the party could point to local bastions of support. Perhaps most significant of all, for the first time in 10 years there is not a single BNP councillor on Burnley borough council. The home of the party's initial breakthroughs over 2002-03 is now officially BNP free.
In other former strongholds, its vote has similarly collapsed. Two seats have been lost in Amber Valley, where the BNP vote slumped by almost 50% in Heanor East and Heanor West. Two seats have been lost in Rotherham, where, although support for the BNP remains, the reality is that it has fallen dramatically from four years ago. Support has crumbled in South Tyneside to between 4% and 13%, where not long ago Griffin could count on figures around 30%.
And in London – where the party focused most of its efforts in an attempt to win a seat on the London assembly, the data suggests it has been thoroughly trounced. To add to the humiliation, in areas such as Basildon and Dudley support for BNP candidates was lower than support for their more extreme rivals, the old National Front (NF). As the anti-fascist network Hope Not Hate points out, we have not seen results like these since the 1990s, when the BNP never seriously invested in the ballot box strategy.
So what now? Griffin needed something – anything – to put in front of his weary followers as evidence that the party is not a spent electoral force. Evidence of an electoral revival was also needed to fend off the challenge from groups like the NF, and forthcoming plans by the English Defence League to enter elections with the British Freedom party (BFP). But the reality is far from what Griffin desired. Consider this: despite economic recession; despite deep cuts to local services; despite continuing public concern over immigration; despite high levels of dissatisfaction with the main parties; despite ongoing political distrust; despite an unpopular coalition government that includes the Liberal Democrats – home for many protest voters; despite continuing public anger over the expenses scandal and more recent media and cash-for-access scandals; and despite a Labour party that has not yet reconnected fully with its core base – the BNP has completely failed to make even an electoral squeak. At one time, voters in some parts of the country appeared willing to back the party. Today, they appear completely uninterested. In my view, the British National party's quest for electoral success is finished and Griffin's attempted strategy of "modernisation" lies in ruins. The question that remains is what will emerge to fill the vacuum?