The BNP and an English Parliament
Tom Nairn, After Britain (2000):
Blair’s Project makes it likely that England will return on the street corner, rather than via a maternity room with appropriate care and facilities. Croaking tabloids, saloon-bar resentment and back-bench populism are likely to attend the birth and to have their say. Democracy is constitutional or nothing. Without a systematic form, its ugly cousins will be tempted to move in and demand their rights – their nation, the one always sat upon and then at last betrayed by an elite of faint hearts, half-breeds and alien interests.
I have, many many times in the past, echoed Tom's warning that English nationalism could become a sinister force if England's constitutional disadvantage was not addressed by the Government:
...in England we are seeing an identity gulf opening up between the white and non-white sections of society; the whites adopting Englishness, and the non-whites/ethnic minorities adopting Britishness. This is a dangerous development...The Government must start building an inclusive civic national identity for England or face a ticking racial timebomb that the BNP will be only too quick to capitalise on. It will happen, mark my words (CEP News)
See English Civic Nationalism for further discussion on this. As it turns out Tom's words of warning (and mine and those of many others) have proved prophetic. Following is an extract from an article in support of an English Parliament from Identity: Magazine of the British National Party (Issue 73, Dec 2006):
...there is already a huge and growing groundswell of support for greater recognition of and rights for England and Englishness. Whether we approve of this or not will make no difference to this trend, but it will make a huge difference to our chance of coming to power. Any England-based readers who don't understand the head of steam this still incoherent movement already has, should stop ten white teenagers at random in the streets of a local town and ask if they regard themselves as European, British, or English...we cannot stand against the tide, and are far better advised to use it to propel our own advance. Someone is going to harness the power of English nationalism, and a large majority at last month's conference confirmed that we have the will to make it the BNP.
That the BNP seek to hijack English nationalism to further their own goals is hardly surprising, and neither is it a particularly new development:
Please prioritise bringing St. George and flags of the British Isles featuring crosses, such as the Flag of Saint Andrew. These flags should take priority over Union Flags at this demo.
What is new is the naked opportunism that they display in doing so. Quite clearly they have identified English nationalism as a growing force and brazenly seek to utilise it to achieve their ends. You can hardly blame them for doing so. If I were in their shoes I would do the same because the politics of English identity is a political void into which the three main political parties are afraid to tread. And now the fools rush in.
The full BNP article can be read here.
As many of you know, in addition to this blog, I also host the Witanagemot Club - a news aggregator and blog ring for English nationalist bloggers. The Witan site makes it clear that it is a single-issue campaign and that membership is open to all, regardless of ethnicity and regardless of party affiliation. It would be true to say that the majority of the blogs that are members are of a Conservative centre-right bent but I am proud to say that we have left-wing, right-wing, green, liberal, libertarian and foreign bloggers among our number; we truly are a cross-party and pluralist group with one uniting belief - that England should have its own parliament.
Recently, especially within the last month, many BNP bloggers have started applying for membership of the Witanagemot Club - a phenomenon that I couldn't understand until yesterday when I was emailed the BNP article on 'The Need for an English Parliament'. Naturally these Johny-come-lately English nationalist bloggers have been rather peeved when I have refused their application for membership, and understandably so given that we are supposed to be a cross-party, non-partisan, community. But I have very good reasons for refusing them, some of which came as a surprise to the BNP bloggers themselves who did not realise that the party's abhorrent views on an English parliament are completely and utterly in contradiction to the aims of the Witanagemot Club.
These are the views of Lee Barnes, Director of the BNP’s legal department, as expressed on the CEP News blog:
only the ethnic english would be allowed to register and vote
Everyone will have the right to vote in the British elections regardless of ethnicity - only indigenous Scots, English and Welsh will have the right to vote in their respective parliaments.
The welsh and scots parliament should also be ethno-specific parliaments to represent the indigenous peoples of those lands.
And from Lee Barnes column on the BNP website we have this:
The BNP manifesto states that we will set up an English Parliament for the indigenous Anglo-Saxon people. But this will be an English Parliament of the English People as opposed to an imaginary pseudo-English parliament composed of asylum seekers, illegal immigrants, Zulus, Kurds, Innuit, Iraqis, Tutsis, Somalis etc etc.
And in case you are in any doubt Lee Barnes would require you to undergo genetic tests in order to determine that you are eligible to vote in the indigenous parliaments of England, Scotland and Wales. It all makes New Labour’s biometric ID cards look rather tame by comparison.
The BNP's vision for England is an anathema to everything that I believe that England stands for, and what I believe England stands for is summed up very well by fellow Witanagemot member An Englishman's Castle:
...the England I believe in is a Taurean, placid, tolerant place - bucolic and green; but when tweaked capable of violence and rage. Not a nation founded on race but on a common culture, respects and language. Not constrained by geography, creed, breeding or birth - open to all who wish to belong. Feared and despised by many but a benefactor to most.
I'm sure that 'open to all who wish to belong' will be pounced upon by BNP members as literal rather than figurative; a function of my bourgeoisie, solipsistic, navel gazing, pseudo-English nationalism. But so be it. The comments are open.
So how should we pluralists respond to the BNP's communialist racial and religious nationalism? Well, I don't think that our rage should be directed at the BNP; why waste our breath? The people that we should be furious at are the Establishment politicians - Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem - whose English manifesto (or rather lack of) has allowed the BNP to jump on the populist bandwagon to try and appropriate English nationalism for their own. The BNP have not yet succeeded but who amongst the great and the good at Westminster will be willing to espouse a civic alternative to the BNP's ethnic English nationalism? David Blunkett's A New England: An English identity within Britain (pdf) was high on sentiment but devoid of political solutions, Gordon Brown's Britishness simply enrages England (and the Scots), and the Tories' English Votes on English Matters is a complete constitutional abortion.
All those politicians that are fannying about and prevaricating over Englishness should see this as a warning shot across their bows. Constitutionalists and political thinkers who toy with solutions that are anything less than national governance for the nation of England should also take heed. If they don't take heed then they should not be surprised by the announcement of the returning officer for Barking and Dagenham.
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In the CEP's Summer "Think of England" magazine Frank Field offers up a condensed version of his Chancellor's speech to the University of Hertfordshire:
the English Question and immigration are intricately linked in two significant respects. Both issues