Friday, 4 May 2012

Far-right embarrass themselves at the polls - and at the count

The far-right failed miserably at yesterday's elections. This was a nationwide trend, with the BNP losing all of the seats it contested, but it was particularly heartening to see on Merseyside. Given all the commotion they've been causing recently, it remains the case that the people of Liverpool resoundingly reject the politics of hate.

National Front members including Peter Tierney, Liam Pinkham, Stephen Dumont and Gary Lucas try to unveil an "Anti Zionist League" banner during the election count
Not that this message is likely to sink in with the boneheads. At last night's election count, they yet again made a holy show of themselves and underlined exactly why most people have no time for them.

A large number of National Front supporters were present in Picton Sports Centre whilst ballots were counted, and spent the whole time acting like thuggish dickheads. Despite all being in their best court suits, it didn't take long before a fight nearly kicked off. Through the night, they attempted to intimidate a number of people, ranging from supporters of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition to Liberal Councillor Steve Radford and a young woman with the Conservatives.

When the Mayoral election was declared for Labour's Joe Anderson, they really threw their dummies out the pram. As ever, everyone they didn't like got called a paedophile, and rather than discrediting anybody else it simply made them look absurd.

It's worth remembering that these infantile morons offer themselves as the saviours of our nation. All I can say is that if the day comes that they're the best hope for anything, then it's a fair bet that salvation isn't coming. Thankfully, however, the vast majority of people rejected all they have to offer and they were trounced at the polls.

Mayoral Election

In the contest to be Liverpool's first directly elected mayor, it was always pretty much guaranteed that Joe Anderson would win. With the backing from the local media, being the incumbent council leader, and people's instinctive fear of the Tory government (even though he's making the cuts in Liverpool), he had every advantage.

For the fascists, the result pretty much proved the point of those nationalists who argue for appearing more "respectable" to the mainstream. On the basis of numbers of activists, the National Front - who gained virtually all active members of Liverpool BNP - should have done the best. Yet they were dead last, a brand associated with racial violence and whose candidate is a raving lunatic with a conviction for ABH winning over just 566 votes.

The BNP fared a little better, since they have spent over a decade trying to shed the Nazi image. However, their legacy still haunts them and even with the resurgence of the NF they remain the party that springs to mind when talking of fascists. Only the English Democrats managed to scrape out of the bottom three, a combination of the party having no Nazi legacy (and managing to play down defections from the BNP) and of candidate Paul Rimmer talking to the press about football rather than Zionist plots.

Council Elections

The bad results for the far-right extended into the individual wards where their candidates stood.

For the BNP, the only two wards up for grabs were Wavertree and Belle Vale. In the latter, Christopher Beatson polled 134 votes, 3.88%, which might not be too bad for an unknown whose party haven't previously stood in the ward. In Wavertree, Mike Whitby got a pathetic 45 votes, the 1.16% polling indicating that being a better known face didn't do him any favours. Nor, perhaps, did BNP leafleters being told to shove off by anti-racist residents.

Over the water, Nazi-saluting candidate Joe Killen got just 60 votes.

It was the British Freedom Party who replaced the BNP in wards they had previously stood. In Everton, Jacqueline Stafford got 1.7% of the vote compared to Denis Leary's 4.2% in 2011. Peter Stafford Snr got 1.51% of the vote in Fazakerley, against 4.7% in 2010. Peter Squire got 2.77% in Norris Green with 78 votes, whereas John Edgar got 6.4%/312 in 2010.

In Clubmoor, Andrew Harvey apparently had only 26 people who liked him and got just 0.78% of the votes. This was massively down on Peter Squire's 6.33% of the vote in 2010. Peter Stafford had just 17 people (0.6%) of County voting for him, compared to 222 (4.5%) in 2010.

The National Front's only candidate on Merseyside (outside the mayoral race) was Peter Tierney's brother Andrew. Standing in Stockbridge Ward for Knowsley Council, he came 2nd place - though this becomes less impressive when you consider that he did so with just 71 votes. This gave him 5% of the vote against the winner's 92%, and the Liberal Democrat's appaling showing will have more to do with his own party's failures than the NF's success.

The English Democrats on the rise

The English Democrats are ones to watch, though. In Riverside, Neil Kenny polled 3.15%. In Warbreck, 216 votes for Steve McEllenborough put him in third place with 6.15% of the vote - an impressive climb on Lee Walton's 1.4% in 2011. In Croxteth, Lee Walton polled 3.10% - up on the 1.5% Paul Rimmer and Steve McEllenborough got between them in the 2010 by-election. In Old swan, Steve Greenhalgh got 3.10% with 111 votes. This is up on Steve McEllenborough's 1.4% in 2011.

In all of these results, there could be other factors for growth such as the absence of UKIP, but it confirms the English Democrats' place as the only fascist party whose vote isn't falling. Paul Rimmer's standing in the mayoral race will have helped in this regard, as will the fact that the former BNPers haven't brought overt racial politics with them when defecting.

The struggle in the streets

Electoral intervention will always be an important part of anti-fascist activity. Not so much telling people who to vote for (or whether to vote) but getting out the message that the fascists offer no solutions to the problems of the working class. That will remain the case until the day they give up on achieving power through the ballot box altogether.

But a significant section of the far-right has come to the conclusion that this is secondary. The shift back to "march and grow" tactics has become more acute with the rise of the Infidels and the re-emergence of the NF. The main threat that they pose isn't that they'll gain power, but that they'll pose a physical danger to the left and the organised working class. This demands a response from anti-fascists and - whilst groups like Hope not Hate wave bye bye to the BNP - militants must say hello to the new reality.

The fascists' appealing show at the polls is a welcome result indeed. But it cannot be cause for complacency. They are not going to disappear because there is no election to contest, and we cannot rest on our laurels whilst they continue to organise.