BNP In Tipton : Nurturing Legitimacy

The West Midlands is a key growth area for the BNP. In May they got their highest ever vote - a 50% increase on the previous year -and now look poised to take a council seat in the near future. Bob Martin explains how they’re doing it.

One area that both Red Action and the BNP identified early on as a clear and definitively localised template of the BNP’s new strategy is Tipton, in the heart of the heavily populated, once industrial Black Country.

The BNP picked up a comfortable 17.2% of the vote here at the 1999 council elections, their biggest percentage ever outside of London. This result, as with other similarly respectable percentages gained elsewhere in the Black Country, owed much to the efforts of husband and wife team Steve and Sharon Edwards, since elected as BNP elections officer and national deputy chairman, respectively.

This year’s local elections saw the BNP vote in Tipton Green rise another 50% to 23.7%, in addition to a sizeable 16% share of the vote in the neigh­bouring Priory ward. All going to prove that the previous years vote was not a ‘fluke’ or a ‘glitch’, as some had suggested, but part of an engineered strategy designed to suit a very specific set of political circumstances.

In Tipton the biggest blot on the political landscape is, without doubt, the Labour party, who operate with the cushion of having between 70% to 80% of the Asian registered electorate on-side at the polls. This has prompted the leader of the Tory group on Sandwell Borough council, of which Tipton Green is a part, to successfully call for a criminal investigation into vote rigging at this year’s election. Unsurprisingly the BNP weren’t far behind in lodging a complaint of their own.

The result of the enquiry is still pending, but Labour’s perceived lack of concern for the white working class doesn’t end there. The ‘racialisation’ of the political divide is further augmented by the fact that the Labour party hold their council surgeries in a local mosque, which clearly adds fuel to the BNP argument. Hence, since the 1999 election more white voters support the BNP than Labour. This clarifies, to anyone in doubt, Labour’s tactic of courting the Asian population over all others, rather than addressing the essential needs of the community as a whole - something they cannot do without revealing their culpability, and without the will to tackle intense economic and social problems.

BNP work in Tipton is largely centred on core community issues. One early but telling example is the case of a young girl who was raped. The perpe­trators were not charged, and the police and council failed to take decisive action to move the victim and her family out of the area. It was the BNP that finally brought enough pressure on the council to get the family moved. Such a simple yet resonant deed will obviously not be forgotten quickly by the wider community.

Other efforts made by the BNP’s ‘Lend a Hand Team’, as they call themselves, have been as diverse as increasing police patrols in troublespots, right the way through to helping combat ant infestation. There is a great emphasis on housing issues, as with the work of the IWCA. However, the BNP role is largely arbitral - a simple but effective liaison mecha­nism for people with practical problems to tap into. Thus enabling the BNP to operate with impunity, temporarily guarded from the menace that was militant anti-fascism, at least until they have established enough of a mandate to resume overt street activity. The BNP know full well that this tactic of steadily nurturing legitimacy will further criminalise and isolate the physical force tradition within militant anti-fascism, as it was prior to the BNP’s retreat from the Street battles of pre-1994.

The BNP nationally are in no doubt about the strategic validity of such an approach, with even Searchlight magazine privately admitting the logistical possibility of the BNP winning a Tipton seat by next May.

As for the left, their political ineptitude is unabated. The icing on the cake though, was the SWP delegate who, when asked who they would be encouraging people to vote for, if not the BNP, replied: “Labour... er... Lib Dem... anyone really!”

The last quote from the void should go to the Tipton Green Socialist Party candidate though, who nervously met a number of burly AFA stewards less than two weeks prior to the election. When asked what issues the SP were covering, aside from ‘Don’t vote Nazi’ came back with, “I dunno really, probably Longbridge... I’m gonna’ knock something up when I get home later”.

The Socialist Party pre-election rally failed to attract a single member of the public and their candidate, Ian Barton, ‘swept home’ with a suitably uninspired 68 votes. Generally speaking it’s little wonder that the majority of the white working class of Tipton cast their vote for fascism when the alternatives range from nonchalance and corrup­tion, to downright absurdity.

“Tiptons exist across Britain... provide a left wing focus for people’s anger!”, whined Socialist Worker on 13th May. The substitution of genuine representation with empty rhetoric fools no one.

Reproduced from RA Bulletin Volume 4, Issue 7, June/July '00