How to lose friends… and voters

The BNP have been hitting the headlines a lot this week, which if that was their main aim, it has been a success. However, the news yesterday told us that the BNP has compared UK Generals to Nazi War criminals. An unusual way to win over the voters you might think?

The controversy started when a number of former UK Generals and senior staff (including Major-General Sir Patrick Cordingley, former Chief of Defence Staff Lord Guthrie and two other former army chiefs, Generals Sir Mike Jackson and Sir Richard Dannatt) put their names to a letter in which they:

“call on all those who seek to hijack the good name of Britain’s military for their own advantage to cease and desist…The values of these extremists – many of whom are essentially racist – are fundamentally at odds with the values of the modern British military, such as tolerance and fairness.”

This letter was in response to a number of things (or so it’s generally believed), including the BNP’s use of various WW2 ‘British’ images (Winston Churchill and the Spitfire fighter plane for example) and slogans such as ‘Battle for Britain’. The letter, which did not actually, specifically name the BNP, was not well received by BNP leader Nick Griffin, who went on the offensive. He stated on the BNP website that: “At Nuremberg, they hanged the politicians and generals for war crimes”. He goes on to hit back at the military figures that had signed up to the letter and suggested they should be treated like Nazi war criminals. Nick Griffin has also claimed that Winston Churchill would join his party if he was still alive and that his party was the most widely supported among rank-and-file soldiers. Even if these outlandish claims are taken with a pinch of salt we have to wonder who, if anyone has been advising the BNP on their communications?

There have been a number of people lately who’ve attacked others by comparing them with Nazi war criminals, or in the case of Ken Livingstone, a few years ago, accusing someone of being like a concentration camp guard. The word of advice, unsurprisingly, from a media training company is to steer clear of this kind of accusation! It is unlikely to do you much good in the long run (even Ken Livingstone would agree with this). So was the statement just ‘a little bit of dark black humour’ as Nick Griffin stated later on in the day? I think instead it was a bit of back peddling, once the BNP realised they didn’t want to upset (any further) quite such an illustrious list of military figures… and the supporters they most likely have.

What this is doing, for good or bad, is getting the BNP on top of the media agenda, and their appearance on BBC’s Question Time tomorrow night will do this again, but are we starting to see what they really have to offer as a political party now? It would seem that support for them has not been forthcoming in the last week or so, and if the BNP are throwing around such random and strange statements as the above, it’s difficult to say they are doing anything other than grasping at straws to get some media attention.

We will have to watch Question Time to find out if there is anymore to their policies than this but all in all, it doesn’t look like they will stand up well against those rather more ‘popular’ political parties.

Written by Will Edwards – – October 2009.

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