If you want to add your name to the petition mentioned, it can be done online (2).
First, some facts. The BNP polled 948,598 votes across the country, a 6.2% share. In Yorkshire it received 9.8% and in the North West 8.0%, both enough to secure seats. In other areas they did equally well without getting elected. In the East Midlands they polled 8.7% and in West Midlands 8.6%.
Yet it could have been far worse, much worse. At the outset of the campaign the BNP confidently predicted six or seven seats; or even 12 when hyperventilating about how their perfect political storm had emerged. Economic anxiety, job insecurity and hostility to migrant workers combined as the credit crunch kicked in. The long term legacy of "Middle England" politics, free market economics, mass immigration and a housing crisis all helped create this sense of inevitable electoral success. The absence of local elections meant turnout was always going to be low. Throw in the expenses scandal and the implosion of the Labour party – even before anyone had voted – and they thought their time had come.
Before we see this as a watershed, and again ensure that the liberal press play right into their hands, let's retain some perspective. Put simply, the BNP's support hardly increased. Its 6.2% share of the vote is only slightly up on the 4.9% it gained in the good times of 2004. In the North West Nick Griffin only increased his vote from 6.4% to 8.0%. It was the collapse in support for the Labour party that allowed the BNP in.
Their failure to exploit these unique circumstances was in no small part due the mass mobilisation of opposition to them on the ground; a new politics of "Hope not Hate" forged beyond the Westminster beltway with unions, churches, voluntary groups, students and sometimes local political parties. The volume of literature distributed outstripped that of the main parties. Local "Hope not Hate" groups distributed 3,400,000 newspapers and leaflets; 1.6 million being hand-delivered in the North West alone, 850,000 leaflets in Yorkshire and Humber. On one day, 48 hours before the election, we held 180 simultaneous activities and hand-delivered 500,000 leaflets.
Over 50,000 people volunteered for our online campaign and 1,500 people donated. We placed anti-BNP articles in the national newspapers on a daily basis and our eve-of-poll email was sent to 600,000 people, the biggest single email in British domestic political history. We estimate that 5,000 people took part in the on-the-ground campaigns around the country, many for the first time in their lives.
The campaign made a difference; they gained seats but nothing compared to what they expected and it almost stopped Griffin scraping in by just 1,200 votes. The fightback has already started. In the early hours of Monday morning we launched a "Not in our name" petition. Over 25,000 people have already signed it, a testament to the anger that has followed the BNP successes.
Yet the campaign cannot build houses and reduce waiting lists; it cannot prevent undercutting and the abuse of migrant workers. Local anti-fascist movements cannot get resources into communities, often the poorest, dealing with extraordinary levels of migration. Without such resources access to public services is racialised and politics becomes more tribal. The "Hope not Hate" campaign cannot reduce health inequalities or enduring poverty and immobility. It cannot overcome political disenfranchisement and alienation from interchangeable Westminster politicians. In short, it cannot substitute for what a radical Labour government should be doing and a language that it should be using that could inspire hope. (1)
1 - "The myth of the BNP 'protest' vote," by Jon Cruddas, and Nick Lowles, published in The Guardian, 8th of June, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/08/bnp-protest-vote-success)
2 - The website is: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/.