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Thursday, March 11, 2010 

Boycotting boycotts.

There are times when I wonder just what some of my blogging comrades have been smoking. Why else would some respond in such a vehement fashion to the decision of Total Politics magazine to interview Nick Griffin, of which they have a perfect right to do and which really ought to cause no ructions whatsoever?

To call the justifications and calls for a boycott of TP's blog awards piss-poor would be putting it far too kindly. As an extension of the "no platform" position, it errs on being arguable, until you note that "no platform" has been an ignoble failure. No platform not only fails to confront the BNP for what it is, it also gives them carte blanche to claim that they're persecuted simply for who they are and for what they stand for; adhered to not just by Labour but by others, it's doubtless helped to result in two BNP MEPs and their highest ever number of local councillors. Just what do those proposing a boycott of TP's blog awards hope to achieve through doing so?

It equally doesn't follow that allowing Griffin to appear in TP will be a "further acquiescence to the BNP message being accepted as a normal part of British political discourse". We don't know how TP is going to approach the interviewing of Griffin: one suspects that he's hardly going to be given a soft soap interview. It's also an attempt to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted: unfortunately, Griffin and the BNP now are a normal part of British political discourse, and that they haven't been before has only added to their lustre in any case.

Lastly, it's claimed that this doesn't fit with TP's mission statement to be “unremittingly positive about the political process”. Even if you don't accept that bringing the BNP into the political process to expose them for what they are is a good idea, then why shouldn't a magazine which is dedicated to politics interview the leader of what is a major political party even if it isn't necessarily positive? The grouping continues by arguing "[L]est we forget, this is a party which abuses that process". As opposed to our current representatives, held in the highest esteem by everyone, and whom would never sink to such levels of political skulduggery. Rather than getting involved in daft, half-baked boycotts, we'd be better putting our collective efforts into exposing the BNP's manifesto for the general election when it arrives, which might just achieve something. Letting Iain Dale hang himself with his own rope is in any event a far better option.

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Eh tu Septic? I'm kidding. Obviously there are some of your premises that I'd dispute.

First, I don't think that 'no platform' has been a complete failure. The unions and most Labourites refuse to share a platform with BNP people - and rightly so. They can and should engage with people directly, not via the arguments of another party, which are frankly abominable.

Now if they'd just do a better job of solving the issues which allow the BNP to exist...

The argument that "no platform" has helped the BNP is silly. The BNP vote did not significantly increase at the last European election; it was Labour's vote which collapsed. The problem is not the BNP, who can and should be excised where possible, it is Labour.

Second, speculating on the content of the interview is pointless when its the principle at stake - for us, anyway. Soft-soap or not, it's an appearance Griffin wasn't otherwise getting.

What I'd like to know is this; who will this interview convince one way or the other? It goes out to thousands of hardened politicos, all aligned to their own parties. Presumably they all have an opinion on the BNP. It's not informing anyone of anything they don't know. My worry is that it is being done just to be controversial.

Relatedly, the BNP aren't a normal part of British political discourse - and treating them like what they are has not added to their lustre. People aren't queuing up to join the BNP; there's no clamour for BNP branches around the country. In the areas where they do stand, Hope Not Hate and the other groups do solid work holding them back, and indeed recouping losses.

That's not enough, of course - for me No Platform doesn't stand on its own. It's part of a wider idea that socialists can and should beat the BNP by uniting the working class - and the lessons from places like Stoke show that this is eminently possible, where the far Left has its shit together.

In the meantime, we don't have to have anything to do with them. And we'd like other people to be of that mind.

Finally, as regards TPs mission statement, why do we have to allow Griffin himself column inches - via this interview - to expose him? Seems to me that Searchlight and the rest do a fairly good job of that without asking him for an interview. If Mr. Dale wished, I'm sure he's intelligent enough to dig up the stories that 'expose' the BNP, rather than offering Griffin a chance to apologize, relativise or otherwise explain away these stories.

You're quite right, our current representatives are hardly the guardians of truth, justice and mom's apple pie. That said, they aren't fascists. They don't deliberately try to incite racial violence. Their strong arms don't manhandle any journalist or citizen who asks a difficult question. The members of their parties aren't the pondlife of the British people - and I say that knowing full well what Conservative Associations are like.

Finally finally, I will be putting effort into exposing the BNP manifesto for the General Election. Material will go up on the blog, and since Dover and Deal is in spitting distance, I'll be out on the streets there. The thirty minutes it took to write and edit the articles at TCF, and the hour it took responding to comments on six blogs won't interfere with that.

I love your blog, always have, always will - it carries some of the most in-depth exposés of press hypocrisy out there, with the added joy of a biting sarcasm. In this case, I think you are a little intemperate towards us.

Tim Ireland has a great piece on it, his is more centred on the terrible hypocrisy of Iain Dale and his engaging Griffin out of pure glory hunting, never mind serious concerns over his ability to actually put Griffin to the sword.

"Letting Iain Dale hang himself with his own rope is in any event a far better option".

Please. Ok, then, pretty please.

Personally, I don't mind if TP wants to interview Nick Griffin; presumably it's just a bit of attention-seeking anyway, and it appears to have succeeded, unfortunately. Which isn't to say that people shouldn't take a stand against things they disagree with -it's just that I can't help wondering if some kind of brouhaha is what TP would have been hoping for.

I daresay I won't be doing the TP 'blog awards' anyway, for the reasons I didn't last year. Anything that legitimises it, and Dale, is a bad thing in my view.

I agree with you Dave on how the BNP vote didn't increase at the Euro election: that however is itself an indictment of the approach to the party that their vote didn't actively decrease. No Platform hasn't just been around though for the last election, it has been for decades, and while the far-right might have previously peaked during the 70s, the refusal to even consider that the there is an alternative viewpoint and that they should be allowed to put it across definitely is part of the victimhood on which the party and its supporters pride themselves on. Even your latest correspondent over on TCF agrees that the "BNP thrive in deprived areas on their status as underdog outsiders". Why do they have that status? Not just because they say what others won't, but also because of how the other parties won't take them on in a straight fight.

People might not be queueing up to join the BNP, but as I'm sure you've noticed, they're not queueing up to join any political party. They are however prepared to vote for them like never before in local elections, despite the sterling work which is done by Hope Not Hate and others. It's those people though who only descend on these areas when there is an election on, while the BNP have learned that they need to be there all year round. I'm not denying that the far left is picking up on this in certain areas, but far too often the wider left has spent its time on silly, gesture politics, which is what this boycott is. It doesn't achieve anything other than further publicity for Dale's rag, which is hardly well known with the public outside of politicos like us. I apologise if that's intemperate, or the original post was, but it really makes me wonder why we spend our time on petty squabbling when we fail to focus on the wider problem.

My point is that "we", if applied to myself and the people I write with, have not failed to focus on the wider problem.

First of all, Labour when in the hands of the right people and the Socialist Party in relevant areas regularly take the BNP on in a straight fight.

Public meetings, leaflets directed at exposing the realities of the local BNP and so on work. There's no need to have a BNP member present.

In places like Dagenham, this is done year-round, and I imagine no voter there has even heard of No Platform.

However, when it comes to practicalities, workers are instinctively no-platformist; BNP representatives were thrown off the Lindsey picket lines. Maybe we should have let them on, to debate with them?

I'm not going to deny that this boycott is a gesture - but please don't insult me by implying that I'm "spending time on" this as opposed to real politics. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Just by virtue of the fact that we've made people sit back and query their stance on No Platform, it's been a worthwhile gesture, with the added benefit that I don't have to have my blog name associated with a magazine prepared to include Nick Griffin as part of a 'positive' politics.

As I recall the BNP tried to take advantage of the Lindsey dispute, and were told to go forth and multiply. They made their point regardless of whether they were allowed to debate the merits of their position in relation to that taken by the striking workers.

I'm not insulting you by suggesting that the two can't be done at the same time - but this is just a distraction that can be done without. Let Iain Dale get on with polluting his rag while we keeping fighting the scum - the best of both worlds.

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