Amidst the wild political hurly burly of the last month or so, it is hardly surprising that Nick Griffin’s expulsion from being President of the BNP has gone largely unnoticed. Seldom can Shakespeare’s words from Macbeth have ever seemed more appropriate.
‘A poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.’
Well Nick Griffin has certainly done his share of strutting and fretting over the last thirty years or so and now it seems more than likely that he will indeed be heard no more.
Surely here we have an open and shut case of good riddance to bad rubbish.
But I wonder.
I must admit that I have been somewhat fascinated by Mr Griffin for a while now. A few years back, the BNP started to make alarming inroads into the crumbling terraced heartlands of my old stamping ground of
East Lancashire. The old mill towns in their damp, rainy
valleys offered fertile soil for the wannabe fascists. The likes of
Blackburn, Burnley and Oldham had become
increasingly doomed places where people from the Indian Sub Continent were
doing increasingly well whilst the indigenous whites who lacked the means to up
sticks and run away were mired on the dole.
The BNP followed Hitler’s playbook of resentment carefully and started to win a few council seats. At about the same time, the BNP broke through in the European Elections and Nick found himself with a first class ticket for the
gravy train. Brussels
All of this put the BBC into a corner. The Fascists had actually won something and there was no real excuse for excluding them from 'Question Time' any more. In 2009 they cracked and Nick won himself a seat at the 'Question Time' table. Millions tuned in to see if this guy was about to become our very own Hitler or Mussolini. Were we about to see the man who was about to launch tens of thousands of 21st Century Brownshirts onto the boarded up high streets of the forgotten towns of the Industrial Revolution? Was
raise an army of the dispossessed to smash the windows of every Asian corner
shop in the land in a British version of Kristallnacht? Griffin
So we tuned in expecting to watch Darth Vader
Instead we got
For an hour of prime time TV, Griffin gave a masterclass in shambling ineptitude. This was no wickedly scary Bond bad guy. Instead he was systematically pulled apart by the other panelists. They swarmed all over him like vicious four year olds dismembering a doomed Daddy Longlegs.
It was a blood sport and the audience bayed with appreciation. So it was that the high water of the BNP came and went. After 'Question Time' they were doomed and predictably enough they fell into that favourite pastime of all extreme parties as they ate each other alive with infighting and back stabbing.
Nick wasn’t quite done yet. Every now and then we still got glimpses of him making a complete and absolute berk of himself. My personal favourite was the day that he launched the BNP manifesto for the 2010 General Election. He had rented some dismally dreary room in a
. On the walls were pictures of
fierce looking Victorian types complete with high collars and eyes gleaming with the
light of God and Empire. Nick had taken up a position behind a vast old desk
and behind him was a predictably large Union Flag. Northern Town Hall
But best of all were the two guys he had posted either side of the flag. They were both in their early twenties and one had a particularly severe dose of acne. They were dressed from head to toe in the outfits of the Crusaders. Seriously! Chain mail, dodgy swords and shields and the Cross of St George. Their faces were brick red with embarrassment as they took looking completely ridiculous to a whole new level. The whole thing was more Monty Python than anything the Monty Python team ever came up with
Basically it was too bad to be true. It was so bad that even the most ferociously twisted racist would have shrunk back from giving a vote to such a bunch of idiots.
Too bad to be true?
The idea snuck into my head and got me to wondering. Was any of this true? Or was it in fact deliberately bad?
It was Google time and what jumped out was mildly surprising. It turned out that Nick and I had stuff in common. Not to start with. He was a suburban southern boy from Barnet whilst I was pure mill town Lancashire. But we both did the 1970’s Grammar School thing and we both bucked the trend to make it to the ivory towers of
. Nick got a
place at Downing to study History before switching to Law. I went the other
way. I was supposed to study law at Magdalene, but I switched to history after
three days. One look at all those very fat books filled with very small print
was quite enough for me. Cambridge
How bizarre. We had both been there at the same time. It seemed like Nick was Mr Sensible. He got into politics and won a boxing Blue and graduated with a 2-2. I spent three years drinking and acting and I eventually conned my way into a 2-1. After graduation, I hit the old Indian Hippy trail whilst Nick plunged headlong into the maelstrom of 1980’s far right politics.
Now I am the last person to make a case for the academic brilliance of
How could I? They gave me a 2-1 as recognition for three years where I came up
with the sum total of two essays. But one thing is for sure – it was no easy
thing for any grammar school boy to get a place in the late 70’s. On the
surface of things, anyone looking for a slot needed to be straight A’s all the
way. Getting a place from a grammar school was pretty good evidence of a lack of stupidity. Cambridge
The only reason I stayed on at school to sit the exam was that my parents had refused to countenance the idea of my taking a year off between school and university. They figured that should I have taken that route I would have turned into a feckless hippy!
The exam was in October which meant a couple of extra months at school and then ten months off instead of a year. It seemed like a plan to me. I can well recall the question I answered for the entrance exam. I had three hours at my disposal to answer one question.
‘Why do men rebel?’
This was the question I chose and it gave me immense pleasure to start off my essay with a quote from the Clash anthem, ‘White Riot.’
‘Black men got a lot of problems but they don’t mind throwing a brick’.
To my amazement, my efforts in answering the question won me an interview with the Magdalene Admissions Tutor. It was on a Monday morning and I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I set out from Blackburn early and took in Liverpool’s away game at
Southampton en route to my big
appointment. It didn’t turn out too well. Typically woeful policing led to me
getting my head well and truly kicked in by an bunch of Southampton’s
As a result I turned up at my Monday morning interview completely unable to move my head. I figured the best thing was to inform the old boy at the other side of the ornate desk that I didn’t normally sit with my head at a bizarre 45 degree angle and that the reason my top button was undone was that my neck was too swollen to fasten it.
He politely inquired about what unfortunate event had led to this impairment.
“Was it a sporting injury?”
“Not really. I am a Liverpool fan and I got beaten up at
Southampton on Saturday.”
Well he loved this. The whole of the interview was all about football violence and the incompetence of the police. He even brought out the sherry.
I wandered out into the autumn sunshine perfectly convinced the interview would be my one and only association with this bizarre ancient
Disneyland of a place.
A week later a letter dropped on the mat offering me a place. I can’t say I was all that happy. Strung by my own petard. My cunning plan to get a year off had backfired completely.
Once I arrived ten months later, it was immediately noticeable that my college was home to all kinds of lads who hadn’t done all that well at all in their exams. How on earth had they got in? How had I got in? There were lots of rumours about the good old boy who had plied me with sherry and listened to tales of football hooliganism with eyes shining with fascination. The word was that he was MI5’s in house head of recruitment. The word was that he was more interested in giving places to mavericks who might be persuaded to do their bit for Queen and Country than those with lots of straight A’s on their CV’s.
Was it true? Who knows? It certainly could have been. Without a doubt he was a guy who could have fitted seamlessly into any John Le Carre book. Over the next three years, several of my mates got the tap on the shoulder and were asked if they might like to do something for their country. It was a running joke to be honest. The ones who talked about it had obviously said thanks but no thanks. No doubt the ones who answered the call kept it to themselves like proper trainee spies. My shoulder remained well and truly un-tapped.
Did someone tap Nick Griffin on the shoulder? More to the point, did Nick sign on the dotted line. I can see why they might have identified his as a shoulder well worth tapping. A grammar school boy from a Barnet suburb with a Tory councillor dad. It would not have been a difficult legend to cobble together.
We want you cosy up with the bad boys of the Far Right Nick. Get to know them. Learn their language. Buy them drinks. Mimic their hatred.
Get them to trust you and let you in. Take your time, Nick. There is all the time in the world. Get the patter. Master the body language. Cosy up to the ones on the way up the ladder. Impress them. Dazzle them with your loyalty.
Convince them that you are the one they need.
There would have been nothing so very unusual about such a plan. Over the years, the huge extent of MI5’s infiltration of the likes of the National Union of Mineworkers has become very apparent. One of the great tipping points of the 1985 strike was when the NUM fell hook, line and sinker for an MI5 sting operation by sending one of their guys to
to pick up a suitcase of cash from Colonel Gaddafi. Tripoli
Is that what you did through the wild years of the 80’s and 90’s Nick? All those nights in all those smoky rooms filled with all that anger and hatred. Did you pass all of their tests whilst at the same time sending chapter and verse to your controller at Thames House?
And when you made it all the way to the top of the pile, did you follow the pre-planned strategy? Act like a complete idiot? Turn the whole thing into a complete joke? Dress up a couple of illiterate meat heads in Crusader gear when you release your election manifesto?
Oh I wonder.
And if by any chance any of it is true, then what a Herculean job you did. In next year’s election the BNP will fail to reach even 1% in the polls assuming they are even able to field candidates. There was nothing inevitable about this. We only need to take a look across the Channel to see the surging, strutting growth of the National Front in
They are at 30% and rising under the terrifyingly competent leadership of
Marine Le Penn. Now there’s a formidable lady, a cross between Theresa May and
Reinhart Heydrich. Marine Le Penn doesn’t dress up acne ridden skinheads in
Crusader outfits. She is slicker than slick. She power dresses and fixes the
camera with an unblinking stare. She runs her railroad like Deutsche Bahn. France
We don’t have that problem over here. Right wing anger is left to retired people with beds full of marigolds who get their hatred of immigrants from reading the Daily Mail with their morning bran flakes. Nigel Farage’s UKIP army are fifty years past putting a breeze block through Mr Patel’s window.
It could have been a very different story. By now we could have been like
France and Greece and where the lads with the cropped hair
hospitalise those they don’t agree with. Russia
If you were responsible for the BNP becoming such a joke, then I salute you sir. And I salute whoever it was that tapped your shoulder at Downing all those years ago. I don’t tend to have much time for our Security Services, but I am more than happy to make an exception in this case.
Is it true? Or is this merely the over ripe imagination of a pulp fiction writer? Who knows. And that, of course, is the whole point…..