I've heard that one of the downsides of dyslexia is a tendency to confuse left and right. Well, I've been hearing that all morning on the news with the description of the British National Party as a "far-right" party.
Let me say immediately I think they're pretty unpleasant, and dishonest. Their claim not be racist is pretty quickly undone by reading the manifesto, and I would not advise anyone to vote for them.
However, I am not convinced the description "far-right" is accurate. If anything, I'd say the BNP is further left-wing than it is right. [Jam Cary has digested some careful and perceptive thoughts on left-right confusion here, here and here.]
Let's look at the manifesto.
In what ways is the BNP clearly right-wing?
It supports capital punishment and corporal punishment for certain crimes, and seems to uphold retribution/desert as the key principle of punishment, rather than deterrence or rehabilitation.
It advocates the devolution of power to the most local level possible.
It promotes full withdrawal from the European Union.
However, it seems to me that on far more policies the BNP is a left-wing party, in the sense of a party of state intervention:
They advocate trade protectionism, placing tariffs on foreign goods entering the British market.
They advocate the restoration of the economy and land to British ownership, though without specifying how. Presumably some state action will be necessary, violating the property rights and freely-entered-into contracts of foreign parties in the UK.
They advocate state-enforced preference to 'native' workers in the job market.
They advocate state-enforced brek-up of commercial monopolies.
They advocate workers' co-operatives, primed with public money.
They support government involvement in education, and the promotion of healthy living.
They would spend govt money on agricultural self-sufficiency.
They oppose rail privatisation, and would invest substantial govt spending on transport infrastructure projects.
They would enforce by law minimum environmental standards on companies and individuals.
Savings made from EU withdrawal (£43million a day it costs us to be members) would not be returned to taxpayers but would be spent on govt projects.
Ultimately, the BNP is a high tax, high-spend, govt-controls-your-life party, a bit like Labour, and the Lib Dems, and increasingly the Tories.
People forget the Nazi Party was a Socialist party. I've heard people say that at the extremes, Left and Right are actually very close together, and the example used is Stalin and Hitler. But the point that is overlooked is that Hitler wasn't a right-winger, he was on the far-left!
So, it's not really surprising that the increase in the BNP vote is in historically Labour areas. Except for the nasty racism and EUphobia, there isn't really a great distance between them.
By all means, bemoan the BNP. But let's be honest (unlike them), and stop calling them "far-right".