Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Voltairean Maxim Stretched to Breaking Point, Again

According to the Norwich Evening News, unlovable BNP demagogue Nick Griffin, who always reminds me of an evil version of Tory Boy with lard-lined veins, paid a flying visit to Norfolk yesterday. Griffin is one of the most grotesque creatures currently operating under the umbrella of British politics- some achievement in a sphere which also incorporates Norman Tebbit and Geoff Hoon- and is one of the few people in the world (don't laugh) who genuinely make me feel as if my blood is boiling. It isn't his policies as such- well, it is, but it's easier to coldly dismiss them- but the way he goes about justifying his continued presence on the political scene.

Griffin depends on liberalism for his political platform, and his ongoing use of Voltairean justifications (namely, that people might not like what he says but the freedom of the country depends on his right to say it anyway) flies in the face of the fact that, no matter what any BNP sympathiser will tell you, it it precisely this right that would be rescinded immediately after they came into power (should such an eventuality ever occur). You often hear the right-wing press blathering about the 'thought police' and freedom of speech: this ongoing freedom frequently seems to be equal to the right of more extreme reactionaries to go on spreading hate. Yes, that does sound overly dramatic, but it's true, isn't it? People like Griffin are constantly acting as though they're giving us 'the truth', spinning this bromidic rhetoric of 'bluffness' and 'honesty' as though the only reason they weren't getting through to people was some pinko conspiracy rather than the fact that their putative constituency know the social millieu which the BNP purport to understand far, far too well to ever want to vote them into power. All we hear from Griffin is a constantly-shifting diatribe about which minority to blame for the state of the nation, and how their 'removal' (you have to be suspicious about what he means by this) would automatically improve everything. He has no grasp of anything other than a knack for making the hackles rise on similarly insentient intellects. The liberalism that defends Griffin and the BNP is effectively defending nothing, a completely unhelpful contribution to political discourse with nothing new to offer apart from the exacerbation of social divisions.

On his visit, Griffin dismissed those who criticised his presence in the county as “a bunch of silly students and elderly University of East Anglia lecturers who do not represent Norfolk people”. I wonder if the elderly UEA professor he had in mind was Professor Ian Gibson, left-leaning MP for Norwich North for the last 11 years? Gibson is a popular MP who represents some of the poorer areas in Norfolk (Mile Cross, Catton), not the more student-favoured wards in the south of the city (Charles Clarke's territory, but largely Green in council elections). Furthermore, isn't his dismissal of the 'elderly' weird? Is he saying that the 'elderly' are unrepresentative of Norfolk people? If so, he should take a trip to Cromer or Caister or Hemsby, or just swing into any rural Norfolk pub for a chat with those sat at the bar. Either that, or he's suggesting that the elderly aren't capable of making decisions about politics, presumably on the grounds of their senility. Reminds me of another famous politician, that does.

It's the old 'anti-intellectual' rhetoric that pisses me off the most, I suppose. Us academic types get a hard time in the media and from the right wing: I mean, we're just so out of touch, aren't we? It might be worth pointing out to Griffin that he's clearly the one out of touch, as his electoral returns don't exactly manage to live up to his publicity. What he doesn't know, I guess, is the high proportion of students at UEA who were born and bred in East Anglia, or that it's intake is predominantly lower middle class. A 'man of the people' routine is being pulled here, at which point it's important to point out that Griffin was educated at two private schools before going on to study law at Cambridge. As for 'silly students', he should know: he left university with a Third.

Is there a point to all this? Apart from the obvious one, no, unless having a mildly cathartic rant counts. I am sick of hearing this from the right, though: the old 'all "real" people are paranoid racists like me, it's only the "not real" people who stop them from achieving political power.' I can only respond to this point with some bluff common sense of my own, in the form of the question 'how does one identify "real Norfolk people"?' I live here, I've paid taxes here, I vote here. I'm guessing Griffin's "real Norfolk man" is none other than Tony Martin, rather than the surprisingly high number of Norwich born and bred (genuinely working class) socialists. Grr, in other words. And grrr again.

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