I'm not exactly a friend of the BNP - I wouldn't be allowed to join, for example. However, as I've noted in the past, simply calling them fascists and throwing one's hands up in disgust does nothing to address the question of why people vote for them.
Some of their support certainly comes from racists, but I'm yet to be convinced that all, or even most, of their supporters think of themselves as racists. Many of their voters feel neglected and frustrated and the BNP appeal to that sense where they work.
On the other hand, they stand for some quite eye-wateringly crazy policies. How about this excerpt from their 2005 manifesto;
"The compulsory National Service system discussed elsewhere in this Manifesto would begin at the age of 18 with a period of basic training in the army. This would include full training with the citizens’ assault rifle. Conscientious objectors who refuse to undertake military service would be allocated other constructive work for the community, but would not receive the citizen’s right to be armed, or the right to vote."
So, let's see. They believe that we should all have the right to bear arms. Not just any arms, but an assault rifle. That's going to make my morning commute a mite more interesting. On the other hand, perhaps people will move right down inside the carriage if I encourage them with my assault rifle.
They also believe in mandatory basic army training. Alright, a bit over the top but there are many who suspect that it would instil discipline. Admittedly, most people think of national service, which wasn't really intended to produce soldiers, and might demur at the idea of taking young thugs off the street, potentially converting them into highly trained, armed killers and then putting them back onto the streets - with their assault rifle, don't forget.
They clearly believe in changing the role of the army - soldiers will need to carry out that training - and in spending money on housing those doing their national service, feeding them, clothing them, arming them etc. Given the disposition of our armed forces, either that means withdrawing them from places they're in, or increasing their numbers. Either choice has implications, in terms of cost, or in terms of our place at the top table of international affairs.
The linkage of mandatory army training with the right to vote means, potentially, the exclusion of the disabled from the franchise. Can the blind complete the training, or are adjustments going to be made to allow them to do so? How about those on dialysis, or with injuries sustained on the sports field or in day to day life? Are they to be dienfranchised by the state for no fault of their own?
However, let's say that I've successfully completed my army training. Will allowing me to carry an assault rifle cause the police to be armed too? If so, they'll need a training budget, they'll need the weapons, and they'll need to change their strategy. After all, if everyone is potentially armed, every incident requires an armed response.
As an example of a country where the right to bear arms is strongly defended, the American model of gun ownership is, in urban areas, one of handguns, and a significant proportion of deaths are accidental. In Canada, on the other hand, gun ownership is far more likely to mean a hunting rifle, and deaths caused by firearms are far lower. An assault weapon is unlikely to be used to hunt - it's designed to kill - and one has fears for the carnage that might follow. It would be likely to assumed that an intruder is armed, and one would feel the need for an armed response. All very well if they are an intruder perhaps...
So, all in all, a policy which might not be so popular when you look at the detail. The BNP want your thuggish neighbour to be armed with something that will, if used, kill you. They want the countryside to be covered with army training facilities. They want the police to be armed. They want to take the vote away from the disabled. They want to miltarise the nation.
Is that enough for the next Focus leaflet?