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BRITISH POLITICAL TRADITIONS – THE NATIONALIST ALTERNATIVE(S)?

Graham Williamson writes

There are three main political traditions in Britain: Conservatism, Socialism and Liberalism. The three establishment parties that claim to represent these traditions are the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Their popular support is based on various factors but includes social class, economic bias (of the parties), historical affinities and ‘family’ loyalties. Whilst these ties have begun to break down and the boundaries blurred they are still significant. The first-past-the-post electoral system, media bias, political funding and other ‘barriers to entry’ have made it difficult for alternatives to challenge this three-party hegemony.

Yet as we entered the new Millennium, British politics had become stagnant and the ‘establishment’ parties increasingly estranged from the public. All of the establishment parties rely upon the patronage of big business, wealthy individuals and large public subsidy. They are all finding it increasingly difficult to attract grassroots activists and become ever more reliant on the mass media to deliver their message.

Being out of touch they have abandoned the national interest in favour of a ‘political elite’ which feels it has more in common with similar elites throughout Europe and further afield than they do with their own electorate (1).

All of these parties support to varying degrees mass migration, a European super-state and military intervention in overseas conflicts in line with a US agenda. Their differences are managerial rather than substantial.

The failure of these parties to challenge self-imposed taboos and orthodoxy’s and their unwillingness to tolerate internal opposition, has however led to the emergence of new parties, in particular single-issue groups, representing sections of the public not willing to accept the establishment ‘red lines’.

The most successful ones are those that are a replication or re-presentation of the ‘Traditional’ Parties yet opposed their globlism and alienation from the people. In other words, ‘Nationalist’ alternatives within the three traditions.

For example, the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) represents the Conservative tradition (largely Thatcherite) – winning support amongst the Middle-class and ex-Conservative members/voters. This may of course change over time as it is possible that the break-up of the UK or other factors might lead to increased support for the English Democrats. They could eclipse UKIP in ‘Middle England’.

The British National Party (BNP), generally speaking, represents the Socialist tradition – winning support from the white working class and former Labour voters.

The National Liberal Party (NLP) represents the Liberal tradition. We believe ‘small is beautiful’, support electoral reform, devolution and decentralisation, strong local government, an elected Second Chamber and are opposed to Big Brother attacks on our civil liberties. The NLP will expect to win support among those who favour strong local communities, toleration and democracy. The NLP is likely to attract support from amongst the middle classes, the self-employed and small businessmen.

All of the above are Nationalist/patriotic alternatives but rooted within different traditions. Interestingly they also tend to represent different strains of nationalism too. For example, UKIP are State/Civic Nationalists, supporting the borders of the state in opposition to the EU and any Devolution of the Union.

The BNP are Ethnic Nationalists viewing the nation as contiguous with white Anglo-Saxon peoples.

The NLP are Cultural Nationalists emphasising the values that underpin our nation such as patriotism, liberty, and fairness.

There are other minor ‘nationalist’ parties within these traditions i.e. English Democrats & Freedom Party (conservative) and the English Independence Party (Labour/working class) but the above are, so far, the predominant parties.

CROSS-TRADITIONS?

That is not to say that the Nationalist alternatives, like their establishment counterparts, will not attempt to recruit amongst all the traditions. They do and will recruit across the board since their particular version of nationalism is not essentially class-based (although some contend that there is a correlation). They are nevertheless as rooted within certain social milieus as their establishment counter-parts.

Their policies and principles will often, perhaps unwittingly, appeal to certain social groups and thus perpetuate any predominance within both their membership and voters. For example, the BNP openly talk about discrimination against the white working-class and deprived council estates, UKIP campaign for a return to selective education and Grammar schools and the NLP campaign on behalf of shopping centres and small shopkeepers. This in turn attracts recruits from those most affected by such policies and who will naturally be inclined to campaign on similar lines and recruit similar types and so on.

Despite ongoing attempts at appealing to a supposed classless and non-partisan electorate we do not believe it will be possible for any one alternative to significantly cross-over into all traditions. The ‘traditional three’ struggle themselves to make great inroads into each other’s ‘backyards’ and certainly remain minority alternatives within the ‘other’.

Those parties which openly court an electorate that supposedly exists outside the main traditions find themselves unable to build strong roots. There is no family or social binding amongst political ‘converts’ and thus, whilst such a party may be represented on the ground everywhere, they will be unable to sink deep social, let alone electoral, roots. There is no mileage in being led by a cult leader figure either; Kilroy Silk’s failure to even unite UKIP behind him highlights this.

If therefore it will not be possible for these nationalist alternatives to build a significant (or at least a ‘winning’) broad-church how will they develop?

CO-OPERATION?

The most successful nationalist alternatives will develop their own social bases. This is the root of their survival and the springboard to their success.

Each party must seek to maximise their potential within their ‘designated’ tradition. They need to build strong geographic branches. They need to develop electoral loyalty by standing for election regularly. They need to represent whole areas, estates, districts or even Council Administrations.

Given that many Councils have representatives from all three main traditions the nationalist alternatives may indeed replicate this too. Unlike their traditional counterparts however they are not seen to be part of the existing ‘club’. The different strains of nationalism may need therefore to cooperate, either electorally or via group (council) negotiation.

They can of course co-operate without surrendering their independence and can work together in areas of mutual sympathy e.g. the Solidarity Trade Union, which sees itself as a Nationalist yet Independent or mutual benefit e.g. electoral reform (2).

PITFALLS

Although there is many areas of common interest on national questions e.g. an independent Foreign policy, immigration, national independence, there are also fundamental differences.

In a political version of ‘paper, scissor, stone’, each ‘tradition’ may find reasons not to co-operate, be it the perceived racial perspective of the BNP, the perceived shallowness of civic nationalism or the liberalism i.e. ‘softness’ of cultural nationalists. There may be concern (certainly present at the moment) of being smeared by association. The fear of poaching within each other’s ranks will also be a powerful inhibitor.

If however these traditions can tolerate their differences and be confident of their bedrock support then some well-defined co-operation will be possible (3).

We are witnessing the emergence of three and not one nationalist tradition all of whom will not readily surrender their independence. Whether they can co-operate profitably or would rather prosper (or stagnate) in ‘splendid isolation’ only time will tell.

1. The traditional parties, desperate for the rewards of power, seek to differentiate themselves to the electorate but largely compete over the same ground. The ‘rush to the centre’ is in fact a pitch to the ‘floating’ voter but the parties still rest upon a bedrock of traditional support They take a great deal of it for granted. The alternative parties that have ‘attacked’ this base support are the ones that are most successful.
2. Non-establishment parties as a whole might benefit from some co-operation on this point but rivalry and ideological differences may prove difficult to overcome.
3 . The benefits, pitfalls and mechanics of ‘Coalition/co-operative politics is discussed in articles elsewhere on this website.

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