In-depth result analysis by Nick Griffin
Oldham East and Saddleworth
By-election, 13th January 2011 – Turnout 48.1%
Debbie Abrahams, Labour 14,718 votes – 42.1%
Elwyn Watkins, Liberal Democrat 11,160 votes – 31.9%
Kashif Ali, Conservative 4,481 votes – 12.8%
Paul Nuttall, UKIP 2,029 votes – 5.8%
Derek Adams, BNP 1,560 votes – 4.5%
Peter Allen, Green 530 votes – 1.5%
Nick "The Flying Brick" Delves, Monster Raving Loony 145 votes – 0.4%
Stephen Morris, English Democrats 144 votes - 0.4%
Loz Kaye, Pirate 96 votes – 0.3%
David Bishop, Bus-Pass Elvis 67 votes – 0.2%
“I just don’t understand it”, one of the activists who was out on the streets of Oldham with me on Wednesday told me this morning. “The public’s response, to you personally and our message and party generally was so positive. Lots of them seem to love us, but then they don’t bother to vote. It’s not what’s wrong with us; it’s what wrong with them I reckon!”
I know exactly where he’s coming from but I had to tell him, with the respect due to all the many activists who came out and experienced the same thing and who today feel the same, he and they are wrong. There is indeed a huge mismatch between the still growing ‘soft’ public sympathy for our message, our struggle and our party, and how it is failing to translate into votes. And this gap is our fault.
To pretend the problem is not there is nearly as counter-productive as saying that it is and then trying to make a scapegoat of an individual or a policy or of the fact that we didn’t put a certain policy on our election addresses. This is why this post-election analysis is blunt, constructively critical and, most important of all, forward looking.
Let’s start by acknowledging that the result is disappointing. For a start, it shows that even in a predominantly (though by no means exclusively, for Saddleworth is quite a posh place set in a landscape of farms and commuter belt villages) working class area, UKIP money can indeed (just) beat BNP activism, dedication and old style blanket campaigning. And, by our previous standards and in light of the very short campaign, complete with interruptions by snow and Christmas, it was indeed a good campaign.
We met all the deadlines for posting our election addresses, no mean feat given the fact that the LibDems sprung the election so as to give their opponents effectively just 48 hours to get the material intended for the 10,000 postal voters written, designed and approved by the Post Office in time to meet the deadline for delivery to coincide with the arrival of postal ballot papers. A stupendous effort by Elections Officer Clive Jefferson and our design team meant that we were the only party other than the LibDems and Labour which succeeded in meeting that deadline.
We also did a fully addressed mailshot to all the non-postal voters, splitting male and female voters to have the Post Office deliver two different items of British National Party literature to most of the 42,000 houses in the constituency.
The Power of Postal Votes
Meeting the deadline for postal votes is of course necessary, but it is sadly not really helpful when postal vote list already packed with firm supporters of other parties. Healthy, normal, working adults (our voters) don’t get postal votes; party machines get postal votes for ethnic blocks and individuals they have identified as firm supporters.
This is because someone with a postal vote is far more likely to vote than someone who hasn’t got one – up to eight times more likely in local elections! This is why we have to register our supporters en masse, and it takes time.
We should have made the job of getting our supporters postal votes en masse standard after the first win we had in Barking, where it was an experiment in signing our supporters up as postal voters that won us the seat with a big majority, but inexplicably and unforgivably it was left undone.
It will take several years of relentless work to make up the lost ground.
Some lessons from Thursday’s bruising have already been taken to heart. Others can be learnt if we ask the questions and listen. For example, why didn’t people who were saying they were going to vote for us not do so? What might make them change in future? We’ve never asked this before, not ever. Now we are going to!
Action to Find Answers
So last night we started our call centre team calling a large sample of our known supporters in the constituency with a questionnaire designed to find out the answers.
As a matter of fact, these are not only questions we need to ask. While the Tories threw campaign to try to help LibDems, their vote still suffered a terrible collapse, and their rank-and-file won’t be impressed. Despite huge public anger at their betrayal on issues such as tuition fees, the LibDems actually did come a good second. Why? Because their machine, and literature, while not as good as Labour’s, is at least still in the same Premier league. All the rest of us, Tories included, are playing in the local pub teams’ league.
The Green vote too was shockingly bad. After all, this is the first by-election since the General Election in which they had their leader elected as an MP, a huge breakthrough for a minor party. To receive only one third of our vote, despite quite an active campaign on the ground, is clearly a serious embarrassment to them. The English Democrats, meanwhile, suffered the ultimate humiliation of being beaten by the Monster Raving Looney Party.
UKIP’s Huge Advantages
UKIP also had a terrible showing under the circumstances. True, they beat us, but not by a huge margin. Yet consider all the advantages they enjoy:
They have as much money as they can possibly spend. In Oldham they even did a deal with the breweries to pay to put their placards on virtually every pub in the constituency, thus appearing to have the popular support of dozens of publicans – who actually had no say in the matter – and their regulars.
On top of this they monopolised the normal advertising billboards.
We all know how often Nigel Farage is plugged by the BBC, where he is frequently allowed to make all the points he wants, not only on the popular issue of the evils of the EU but also to pose as anti-immigration and nationalistic (even though, in reality, he and his party are firmly in favour of substantial Asian and African immigration and support the Establishment’s disastrous policies of international free trade and globalisation.
This is why, incidentally, calls for ‘unity’ between the British National Party and UKIP are either naive or deliberate trouble-making, for not only is its leadership extremely hostile to the BNP, but UKIP is in any case not even nationalist, let alone in favour of the preservation of the indigenous people of Britain).
UKIP effectively enjoys the backing of the Daily Express, which is running a permanent campaign to get Britain out of the EU, and has given massive coverage to several of Farage’s most entertaining and hard-hitting speeches in the European Parliament. It also enjoys the open support of a number of columnists in the Mail and Telegraph.
UKIP is based on the hugely popular and non-demonised issue of opposition to the Euro project, and was thus perfectly placed to hoover up the right-wing and instinctively anti-Cameron Tory vote in an election where the Conservatives deliberately did very little and stood a Muslim candidate in the hope of propping up their LibDem coalition partners.
All those advantages, yet they could only just beat the BNP. No wonder so many of their members are bitterly disappointed with their poor showing.
A Problem Shared
This proves that our problem in turning soft sympathy into votes isn’t only our problem – UKIP, the Greens and the English Democrats all suffer from exactly the same thing. For what can simplistically be termed “the populist right”, the problem is particular acute. With current opinion polls showing immigration a key issue for voters and four out of five saying it’s bad for Britain and needs cutting, and with a similar proportion opposed to further EU integration, the combined “right-wing populist” vote was still less than 11% of those cast.
Let’s strip this down to its most basic: The tabloid press has spent the last decade and more selling papers with endless rehashing of stories of the cost to taxpayers, threats from and wrong-doings of Eurocrats, the political elite, Islamists, criminals and asylum-seekers – yet a mere 5% of the electorate are actually motivated to get off their backsides and vote for one or other of the parties which articulate those concerns. Millions pay good money to read about these issues, but only a handful of them are at present willing to vote about them.
We can put it another way: Labour and the LibDems got nearly everyone who thinks likes them into the voting booths, but the patriotic, taxpaying vote largely went straight from home to work and back again without bothering to make a three minute detour to the polling station.
More than half of all the electors in the constituency didn’t bother to vote. Perhaps 10% of the indigenous population there isn’t even registered to vote. With the higher turn-out rate of the tribalistic ethnic minorities, the stark reality is that probably only one third of the English/British inhabitants of Oldham East and Saddleworth voted for anyone last Thursday.
What are the remaining two-thirds thinking about? In many cases, without a shadow of a doubt, that “the BNP are right”. The problem is that, at present, they’ll think it, they’ll talk about it with their friends, they’ll even give us the thumbs up in the street, but they won’t go and put a cross on a ballot paper.
Activists in Good Heart
So, now we have put our result in Oldham into context, let’s turn to what it all means for us in practical terms. The good news is that, over the last few weeks, we’ve shown we can campaign and that our activist base has recovered from last year’s subversion and black propaganda and the mistakes we made to give it legs. We’ve had great turn-outs of activists, with carloads coming from all over the country to help our excellent candidate Derek Adams, and to show our enemies and detractors that the British National Party is very much alive and kicking.
It’s the same with the enthusiasm with which the party has taken on the Bring Our Boys Home petition campaign, the good turn-outs at our ‘No Mosque Here’ demonstrations and the fact that last year closed with our best ever conference. It all shows that the British National Party’s activist and officials base is solid, dedicated, united and determined to carry on fighting for all we hold dear. The question is not whether we’ll fight, but whether we can find ways to fight effectively.
A predictable pair of questions here is “what happened to the new data-based elections fighting system we were told about last autumn? Why didn’t it work in Oldham East?”
The answer is, because we didn’t, and couldn’t, use it in Oldham East. First, the system itself is still under construction. Once we sat down after the General Election and changed our Elections department, it didn’t take us long to work out what our opponents have been doing - and what we hadn’t been doing – which had led to us falling so far behind. But knowing what’s missing and being able to fill the gaps are too very different things.
It simply isn’t possible in just a few months to make up for half a decade of (in hindsight) clearly deliberate neglect and catch up with something built by Labour and the LibDems at a cost of £ Millions over five years. The Elections Dept had the handbrake on, and while it’s now off it is taking time to get the damage done put right and get moving again in the right direction.
Data collection and analysis, telephone canvassing, postal vote acquisitions, voter classification and targeting – we know what to do, some of our prototypes are working fine, others still aren’t, all need more work and more money.
On top of that, the election in Oldham was called so quickly that we didn’t have time even to experiment with the working prototypes in our campaigning database.
Additionally, even when everything is fully up to speed, large parts of ‘Alfred’, as we have named our system, can only ever be as good as the local branch using them. A system that streamlines our ability to reach out to and motivate postal voters, for example, will make a huge difference to our showing in a ward where a local team has taken national and local petitions and Freedom sales door-to-door, and does regular community and local newsletter work on the streets and doorsteps, relentlessly, for several years.
Sustained Activism the Key
But where it’s in the hands of an ‘organiser’ who thinks that all we need to do is hold meetings that preach to the same thirty already converted and put out one leaflet two weeks before polling day, neither Alfred nor even the Labour Party’s £17 Million equivalent will be a blind bit of use. No system can make up for a lack of sustained and intelligent grass-roots activism.
Only well-directed local activism can provide the voter contacts and the information we need to overcome the radical disconnect between our ‘soft’ support and our hard votes.
So how are we going to achieve this? How are we going to show and train the party in using the new systems? How are we going to de-bug them and turn them from techie geek programmes into user-friendly real campaign tools?
The good news is that the first parts of this jigsaw should be available on an experimental/basic training level for use in the coming Barnsley by-election. We hope in turn that lessons learnt there can be rolled out so that the simplest and least labour intensive parts of Alfred can be used in our drive to take a seat in the Welsh Assembly elections at the start of May.
Two Year Lead Time
Overall, however, far from Alfred being available to make a difference in Oldham, the reality is that the benefits of the full system won’t really begin to kick in for at least two years – and even then only where our local organisation makes the effort to use the tools and training we are going to provide.
In any area in which our local team doesn’t make that effort, the BNP will continue to fall further and further behind our main opponents. I can tell you quite bluntly that, in areas where our people fail to use the new system - save perhaps in exceptional cases where a Labour-run council is clearly seen to be imposing brutal cuts on indigenous working class areas while feather-bedding immigrant wards and projects - we will not win a single further Labour council seat until that wretched party is once again in government.
We used, in effect, to be in a foot race with Labour and the other main parties on the electoral road. But our opponents have now bought cars. So either we build a car (as we can’t afford to buy one), or we will never win again.
We could blame and change leaders from now ’til Doomsday. We could change policies and emphasise different ones until we were blue or red in the face. But the only thing that will return us to winning elections is to develop and use the full potential of the Alfred system.
The good news is that we have made further progress on designing and acquiring more parts for Alfred even in the last few weeks when we have been essentially flat out with Oldham. A small team of technically-savvy London BNP officials in particular is making great strides with developing the telephone side of the project.
So, while it is still taking time (the entry of electronic registers in particular is proving a nightmare, since almost every different council uses a different system for these), I am confident that, given time and the limited amount of money we need to keep our central technical team in the field, we will be able to finish the job and provide the tools and the training the party needs.
At that point, our future trajectory will largely depend on how many local organisers and activists we have who are sick and tired of losing, and who have the will to win. Fortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll need to work any harder – for many of our activists just couldn’t do so – just that we’ll all be working much smarter.
Tactics to ‘Connect’
Though, of course, we do need to have many more people working – both hard and smart. This brings us to the final part of this post-Oldham review. Where are we going to get those new recruits, given that the disconnect between soft support and votes is dwarfed by the gap between that soft support and actual active membership?
What can we do to catch the men and women and youngsters who wave at us and honk their car hooters in support, and turn them not just into voters but even into activists and BNP leaders in their own communities?
Well, we know that we have a disconnect. So logically we can only overcome it if we connect. That can only happen in one of two ways: Either we just keep going as we are, and wait until some future crisis (economic collapse, Islamic dirty bomb, banking collapse, there are several possible candidates) forces people to turn to us at some stage in the future.
Or we change how we work and stop merely talking about ‘sinking local roots’ and actually knuckle down to do it.
Personally, I am a firm believer in the adage that “the Lord helps those who help themselves”, and I am not inclined to sit around waiting for some future ‘Crisis’ to sweep us into power (not least because no-one was ever swept into power who hadn’t first spent years preparing the ground and building the organisation needed to take advantage of the crisis).
There’s no point hoping it will happen, we’ve got to put ourselves out and make it happen. I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me on this too, so the only question is, how?
Here too, there is good news. Because this isn’t something that my leadership team and I have just worked out in response to the poor showing of all the would-be ‘alternative’ parties in Oldham. We’ve been working on this since last June.
That, for example, is why we launched the Bring Our Boys Home petition. Not because we think that Cameron will take any notice, or even that it’s a particularly good recruiter (though where branches have bothered to ask signatories to come to local social gatherings and then meetings, they have found that some can indeed be turned into members) but because it was a great initial way of showing activists used to years of scurrying round putting out leaflets anonymously in the evening dark that we can stand out proud in High Streets in broad daylight and be popular with Joe and Josie Public.
That’s where we begin to ‘connect’, by being seen as real human beings, not shadows in the night.
That was just the first stage. We hope to deliver the petition to Downing Street early in March, and before then we need to switch local efforts from street stalls to taking the petition door-to-door in target wards.
This has already been done experimentally, and the exciting thing is that almost everyone signs. Which means that, once the petition is delivered, we can write personal letters to all those signatories, thus showing them that the British National Party delivers on its promises and values them enough to bother to tell them – that’s halfway to turning them into a solid supporter, and we have the data system we need to record their details and keep targeting them until the job is done.
Bread and Butter Issues Needed
And, of course, there’ll be other petitions on other issues. The Bring Our Boys Home was essentially an idealistic one. That’s good, because a fuzzy understanding of our idealism, and that our ideals are the public’s ideals, is what underpins our growing soft popularity. But to crystallise that soft support, voters need to see us campaigning, and ideally making a difference, on bread-and-butter issues.
Two which spring to mind at present would be effective and high profile BNP involvement in fuel tax protests and for us to launch a major campaign on Muslim paedophile grooming gangs and the authorities’ failure to stop them.
This latter issue has now been blown wide open. There is huge public appetite for action, which is going to be disappointed by the political elite. We must move into this gap, intelligently and actively, in and near every area in the country where this scandal has raised its brutally ugly head.
The System knows, probably better than we do, our growing potential. That’s why we’ve had to face the failed CEHR attempt to destroy us, endless financial pressure, the artificial promotion of the UKIP and blatantly Zionist-backed EDL electoral and street safety valves, frantic attempts to use undercover police officers and other ‘internal’ opposition to demoralise and divide and keep us too busy with rubbish to move forward, and the use of ‘far-left’ organised by other undercover police spies to intimidate people who would otherwise help us and try to push us into sterile confrontation with cranks.
We’re Still Here – and Here To Stay!
Faced with all that, the real story is that we’re still here at all - contesting elections and campaigning on important issues like Afghan War, elite tax scams and grooming. We shouldn’t even still be here. But we are and, regardless of the soon-to-be-forgotten result, our activists’ enthusiasm in Oldham and on recent activities up and down country, prove we’re here to stay.
Make no mistake; this was always going to be a long march. It still is, and I need you with me along the way. This is why I’ve taken the time to explain what our next steps together are going to be.
Time and time again in life, we find that we often learn more from apparent failures than we do from apparent successes. Victory is a heady brew that can all too easily breed over-confidence and complacency.
Temporary set-backs, on the other hand, make us think and learn. And from learning comes wisdom, knowledge of better ways to do things, and progress.
That’s where we are right now – let us go forward together!
Dates for your Diary:
Barnsley – Day of Action, Training Event and Indoor Rally. Sat 29th January.
South Wales – Assembly Elections Campaign Launch and Weekend of Action. Sat-Sun 5th -6th March.
North Wales – Assembly Elections Campaign Launch and Weekend of Action Sat- Sun 12th – 13th March.