While I accept the basic points advanced, by way of a (sort of) reply to Rob Ford's piece in this month's issue of Progress magazine, here are a few thoughts on the far right. In my opinion there are a number of things working against a revival of the BNP (or a successor organisation) in the short-term. That, of course, comes with the caveat that this is no counsel for complacency.
1. The far right are certainly in decline as all their results from 2010 suggest. Internal ructions, the EDL, fallings out, splits have all played a part. But also the personal costs of far right activism are quite high. The racism of the BNP and EDL are out of step with an increasingly tolerant and accepting culture. Racism is not the done thing, and open BNP membership will likely cost you friends and good relations with some family members.
2. Sticking with the costs theme, anti-fascist activism has continued to make the far right an unpalatable choice for a political career. Putting aside debates on the strategic efficacy of certain approaches, and whether Unite Against Fascism or Hope Not Hate have more of a handle on tackling fascist organisations; getting leaflets shoved through your estate's doors decrying you as a racist, being confronted by anti-fascist demonstrations, sometimes ending up on the wrong-end of local or national media interest, or running the gauntlet of braying anti-fascists outside a count does take its toll. When the far right's fortunes are on the rise, the hassle can be dampened by internal camaraderie and a feeling the political winds have caught in your sails. When they're not and the whole ship is sinking, why bother putting up with it?
3. Labour has finally got its campaigning act together. As this piece by Jane Heggie and Mark Davis notes, it is vitally important Labour parties campaign all year round. The BNP were able to get toeholds in traditional Labour areas partly because, for whatever reason, the regular contacts of leaflet drops, canvassing sessions, party-organised community events did not happen. Campaigning is now taken extremely seriously by the party leadership, and constituency organisations in 'safe' areas who do little between elections are thankfully much rarer these days.
4. The axis of politics has changed. For former Labour supporters, voting Conservative as a protest against the Blair/Brown governments was unthinkable. But that nice be-suited BNP man who talked about Labour betraying white working class people, he seemed worthy of the occasional punt. It certainly forced the Labour establishment to wake up to the needs and aspirations of a taken-for-granted core support. Now, with a right-wing government in power supported by the LibDems, Labour is the main beneficiary of ballot box discontent.
5. The rapid collapse of the National Front after 1979 was helped along partly because the Tories adopted some elements of their programme. Winding the film of history forward to 2012, not only are the Tories of today determined to be seen to be tough on immigration, those lovely people in UKIP are gobbling up the political space for anti-establishment right-wing populism. Unlike the BNP, the whiff of racism about UKIP is much fainter, they have a chunk of the media cheering them on and, crucially, in a certain light Nigel Farage can appear charismatic. UKIP itself presents mainstream politics and the Labour Party its own challenges, but while its star burns brightly in the protest party firmament it is highly doubtful the BNP or any other fascist vehicle can regain the momentum they once possessed.