Fraser Nelson has an article in the current Spectator on the rise of the BNP.
The story he tells is that "Britain has never been racist", but that voters are being deceived by the BNP's "devious ploy: distracting public attention from the racist reality of the BNP by representing itself as 'the helpful party'"
Nelson's estimate of the stupidity of the ordinary Briton is impressive, but I suspect it is he that is being deceived. My own impression (not, I confess, based on any very deep connection to the man in the street) is that at the very least a large minority of the British white working class is quite racist, but knows perfectly well that it is not allowed to say so. Previous far-right political movements have failed, not because voters have disagreed with their racism, but because they have perceived accurately that the movements will be crushed by the establishment by any means necessary. The public likes a strong horse.
The BNP's current softer facade is succeeding, not because voters are fooled by it, but because they see that it makes the BNP harder to exclude (and because the weakened establishment has itself lost authority). They can look an elite political journalist in the eye and tell him that they will vote BNP, but they're not racist, oh no, that would be wrong, and they can suppress a smirk, and think to themselves, "yes, this time we might actually be going to get away with it".
Maybe I'm the only one to think of this possibility, but I don't think so, because it is the only thing that explains the establishment's terror at what is, by the numbers, still very much a fringe movement. I really don't know how many people in Britain are racist, and nobody else does either, because those who are are afraid to say so. If the political momentum ever goes to the BNP, then its secret followers will feel free to stand up and say what they believe. I would not rule out the possibility that they are already a majority, but don't know it. The anti-racist consensus might be blown away like Ceaucescu if they speak up and find that they are strong. That would make the determination of the establishment to clamp down on every racist squeak a necessity rather than an overreaction.
Ah, the dilemma of the left-winger, who believes that the working class is entitled to rule, and yet unfit to do so. I would laugh aloud at their discomfiture, if the stakes were not so high.
Update: BNP Failure