The leaked BNP list contains some 12,800 names. Not all of these are members of the party – some of the names have not paid subscriptions for three years.
It is also clear that only a minority are active members of the party. Just under 3,000 of the names have the word “activist” next to them – around one in four.
Some commentators have suggested that these figures are smaller than expected – and that the BNP therefore poses less of a threat than had previously been thought.
But this misses the fact that the fascists have been grabbing unprecedented electoral success of late. They can attract a significant vote despite having relatively few members in an area.
That is because the BNP can feed off disillusion with the mainstream political parties by exploiting the climate of racism against Muslims and immigrants whipped up in the media.
Recent research suggests that the people who vote for the BNP share a similar social composition to that suggested by the leaked list.
A report compiled by academics at the University of Essex “investigated the relationship between the social class mix of the ward and the level of support attained by the BNP” and found that “the roots of their appeal are among the lower middle classes”.
“Our analysis also suggests that the BNP gains its electoral support from all three of the largest parties, and not just Labour,” the report added. “In fact it gains most from the Conservatives and least from Labour.”
While the BNP can grab seats by appealing to racism, it finds it harder to hang on to them. The past few years have seen a pattern of the fascists breaking through in certain areas only to lose support again a few years later.
Their problem is turning voters into members and members into hardcore Nazi activists.
The publication of their membership list will make many BNP voters think twice before firming up their racism by joining a Nazi organisation.
One newspaper quoted an unnamed BNP insider saying, “People are leaving in droves and everyone is furious.”
This is good news. But anti-fascists need to keep up their campaign against the BNP so that the Nazis find themselves blocked in the ballot box too.