The dark secret in the far Right’s closet

By Hugo Rifkin (THE TIMES, 24/10/08):

Honestly, why can’t the far Right just get its act together? I don’t expect much from my recidivist Hitlerian bogeyman. A coherent desire for humanity to be ground under the jackbooted heels of the armies of the night, that’ll do me. Is it too much to ask?

Seems so. Jörg Haider, wherever you are, you’re a big disappointment. For a while, I really thought you were the one we were waiting for. You liked the Nazis, you really weren’t fond of Jews. You were an anti-immigrant populist, and finally, you seemed destined for real power. You could have inspired thousands. Oh yes. We really could have hated you.

But no. Because you had to be secretly gay, didn’t you? You can still be an evil tyrant and be gay, of course. Just ask the Emperor Hadrian, but the secrecy of it, the wife and kids, well, that sadly points towards a degree of inner conflict. It makes you sound like a victim, Jörg. Not a bully. It’s bloody annoying.

Then we have Stefan Petzner, your successor as leader of the far-right Alliance for the Future of Austria and also, it turns out, your lover. I don’t want to be too nasty about him, because he’s just lost the guy he loved and is obviously distraught, but still.

It’s not great that you met while he was a “cosmetics reporter”, but I can deal with that, particularly if your specialist interest was the blonding of hair, the blueing of eyes and whatnot. The unforgivable bit was what he said about staying over at your house.

“That was important for me,” Petzner has just said, in a radio interview, “because I often was afraid to be alone in the dark.” For God’s sake, man. This won’t do. You’re supposed to be terrifying. We can’t have you being afraid of the dark. It makes us feel stupid.

Perhaps the problem is that we don’t hear enough from the far Right. Nobody wants to share a platform with them, and nobody wants to invite them on telly. Scrutiny doesn’t happen. There is quite a gulf between the guy whom 30,000 people felt they were mourning at his funeral, and the guy who went to bed with his spokesman in the spare room while his wife slept alone.

Of more than 20,000 council seats in this country, the BNP holds fewer than 50. Watching Question Time last week (from Stoke-on-Trent, where there are six BNP councillors) I was struck by how the panel, none of whom were in the BNP, and the audience, none of whom were in the BNP, spent 15 minutes talking about the BNP. It made the party seem huge, awesome and weirdly sidelined.

I spoke to the BNP once. It was a few years ago, and I was following up on a story about the demise of Nick Griffin’s two pigs – Anne and Frank. The spokesman was getting a lot of calls. “But my uncle is called Frank,” he said, baffled, to more than one newspaper. “Do you think that’s racist, too?” We shouldn’t be scared of these people. It’s exciting to think of them as monsters, but they really aren’t very good at it.