Well it had to happen sometime. An attempt by the BNP to establish a non-aggression pact of the extreme right with UKIP for next year's European elections has collapsed after being rejected by UKIP leader Nigel Farage and the UKIP NEC. Farage is now proclaiming that this is evidence that UKIP is a 'non racist and non sectarian party'.
On the face of it, this seems like good PR for UKIP. However, on closer inspection, there seems more to this than meets the eye. The pact was brought before UKIP by Buster Mottram, a former member of the National Front, who claimed to be speaking with the blessing of BNP leader Nick Griffin. The thing is, though, that Buster Mottram was, until today that is, also an active member of UKIP. Indeed, only last year he wrote, on UKIPs behalf, to a number of Tory MPs warning them that they would be 'decapitated' at the next election if they do not sign up to the Better Off Out campaign. Farage even went on the record to defend him, describing Mottram's former NF membership as 'youthful indiscretions'. Weren't quite so 'non racist' then were we Nigel?
Secondly, UKIP are claiming that the offer was rejected 'unanimously' by their NEC. Yet, tucked away at the bottom of their press release is revealed the fact that two members of UKIPs NEC resigned today - presumably because they supported the pact. This is either a spectacular coincidence or yet another example of Nigel Farage's particular interpretation of the phrase 'party democracy'.
Besides, UKIP have co-operated with the BNP in the past and there's an argument that the two parties of the extreme right would fare better if they came to an informal arrangement not to attack each other. After all, the BNP are hoping to gain seats at the euro-elections, and will be particularly targeting London (where they gained a seat on the Assembly this June) and the North-West, where the bulk of their local councillors are. Were they to also focus their resources in Yorkshire, the South-West, East Midlands, East and South-East, they could take UKIP votes to deny them seats won in 2004.
A further fly in the ointment is the announcement by Declan Ganley, the frontman of Libertas which led to 'No' campaign on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, that he intends to stand candidates in all 12 regions of the UK and is attempting to raise £75m to establish Libertas as a 'European political party'. This is another threat that could fragment the eurosceptic right. Libertas would expect to take votes from UKIP and the Conservatives and, with Ganley's millions, would be able to comfortably outspend them during the campaign.
It will be fascinating to see how this plays out. UKIP, in particular, will be desperate to avoid Libertas candidates standing against them. One thing is for sure - such a fragmentation of the extreme eurosceptic right could lead to these natural ideological bedfellows collectively putting each other out of business.