Surveying the world of digital television in pursuit of the unusual can be like fishing. You toss a lot of stuff back that’s unfit to consume and there are also occasions when something tremendous slips through the net and onto the TV without undue fanfare, and this appears to be what happened with Sky’s BNP Wives. First screened last year and enjoying considerable status on the internet ever since, this ultimately tragic yet relentlessly bizarre insight into the women of the far right returns to the comparatively big screen this week where you can catch it in all it’s futile, flag-waving glory. How I missed it the first time I’ll never know, but it’s not a mistake any of us can afford to make twice.
To extend the watery comparison it’s worth noting that laughing at the BNP from the safety of a newspaper column is akin to shooting fish in a barrel, albeit fish that think they alone should have special access to the barrel because they have somehow calculated that the barrel is theirs alone. In this programme though, filmed with the party’s compliance it’s as if they are loading a gun, handing it to you and then pointing out some especially slow moving fish and pretty much begging you to open fire. So, here goes.
The show is the story of Susie, Marlene and Lynne. Susie is married to a party official and seems to have absorbed sufficient rhetoric to convince herself that her problems are caused by non-white people living close by in Yorkshire and are in no way connected to the mainly white people who actually run the government in London. Marlene has thrown herself into nationalist politics in an attempt to move on from a nasty divorce though she appears only to have succeeded in divorcing herself from reality in the process. “I’ve never denied the holocaust…I just question the numbers,” is but one of her pithy catchphrases. Lynne is a local level activist who loves cats almost as much as she loathes foreigners and calls a woman a “fat slag” for having the temerity to suggests to her their may be some positive aspects to racial diversity.
According to the programme the BNP “has put its female members to the fore in an effort to soften the party’s image.” If that intention was to soften the image from thuggery to idiocy then mission accomplished. But lest their spoken opinions do them a disservice we get to see the girls in action too. In a conspicuous metaphor for the whole affair Marlene goes canvassing with a union jack on her car so large that she cannot see where she is going. There is also footage of a BNP fete where the entertainment consists of a man in a union jack waistcoat playing the spoons. The continued pre-eminence of Hip Hop in the charts against such competition seems assured.
In the end you feel a bit sorry for them, they’re no happy bunch. Asked if she likes being a BNP wife Susie replies somewhat wearily, “I wish I was a footballer’s wife, at least I’d have the money,” presumably not a black footballer though, because that wouldn't do. Seldom have the malign and the ridiculous been so intimately entwined.