The BNP's prominence in the news far outweighs its modest support. Before the setbacks of the 2010 general election many commentators became concerned the party would benefit from the 'perfect storm' of a recession and mass disillusionment with mainstream politics after the expenses crisis.
In the 2005 general election, the party stood 119 candidates across England, Wales and Scotland, who together gained 192,850 votes – a 0.7% share nationwide. Although small, it was three times its 2001 result. But as the years progressed, it clocked up more and more wins.
Richard Barnbrook became a BNP member of the London Assembly, but the party's big gain came in the European elections when it got two men elected to the European parliament. Andrew Brons was elected in Yorkshire and the Humber with 9.8% of the vote while chairman and figurehead Nick Griffin was elected for the North-West region, with eight per cent of the vote. Britain went into a period of desperate self-analysis as the wins came through but, as some analysts pointed out, the party had barely increased its vote. Instead, their candidates won through because many supporters of other parties did not turn up to vote.
The party hit legal trouble in the tail end of 2009, when the Equality and Human Rights Commission sought an injunction against them due to their 'whites-only' membership policy, which infringed the Race Relations Act. After much wrangling, the party agreed to change its membership criteria, via an extraordinary meeting on February 14th 2010.
An appearance by Griffin on the BBC's Question Time sparked remarkable scenes of protest outside Television Centre and weeks of debate in the newspapers and online. When the lights finally went up, the panel and most of the studio audience attacked Griffin over and over again, relying predominantly on his previous quotes. He appeared out of his depth throughout, but many observers thought the approach was a mistake which consolidated the idea of him as an underdog.
Exposure to the BNP message only served to hurt its performance in 2010. The party's big battleground was in Barking, where Griffin was standing. The seat attracted significant media attention. Voters rejected the far-right message decisively. Not only did Labour MP Margaret Hodge won the 'battle of Barking', with Griffin in third, but the BNP also lost all its councillors. That trend continued in 2011's local elections, when the BNP won two seats but lost 13. It lost all its five seats in Stoke-on-Trent.