Objectively and thoroughly assessing this view is clearly difficult because the definitions of right and left wing do not properly capture the subtleties of political belief but I think Tebbit's analysis is an entirely sensible one. There are two plausible definitions of the right wing which have value in making our assessment of the BNP's leanings:
- A belief in the value of free markets and distrust of the constructive value of state power: This fits with the modern conception of the right wing's views on economics. When Stiglitz describes a "market ideology" as a great evil he is clearly positioning himself on the 'left'.
- A distrust of radicalism: Right wing parties have always had a belief in the value of tradition as a social glue and a repository of collective experience in making uncertain policy choices.
Equally, the BNP shows little attachment to incrementalism. A conservative, right wing, response to concerns over immigration, which are widely held, is to take action to reduce new immigrant numbers and encourage integration. A classic right wing response to immigration is the one put forward by Krauthammer recently. Radical responses such as repatriation advocated by the BNP cannot have much attachment to those with an interest in social stability and suspicious of radical panaceas.
The two letters responding to Lord Tebbit's both miss the point. The first sees the sum of the right wing in authoritarianism. Tebbit has already answered this point: As the most authoritarian states of the 20th century were clearly left wing (Maoist China, the GDR with the Stasi, the USSR) this cannot be a preserve of the right. To identify all those who believe in maintaining the state's authority as right wing is clearly mistaken.
The second letter argues that as the Nazis were right wing the BNP must also be. This would work if the other fascists were objectively right wing but they are not. The Nazis also believed in state control of industry, autarkic trade policy and a radical's break with tradition. This is why they were called the National Socialist party and why supporters so regularly moved between the Nazis and the Communists. Mussolini was a notable transfer from Socialism to National Socialism and saw little contradiction.
Tebbit is clearly correct that the BNP as fascists do not fit on the right wing of the ideological spectrum.