British National Party

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British National Party
Chairman Nick Griffin MEP
Founded 1982
Headquarters Welshpool, Wales
Newspaper Voice of Freedom
Youth wing Resistance (YBNP)
Membership  (Dec 2012) Decrease 4,872[1][note 1]
Ideology Fascism[3][4][5][6]
Right-wing populism[7][8]
White nationalism[9][10][11]
British unionism[12]
Euroscepticism[13]
Political position Far-right[14]
European affiliation Alliance of European National Movements[15]
European Parliament group Non-Inscrits
Colours             
Red, white and blue
House of Commons
0 / 650
European Parliament
1 / 72
Local government
2 / 21,871
Website
www.bnp.org.uk
Politics of the United Kingdom
Political parties
Elections

The British National Party (BNP) is a far-right political party in the United Kingdom. The party was formed by John Tyndall in 1982 from the merging of several political parties, and since 1999 has been led by Nick Griffin. BNP party platform has been centred on the advocacy of "voluntary resettlement whereby immigrants and their descendants are afforded the opportunity to return to their lands of ethnic origin."[16] As well as anti-immigration policies, the party advocates the reintroduction of capital punishment, and opposes same-sex marriage, and what it perceives as the Islamification of the UK.

The party's ideology has been described as fascist by political scientists and commentators.[3] High-profile groups and people including The Royal British Legion and David Cameron have criticised the BNP, and BNP membership is prohibited for people of certain occupations. It restricted membership to "indigenous British" people until a 2010 legal challenge to its constitution.[17]

The BNP finished fifth in the 2008 London mayoral election with 5.3% of the vote, winning a seat in the London Assembly. In 2009 it won its first county council seats and two seats in the European Parliament, with leader Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons being elected as Members of the European Parliament (MEP) in the North West and Yorkshire and Humber regions. Brons resigned from the BNP in 2011. During the 2010 General Election, the BNP received 1.9% of the vote and failed to win any seats. According to the BNP's statement of accounts in December 2012, its membership was 4872, compared to over 12,000 in 2009. A number of breakaway parties have been formed by former BNP members.

History

Foundation: 1982

Photograph of people carrying Union Flags, demonstrating outside a factory.
National Front march from the 1970s. The movement from which the BNP would emerge by 1982.

The British National Party[note 2] was founded in 1982 following a split within the far right National Front (NF) two years before.[18] After a poor showing at the 1979 general election, internal factional division heightened within the NF, culminating in chairman John Tyndall leaving the party in 1980,[19] and founding the New National Front, which became the BNP two years later.[20]

Tyndall's new BNP absorbed the membership of the British Democratic Party, a small British nationalist party led by Anthony Reed Herbert which was attempting to distance itself from neo-nazism,[21] and which had itself earlier split from the NF.[22] Also joining were members of the Constitutional Movement, another NF splinter group who had distanced themselves from fascism and violent subcultures such as football hooliganism.[23] However, despite Tyndall's attempt to distance the BNP from fascism, several members of the disintegrating British Movement were allowed to join.[24]

Early years: 1983–1990

In 1983, Tyndall sought to make an electoral impact by fielding 53 candidates in the 1983 general election, which guaranteed a free party broadcast,[25] but all of the BNP's candidates combined—including Tyndall and his wife Valerie—achieved only 14,621 votes and as a result they lost all of their deposits.[26] It was revealed afterwards that the BNP Deputy chairman Ray Hill had been working as a mole on behalf of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight.[27]

Tyndall attempted to distance the party from neo-nazism and the skinhead subculture,[28] claiming that the party's more moderate image attracted 3,000 enquiries for membership after the 1983 general election.[29] However, despite an increase in membership and media exposure, the BNP continued to poll very low in council elections, ranging from 1% to 3%, the sole exception being a council by-election in Sunderland in 1984, where the party polled 11.7%.[30]

In 1986, Tyndall and John Morse were imprisoned for inciting racial hatred.[31] While Tyndall was imprisoned, the party ceased its electoral activity; only one candidate stood in the London Borough council elections.[32] While Tyndall and Morse served four-month prison sentences, membership of the party had shrunk, and with little financial income, Tyndall decided not to stand candidates in the 1987 general election.[33] In 1989, the BNP had 800 members.[34]

Gains at local level, 1990s

The decline of the National Front, which had split into further factions, caused an increase in support and membership for the BNP.[35] Around this time, the party's popularity grew in east London and it relocated its bookshop to a heavily fortified headquarters at Welling.[36] At the 1992 general election, Tyndall and Jane Birdwood were noted candidates who unsuccessfully stood for election.[37][38] John Tyndall also succeeded in retaining his deposit at a parliamentary by-election at Dagenham in June 1994, a first for the BNP.[39][40]

In 1994, in the aftermath of losing its first local council seat, the British National Party clashed with paramilitary organisation, Combat 18.[41] That same year, the BNP proscribed membership of the group[37] and claimed it had been infiltrated by MI5.[42] In September 1995, Tyndall maintained that in response to the BNP's victory in Millwall, Combat 18 had been 'created' by the State security services to wreck the BNP and its electoral support.[43] Political opponents claimed that "racist incidents" occurred around the BNP's headquarters and instigated a "close down the BNP" march in October 1993.[44] Thousands of people attended the demonstration, for which 2,600 police officers were deployed.[45] In 1995, Bexley Council shut down the BNP headquarters.[46] The same year, relations were built up with William Luther Pierce's US-based National Alliance.[47]

In August 1995 Tyndall committed the party to contesting 50 seats at the next general election.[48] However the party was in a poor state, as the membership had dropped to 700 and there was an on-going conflict with Combat 18.[49] The party attempted to further modernise its image for the upcoming 1997 general election. Nick Griffin joined the party in 1995, having led a faction of the National Front and Tyndall employed him to edit Spearhead. Griffin believed the British National Party needed to be further modernised, with no fascist connections, but through a forthright commitment to what he regarded as historical revisionism.[50] The party managed to save two deposits in this election, Tyndall with 7.26 per cent and Dave King with 7.5 per cent, in the East End of London and Canning Town.[51]

A dark blue banner, featuring a white circle, with the letters BNP in red.
A party banner associated with the BNP until Nick Griffin became chairman

Following the 1997 general election, the BNP once again suffered a setback. At local elections in May 1998, the BNP fielded five more candidates than in 1994 but its average vote fell from just over 13% to 3.28%. In Tower Hamlets, its average share of the poll slumped by almost half.[52] At the end of 1998, membership stood at 1,100.[52]

Griffin leadership, identity nationalism

In October 1999, Nick Griffin, supported by Tony Lecomber, stood against Tyndall for leadership of the BNP.[53] John Tyndall received just 411 (30%) of the votes, while Griffin the majority.[54] After Griffin won he began modernising the party's image,[53] though the crucial policy change from compulsory to voluntary repatriation had already been accomplished under Tyndall's leadership. A new monthly newspaper, The Voice of Freedom, and a journal, Identity, were started.[53]

During the 2001 general election, following the milltown riots, Oldham and Burnley polled highest for the BNP.[55] Following September 11 attacks in the United States, the BNP made further political capital.[56]

Nick Griffin MEP, Chairman of the BNP

At local level, the BNP continued to improve on its electoral results in 2002–03,[57] gaining council seats in Blackburn, Calderdale and Burnley,[57][58] despite an extensive opposition campaign.[57] This success led to a large number of the National Democrats party members, including Simon Darby and Martin Wingfield, defecting to the British National Party from 1999 to 2003.[59] After the 2004 elections,[60] the BBC and Searchlight created a documentary called The Secret Agent,[60] featuring Jason Gwynne infiltrating the BNP. In it, Griffin and Mark Collett made comments critical of Islam. Following the documentary, Barclays Bank froze the party's accounts.[61] Collett and Griffin were acquitted on charges of incitement to racial hatred in 2006.[62] The BNP branded the BBC "cockroaches."[62] Following the 7 July 2005 London bombings, the BNP released fliers with the slogan, "Maybe now it's time to start listening to the BNP."[63] Griffin claimed that this was the "cost of voting Labour",[63] attacking the government for bringing the United Kingdom into an "illegal" Iraq War and for its immigration policies.[63] Large gains were made in the 2006 local elections, where the BNP more than doubled its number of councillors[64] and became the second party on the Barking and Dagenham council.[64]

In December 2006, it was revealed that a Guardian journalist, Ian Cobain, had worked undercover in the BNP for seven months, becoming the party's central London organiser.[65][66] Among the accusations made by the paper was that the BNP used "techniques of secrecy and deception ... in its attempt to conceal its activities and intentions from the public." It asserted that the BNP operated with a "network of false identities" and organised rendezvous points to allow members to be directed to "clandestine meetings." Party members were directed to avoid "any racist or anti-semitic language in public." Cobain also claimed that the membership in central London had expanded beyond the party's traditional range, now including "dozens of company directors, computing entrepreneurs, bankers and estate agents, and a handful of teachers."[65] The BNP was investigated by the Electoral Commission in 2007, after The Guardian revealed that it had set up a front organisation to raise money from sympathisers in the United States.[67]

The constitution of the BNP has been criticised by members for giving far too much power to the chairman and for not being easily accessible by the membership.[68] In 2007, a leadership challenge by Christian (Chris) Jackson succeeded in forcing an election, but Griffin retained the role.[69]

Electoral breakthrough, European Parliament

Carlos Cortigilia BNP London Mayoral candidate, 2012

In the 2009 European elections the British National Party won two seats in the European Parliament and received 6.26% of the national vote. Griffin stated that it was "a great victory ... we go on from here." Meanwhile, the Labour and Conservative parties both referred to it as a "sad moment".[70] In local elections held the same day, the BNP also won its first three county council seats in Lancashire, Leicestershire and Hertfordshire.[71] The breakthrough of the British National Party in the 2009 European elections was widely reported throughout Britain by the media.[72] Matthew Goodwin in his article "The BNP's breakthrough",[73] notes that the British National Party was able to capitalise on widespread public anxiety over immigration. Also in light of the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal, there was media speculation that the BNP could do well in the polls, as voters sought an alternative party to register their protest.[74] Nick Griffin claimed that the success of the British National Party was down to its modernisation, having kept things "simple" and ditched the fringe in the movement who were concerned with "... genetics, Zionism and historical revisionism".[75] He also claimed the party's success was down to the fact the mainstream parties in Britain never discussed immigration, while the British National Party openly did and were not scared to do so:

"The Labour Party, the Lib Dems and the Tories, by leaving the door to Britain open, has forced people to turn to a party which speaks openly about the problem of immigration."[70]

At the end of 2009, the party's membership was 12,632, its highest.[75] It also had set up BNPtv, its own online video outlet, a student wing (Student BNP) and the Young BNP (British Nationalist Youth Movement). The party's financial resources had also increased from £726,455 (in 2006) to £1,983,947.[75]

In 2009, Nick Griffin appeared on the BBC's Question Time, amid significant public controversy. The BBC received 243 complaints of bias against Griffin, and 116 for allowing him to appear at all.[76]

2010 general election, leadership challenge

The British National Party in the 2010 general election fielded a record 338 candidates, polling 563,743 votes, but won no seats. Nick Griffin came third in the Barking constituency, where the party the same year in the local elections lost all of its 12 councillors it held on the borough.[77] In total, 26 BNP councillors lost their seats, leaving the party with 28 seats overall. In aftermath of the elections, the party further suffered from infighting over concerns over the finances and leadership of the party.[78] However the British National Party's campaign during the 2010 general election already had been beset by problems before the results, as publicity director Mark Collett was arrested on suspicion of threatening to kill Griffin.[79][80] A day prior to the general election, the BNP official website was closed and replaced with a posting by Simon Bennett, the party's website manager, accusing Griffin and James Dowson, the BNP election fundraiser, of being "pathetic, desperate and incompetent".[81] Membership of the party declined after the general election.

Nick Griffin announced that he would step down as leader in 2013.[82] Three senior BNP members challenged Griffin for the leadership of the party. Having failed to secure enough support to trigger a leadership ballot, Eddy Butler and Richard Barnbrook were expelled from the party some months later.[83]

2011 leadership election

Following disappointing election results in 2011, and a General Members Meeting which did away with the virtually insurmountable nominations' requirement for a leadership election, a leadership election took place in 2011. Griffin was challenged by fellow MEP Andrew Brons. Griffin secured a narrow victory, beating Brons by nine votes of a total of 2,316 votes cast.[84] In October 2012, Brons left the party, leaving Griffin as its sole MEP.[85]

Structure

The chairman of the BNP has final say in all policy matters.[86] 15 further members of the party leadership have responsibility for various areas of its operations. These executive positions work alongside an Advisory Council, the party's senior policy body, which meets at least three times a year. Its role is to "inspect the party's accounts, ensuring proper conduct of the party's finances, and to act as a forum for the party's leadership to discuss vital issues and carve out the party's agenda".[87]

The party is organised into 12 regions, based upon the UK European Parliament constituencies,[87] each with an organiser.[88] The party organises four groups that deal with specific areas of activity—Land and People (rural affairs), Pensioners' Awareness Group, the Friends of European Nationalism (a New Zealand-based organisation) and the Ethnic Liaison Committee, which co-ordinates work with non-whites.[89]

Policies

Ideology

It has been claimed that the BNP has, since its foundation, been fascist. John Tyndall, founder of the BNP, proclaimed: "Mein Kampf is my bible".[90] Piero Ignazi has said that the "proto-Nazi" mould of the NF, and the "generalised nostalgia for all sorts of fascist tendencies" and association with "foreign ideologies", which continued under the BNP, accounted for the lack of success for both parties in comparison to successful far-right parties in Europe, which disavowed traditional fascism.[91]

A 2009 editorial in The Guardian characterised the BNP as "a racist organisation with a fascist pedigree".[92] According to David Cameron: "If you vote for the BNP you are voting for a bunch of fascists ... They dress up in a suit and knock on your door in a nice way but they are still Nazi thugs."[93] Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson said: "These people believe in the things that the fascists believed in the second world war, they believe in what the National Front believe in. They believe in the purity of the Aryan race. It is a foul and despicable party and however they change their constitution they will remain foul and despicable."[94]

The BNP denies that it is fascist and claims that opposition parties are trying to "prevent freedom of speech".[95] Griffin has said that such accusations are "a smear that comes from the far left." He has also said that "he actually 'detested' fascism".[96]

Political scientists see the party as fascist and say that it has attempted to hide its true nature to attract popular support.[3][97] Nigel Copsey examined the party's 2005 general election manifesto Rebuilding British Democracy and concluded that it was a recalibration of fascism rather than a fundamental break with it.[4] Historian Richard Overy has said that "Fascism with a capital F" was strictly a movement of the past. According to David Stevenson, "the BNP is different in style and structure from fascism in the 1930s" saying that although they do not wear uniforms they still count "bully boys" among their membership.[98] It has also been suggested that the BNP represents a hybrid movement containing elements of neo-fascism and anti-immigrant themes.[99]

Economic policy

The economic policy of the party has developed over time. In the 1990s, the party reflected protectionism and economic nationalism, although in comparison with other radical nationalist parties, the BNP focuses less on corporatism.[100] It has called for British ownership of its own industries and resources and the "subordination of the power of the City to the power of the government".[100] It has promoted the regeneration of farming in the United Kingdom, with the object of achieving maximum self-sufficiency in food production.[100] It has advocated ending overseas aid to provide aid within the UK and to finance the repatriation of immigrants.[100] In 2002, the party criticised corporatism as a "mixture of big capitalism and state control", saying it favoured a "distributionist tradition established by home-grown thinkers" favouring small business.[53] In its 2005 manifesto, the BNP opposed "globalism, international socialism, laissez-faire capitalism and economic liberalism".[101] The BNP rejects the notion of Thatcherism and "submitting to the dictates of the international marketplace" which "has no loyalty to this country".[101] The BNP has claimed that it is possible for a national economy to thrive outside of the laissez-faire model, pointing to 21st century examples such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore.[101] The BNP claims that, while immigration increases the aggregate GNP by providing cheap labour, it decreases the per-capita GNP, which the BNP claims is most representative of the economic well-being of British people.[101]

In the BNP 2010 Manifesto some of their key economic policies are summed up as follows:[16]

  • The BNP will forbid the development and importation of genetically modified produce.
  • The BNP will ensure that globalist corporations pay their fair share of the tax burden.
  • A BNP government would tackle the national debt problem by cutting expenditure on all projects which they think do not serve British interests.

European Union

The British National Party are Eurosceptics, who wish to move towards a greater national self-sufficiency.[13] According to the BNP 2010 Manifesto: "The BNP demands an immediate withdrawal from the European Union, which is an organisation dedicated to usurping British sovereignty and to destroying our nationhood and national identity".[16]

Social and cultural policy

Some key social and cultural policies of the British National Party are summed up below from its most recent manifesto:[16]

  • The BNP will oppose the intrusion of non-British and alien cultural influences which undermine our traditional value systems.
  • The BNP will introduce a new Bill of Rights which will guarantee certain basic civil liberties.
  • The BNP will encourage the teaching of British history, culture and traditions at schools.
  • The BNP will ensure that the National Health Service is used to serve British people and not used as an International Health Service.
  • The BNP will repeal the 1998 Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • The BNP will ensure that appropriate areas of public life, including school assemblies, are based on a commitment to the values of traditional Western Christianity, as a benchmark for a decent and civilised society.

In 2005 the BNP proposed to reintroduce compulsory National Service for the young and proposed that men should keep a rifle and ammunition in their homes.[101] In its 2010 Manifesto, the BNP expanded on its policy of National Service, claiming the youths who take National Service would subsequently be funded for their university or further education.[16]

A further BNP policy is "to end the conflict in Ireland by welcoming Eire [sic] as well as Ulster as equal partners in a federation of the nations of the British Isles".[102]

Crime

The BNP advocates capital punishment for "drug dealers, child murderers, multiple murderers, murderers of policemen on duty and terrorists where guilt is proven beyond all doubt".[16][101] Other key BNP declarations on crime include:[16]

  • The BNP will abolish political correctness from the police service in favour of real crime fighting.
  • The BNP will establish a penal station for hardened and repeat criminals on the British island of South Georgia.
  • The BNP will reintroduce the right of householders to defend themselves and their property using whatever means they deem necessary.

Immigration

Since its formation the British National Party has staunchly opposed immigration. The BNP argues that: "To ensure that we do not become a minority in our own homeland, and that the native British peoples of our Islands retain their culture and identity, we call for an immediate halt to all further immigration."[101] Under the leadership of John Tyndall the party advocated total repatriation for all ethnic minorities.[103] When Nick Griffin became chairman in 1999, the BNP changed their total repatriation policy to only voluntary, a key policy which remains to date, offering financial "incentives for immigrants and their descendants to return home."[16] The party maintains that ethnic minorities legally in Britain are entitled to stay as long as they always remain the minority population demographically:[16]

In their 2010 Manifesto the BNP argues that Islamic immigration must be "halted and reversed as it presents one of the most deadly threats yet to the survival of our nation".[16] Furthermore their policy is also to "deport all foreigners convicted of crimes in Britain, regardless of their immigration status" as well as deport illegal immigrants and "reject all asylum seekers who passed safe countries on their way to Britain".[16]

British Army immigrant issue

It has been claimed that the BNP is opposed to allowing British Army Gurkhas the right of settlement in the United Kingdom. In 2009, Nick Griffin said: "We don't think the most overcrowded country in Europe, can realistically say, 'Look, you can all come and all your relatives'... When the Gurkhas signed up—frankly as mercenaries—they expected a pension which would allow them to live well in their own country".[104] Later, he said that if he could swap "100,000 members of the Muslim community, who say that they support al Qaeda" for the Gurkhas it "would be a good exchange".[105] Nick Griffin has described the commentary about his party's polices on the Gurkhas as "lies",[106] stating the party has "never before even debated this issue". He added, "... A BNP government would look far more sympathetically on the plight of the Gurkhas than the current Labour government."[107]

On 17 May 2009, The Daily Telegraph wrote that the BNP's leader, Nick Griffin, had branded Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, a black recipient of the Victoria Cross, an "immigrant" whose bravery was simply "routine". The Telegraph quoted the BNP website as calling Beharry's award of the Victoria Cross "positive discrimination by the PC-mad government".[108] Beharry was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2005 for action in Iraq, when he returned to his burning armoured personnel carrier three times, under sustained enemy fire, to lift his wounded comrades from the vehicle.[109] The BNP claimed: "All he did was drive away very fast from a combat zone."[108]

Race

During the leadership of Tyndall, the party firmly supported white nationalism and the BNP 1997 Manifesto thus called for Britain to be made "once again a white country" through a total repatriation programme for all ethnic minorities. The BNP's 1992 general election manifesto said that the party had "no quarrel with the ordinary Jew who goes about his own business and does not attempt to influence national affairs in the interests of his racial group", but was opposed to Jewish people "whose activities in pursuit of the interests of their own co-racialists here and around the world can sometimes bring them into conflict with British interests".[110] In 1990, the BNP under Tyndall was described by the European Parliament's committee on racism and xenophobia as an "openly Nazi party ..."[111] In 1993, the party's deputy leader Richard Edmonds said, "We are 100 per cent racist".[111] However, under the leadership of Nick Griffin, from 1999, the party began to radically change its stance on race issues. Writing in the party's newspaper, The Voice of Freedom, Nick Griffin wrote an article entitled "The BNP and Race" in 2001 to clarify that the "The BNP is no longer a genuine White Racial Nationalist party" and that:

"The BNP is not a 'race supremacist' party. The BNP does not claim that any one race is superior to any other, simply that they are different. The party merely wishes to preserve those differences which make up the rich tapestry of human kind ... to protect and preserve the racial and cultural integrity of the British people—and of others too—the party believes in separation ... To sum up, the BNP is fighting for the very right to exist of not just the British but of all peoples."[112]

The BNP under Griffin espouses "ethno-nationalism" based on "concern for the well-being of the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish ethnic nations that compose the United Kingdom". According to Griffin, regarding the BNP's racial views in 2004: "we don't hate black people, we don't hate asians, we don't oppose any ethnic group for what God made them, they have a right to their own identity as such as we do, all we want to do is to preserve the ethnic and cultural identity of the British people."[113] Scholars of political science have noted this change in racial ideology and consider it to be ethnopluralism or 'differentialism' (racial realism), influenced by the European New Right.[114][115] Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show in 2009, Nick Griffin declared that the BNP "does not want all-white UK" because "Nobody out there wants it or would pay for it" and that the claims he was a fascist were smears.[116]

In 2010, following legal action by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the party changed its constitution which had restricted membership to "indigenous British" people.

The party has stated that it does not oppose the Jewish, Hindu or Sikh religions but does not accept practising Sikhs or Hindus as ethnically British since they are not indigenous.[117] The BNP sums up its views on non-indigenous British as follows:[118]

  • The British National Party ... recognises pro-British members of assimilated minorities as British in a civic sense, and welcomes their contribution to our fight for fair play for, and the future survival of, the indigenous peoples of these islands.
  • But we absolutely reject the poisonous, Politically Correct, anti-indigenous fiction that they are English, or Scottish, or Welsh, or Irish. They may well be very decent people, but if any of us went to Nigeria or Afghanistan, no-one would dream of pretending that we were Nigerians or Afghans.

The BNP is opposed to mixed-race relationships because "when whites take partners from other ethnic groups, a white family line that stretches back into deep pre-history is destroyed."[119] Nick Griffin has also stated: "... while the BNP is not racist, it must not become multi-racist either. Our fundamental determination to secure a future for white children is restated, and an area of uncertainty is addressed and a position which is both principled and politically realistic is firmly established. We don't hate anyone, especially the mixed race children who are the most tragic victims of enforced multi-racism, but that does not mean that we accept miscegenation as moral or normal. We do not and we never will."[120]

The BNP supported University of Leeds lecturer Dr. Frank Ellis, who was suspended after stating that the Bell Curve theory "has demonstrated to me beyond any reasonable doubt there is a persistent gap in average black and white average intelligence".[121][122] Ellis called the BNP "a bit too socialist" for his liking and described himself as "an unrepentant Powellite" who would support "humane" repatriation.[123]

Support from ethnic minorities

The BNP under Griffin's leadership has worked with extremists from the Sikh and Hindu communities on anti-Muslim campaigns from 2001[124][125] and has also actively tried to win Jewish votes.[126] When the party changed its constitution on membership which allowed ethnic minorities to join, a 78-year-old Sikh, Rajinder Singh, became the first Asian member.[127] In 2010, Reverend James Gitau joined the BNP and became its first black member claiming he only joined because it "was the only party that boldly speaks against sodomy in public"; however, he left the party a week later when he was not nominated to stand for Croydon Central and instead joined and stood as a Christian Party candidate.[128]

The BNP has also fielded a small number of ethnic minority candidates and claims it had an elected "Jewish" councillor, Patricia Richardson, until 2012. Formerly, the party also had a half-Turkish Cypriot, half-English councillor, Lawrence Rustem.[129] In 2006, Sharif Abdel Gawad, partly Armenian and Greek, was chosen as a council candidate in Bradford.

Criticism of Islam

The party states that it "has moved on in recent years, casting off the leg-irons of conspiracy theories and the thinly veiled anti-semitism which has held this party back for two decades. The real enemies of the British people are home grown Anglo-Saxon Celtic liberal-leftists ... and the Crescent Horde—the endless wave of Islamics who are flocking to our shores to bring our island nations into the embrace of their barbaric desert religion".[130]

Consequently, the party has shifted allegiance in conflicts involving Israel. In 2009, Griffin stated: "I have brought the British National party from the frankly an anti-semitic and racist organisation, into the only party which in the clashes between Israel and Gaza supported Israel's right to deal with Hamas terrorists."[131] Griffin has said that this shift in emphasis is designed to increase the party's appeal: "We should be positioning ourselves to take advantage for our own political ends of the growing wave of public hostility to Islam currently being whipped up by the mass media".[132]

The party summarised its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by stating that "the BNP supports the right of Israel to be Jewish. This ethno-nationalist concept is at the heart of the party's desire to keep Britain British. The BNP also supports the rights of the Palestinians to their own state, and argues that a two-state solution is the only obvious, fair and reasonable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."[133] The BNP have more recently expressed views that could be construed as critical of Israel,[134][135] which some have interpreted as an abandonment of the party's move towards moderation.[136] In April 2013, the BNP declared that they believe Israel to be "an aggressive military power that treats the Palestinians as less than human" and expressed the view that Palestinians are "prisoners in their own country" and "strangers in their own land."[137]

Family

Members of the YBNP making Dutch arrows

The British National Party promotes familialism and supports the nuclear family of Western tradition, as well as favouring traditional gender roles for women and men. The 1992 BNP Manifesto thus asserts their belief that although women and men should be treated equal, women should "regard home-and family-making as the highest vocation for their sex" before their jobs or career.[110] In September 2011, scholar Matthew Goodwin, an expert in electoral behaviour at the University of Nottingham has claimed in an article that: "particular members of the BNP" feel as though there has been a "substantial decline in family values" under the leadership of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.[138]

The BNP 2010 Manifesto also declares their wish to promote traditional concepts of civility and courteousness in schools.[139]

Opposition to abortion

The BNP wish to "encourage a responsible approach to family life, and to reverse the dangerous downturn in the birth rate".[110] The BNP opposes abortion and, in 2007, worked on a campaign with the UK Life League, an anti-abortion lobby group.[140]

Opposition to homosexuality

The BNP is opposed to civil partnerships and wishes to ban what it perceives as the promotion of homosexuality in schools and the media.[119][141] It proposes that homosexuality should be returned "to the closet".[142] BNP spokesman Phil Edwards stated that homosexuality "is unnatural" and "does not lead to procreation but does lead to moral turpitude and disease".[142]

In 2009 Nick Griffin said that: "a lot of people find the sight of two grown men kissing in public really creepy. I understand that homosexuals don't understand that but that's how a lot of us feel."[143]

Electoral performance

The BNP has contested seats in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Research from Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin shows that BNP support is concentrated among older and less educated working-class men living in the declining industrial towns of the North and Midlands regions, in contrast to previous significant far-right parties like the National Front, which drew support from a younger demographic.[144]

General elections

The British National Party has contested general elections since 1983.

Year Number of Candidates Number of MPs Percentage of vote Total votes Change (percentage points) Average votes per candidate
1983 54 0 0.0 14,621 N/A 271
1987 2 0 0.0 563 0.0 282
1992 13 0 0.1 7,631 +0.1 587
1997 54 0 0.1 35,832 0.0 664
2001 33 0 0.2 47,129 +0.1 1,428
2005 117 0 0.7 192,746 +0.5 1,647
2010 339 0 1.9 563,743 +1.2 1,663

The BNP in the 2001 general election saved 5 deposits (out of 33 contested seats) and secured its best general election result in Oldham West and Royton (which had recently been the scene of racially motivated rioting between white and Asian youths) where party leader Nick Griffin secured 16% of the vote.[145]

The 2005 general election was considered a major breakthrough by the BNP, as they picked up 192,746 votes in the 119 constituencies it contested, took a 0.7% share of the overall vote, and retained a deposit in 40 of the seats.[146][147]

The BNP put forward candidates for 338 out of 650 seats for the 2010 general election[148] gaining 563,743 votes[149] (1.9%), finishing in fifth place and failing to win any seats. However, a record of 73 deposits were saved. Party chairman Griffin came third in the Barking constituency, behind Margaret Hodge of Labour and Simon Marcus of the Conservatives, who were first and second respectively. At 14.6%, this was the BNP's best result in any of the seats it contested that year.[150]

Local elections

The BNP's first electoral success came in 1993, when Derek Beackon was returned as a councillor in Millwall, London. He lost his seat in elections the following year. The next BNP success in local elections was not until the 2002 local elections, when three BNP candidates gained seats on Burnley council.[151]

The party had 55 councillors for a time in 2009.[151] After the 2013 local county council elections, the BNP was left with a total of two borough councillors in England:[152]

London Assembly and Mayor

BNP lead candidate Richard Barnbrook won a seat in the London Assembly in May 2008, after the party gained 5.3% of the London-wide vote.[153] However, in August 2010, he resigned the party whip and became an independent.[154]

European Parliament

The BNP has taken part in European Parliament elections since 1999, when they received 1.13% of the total vote (102,647 votes).

In the 2004 elections to the European Parliament, the BNP won 4.9% of the vote, making it the sixth biggest party overall, but did not win any seats.[146]

The BNP won two seats in the European Parliament in the 2009 elections. Andrew Brons was elected in the Yorkshire and the Humber regional constituency with 9.8% of the vote.[155] Party chairman Nick Griffin was elected in the North West region, with 8% of the vote.[156] Nationally, the BNP received 6.26%.

Welsh Assembly

In the 2007 Welsh Assembly elections, the BNP fielded 20 candidates, four in each of the five regional lists, with Nick Griffin standing in the South Wales West region.[157] It did not win any seats, but was the only minor party to have saved deposits in the electoral regions, one in the North Wales region and the other in the South Wales West region. In total the BNP polled 42,197 votes (4.3%).

In the 2011 Welsh Assembly elections, the BNP fielded 20 candidates, four in each of the five regional lists and for the first time 7 candidates were fielded in FPTP constituencies. On the regional lists, the BNP polled 22,610 votes (2.4%), down 1.9% from 2007.[158] In 2 out of the 7 FPTP constituencies contested the BNP saved desposits: (Swansea East and Islwyn).[158]

Scottish Parliament

In the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, the party fielded 32 candidates, entitling it to public funding and an election broadcast, prompting criticism.[159] The BNP received 24,616 votes (1.2%), no seats were won, nor were any deposits saved.

In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, the BNP fielded 32 candidates in the regional lists. 15,580 votes were polled (0.78%).[160]

Northern Ireland Assembly

The BNP fielded 3 candidates for the first time in three constituencies each in the 2011 Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly elections (Belfast East, East Antrim and South Antrim). 1,252 votes were polled (0.2%), winning no seats for the party.[161]

Legal issues

Claims of repression of free speech

The BNP says that National Union of Journalists guidelines on reporting 'far right' organisations forbid unionised journalists from reporting uncritically on the party.[162][163] In April 2007, an election broadcast was cancelled by BBC Radio Wales whose lawyers believed that the broadcast was defamatory of the Chief Constable of North Wales Police, Richard Brunstrom.[164] The BNP claimed that BBC editors were following an agenda.[165]

Two suited men wave from behind a red brick wall, at the top of a short flight of steps leading to a grey building. Several police officers are in attendance.
Nick Griffin and Mark Collett leave Leeds Crown Court on 10 November 2006 after being found not guilty of charges of incitement to racial hatred at their retrial.

Employment cases and related controversies

In ASLEF v. United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights overturned an employment appeal tribunal ruling that awarded BNP member and train driver Jay Lee damages for expulsion from a trade union. It found that the union was entitled to decide who could be a member, and that the UK was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in the way it had treated ASLEF.[166]

Arthur Redfearn was a bus driver whose BNP membership was unknown to his employer, Serco, until he was elected as a councillor. His employer was concerned that he might endanger its contract with a local council to transport vulnerable people of various ethnicities from a day centre and he was dismissed. The Employment Tribunal held that members of racist organisations could lawfully be dismissed on health and safety grounds if there was a danger of violence occurring in the workplace.[167] In November 2012, the European Court of Human Rights made a majority ruling (4 to 3) that in Redfearn's case against the UK government, his rights under Article 11 (free association) had been infringed,[168] but not those under Article 10 (free expression) or Article 14 (discrimination).[169]

Organisations which ban BNP membership

Several organisations prohibit their staff from being members of the BNP. Membership of the BNP, Combat 18 and the National Front by police officers and staff was prohibited by then Home Secretary David Blunkett,[170] following an undercover TV exposure of racism in a police training centre.[171] The Association of Chief Police Officers banned serving police officers joining the BNP in 2004.[172] Greater Manchester Police (GMP) referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission allegations that GMP employees participated in a BNP rally.[173] After BNP membership lists were leaked on the Internet, a number of police forces investigated officers whose names appeared on the lists.[174]

A ban on BNP membership for prison workers was imposed by Martin Narey, Director of the Prison Service, in 2002. Narey told the BBC that he received hate mail and a death threat as a result.[175] In February 2009, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to ban its clergy from joining the BNP.[176] In 2010 Education Secretary Michael Gove pledged to allow head teachers to dismiss employees who are members of the BNP, saying that "I don't believe that membership of the BNP is compatible with being a teacher... allow headteachers and governing bodies the powers and confidence to be able to dismiss teachers engaging in extremist activity."[177][178]

Association with violence

John Hagan claims that the BNP has conducted right-wing extremist violence to gain "institutionalized power".[179] Critics of the BNP, such as Human Rights Watch in a 1997 report, have asserted that the party recruits from skinhead groups and that it promotes racist violence.[180]

In the past, Nick Griffin has defended the threat of violence to further the party's aims. In 1986, when Griffin was Deputy Chairman of the NF, he advised his audience at an anti-IRA rally to use the "traditional British methods of the brick, the boot and the fist."[181] After the BNP won its first council seat in 1993, he wrote that the BNP should not be a "postmodernist rightist party" but "a strong, disciplined organisation with the ability to back up its slogan 'Defend Rights for Whites' with well-directed boots and fists. When the crunch comes, power is the product of force and will, not of rational debate". In 1997 he said: "It is more important to control the streets of a city than its council chambers."[182]

A BBC Panorama programme reported on a number of BNP members who have had criminal convictions, some racially motivated.[183] Some of the more notable convictions include:

  • John Tyndall had convictions for assault and organising paramilitary neo-Nazi activities. In 1986 he was jailed for conspiracy to publish material likely to incite racial hatred.[184]
  • In 1998, Nick Griffin was convicted of violating section 19 of the Public Order Act 1986, relating to incitement to racial hatred. He received a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and was fined £2,300.[185]
  • Joseph Owens served eight months in prison for sending razor blades in the post to Jewish people and another term for carrying CS gas and knuckledusters.[186]
  • Colin Smith, who in 2004 was the BNP's South East London organiser, has 17 convictions for burglary, theft, possession of drugs and assaulting a police officer.[187]
  • Richard Edmonds, at the time BNP National Organiser, was sentenced to three months in prison in 1994 for his part in a racist attack. Edmonds threw a glass at the victim as he was walking past an East London pub where a group of BNP supporters was drinking. Others then 'glassed' the man in the face and punched and kicked him as he lay on the ground, including BNP supporter Stephen O'Shea, who was jailed for 12 months. Another BNP supporter, Simon Biggs, was jailed for four and a half years for his part in the attack.[188]

Tony Lecomber cases

Tony Lecomber was imprisoned for three years for possessing explosives, after a nail bomb exploded while he was carrying it to the offices of the Workers' Revolutionary Party in 1985.[189] He was imprisoned for three years in 1991 whilst serving as the BNP's Director of Propaganda for assaulting a Jewish teacher.[190]

Robert Cottage case

In 2007, Robert Cottage, a former BNP council candidate, was sentenced to two and a half years for possession of explosives but a conspiracy charge against him was withdrawn after two juries had been unable to reach a verdict.[191] The prosecution claimed that Cottage had plans to assassinate Tony Blair and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Greaves.[192] The chemicals recovered by police are believed to be the largest explosives haul ever found at a house in Britain.[193]

2008 membership list leak

On 18 November 2008, a list of over 10,000 BNP members was published by Wikileaks in breach of a court injunction.[194] This included names, addresses and other personal details. People on the list included prison officers (barred from BNP membership), teachers, soldiers, civil servants and members of the clergy.[195]

Nick Griffin claimed that any party member dismissed from employment would be able to receive substantial compensation.[196] The BNP advised those named on the list to deny their membership and said that they would confirm that in writing if required.[197] The BNP claimed it contained the names of persons who had never been members of the BNP.[194] The BNP's Lee Barnes claimed that the list was false.[197]

People affected by the disclosure included a DJ, Rod Lucas, who was dropped by the Talksport radio station. He said: "I am an investigative radio journalist and am a member of over 20 political parties and pressure groups ... It doesn't necessarily mean I agree with their views."[198] A drama teacher at a prep school whose name was found on the list had been dismissed from a previous position as a result of her BNP membership.[199]

Following an investigation by Welsh police and the Information Commissioner's Office, two people were arrested in December 2008 for breach of the Data Protection Act concerning the leak.[200] Matthew Single was subsequently found guilty and fined £200. The fine was criticised as an "an absolute disgrace" by a BNP spokesman and a detective sergeant involved said he was "disappointed" with the outcome.[201]

Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission sent the BNP a letter in 2009, ahead of legal action, setting out concerns about the BNP's constitution and membership criteria. It alleged that the BNP's constitution restricting membership to white people was unlawful under the Race Relations Act. The BNP chose to fight this opinion in the High Court. The Commission issued county court proceedings against party leader Nick Griffin and two other officials.[202]

The conclusion of the case in October 2009 saw costs awarded against the BNP.[203] The BNP stated that Griffin was "required in Brussels" on that day. Griffin had written to BNP members preparing to concede the case because it would be too expensive to fight[204] and would "strip the party of the ability to fight the next general election".[205] Griffin subsequently announced that he would ask BNP members to accept the court's decision and allow non-whites to join the party,[205] claiming that this action "outflanked" the EHRC.[206] The BNP anticipated that its members would accept the change on financial grounds.[207]

The BNP agreed to suspend further membership applications until an Extraordinary General Meeting in January 2010 confirming changes to the constitution. The case was adjourned to ensure compliance.[207] As a result of the case, the Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain protested against the BBC's inclusion of Griffin on the Question Time programme, claiming the court case meant the BNP was "an unlawful body". Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "A shiny new constitution does not a democratic party make. It would be a pyrrhic victory, to say the least, if anyone thought that giving the BNP a facelift would make the slightest difference to a body with so much racism and hatred pumping through its veins."[207]

The courts declared that the new constitution still breached equality laws and was still indirectly discriminatory. Judge Paul Collins ordered the BNP to pay costs and said its membership list must remain "closed" until it complied with race relations laws. The BNP claimed that it had a waiting list of black and Asian people and wanted more applications from ethnic minorities.[208]

In November 2010, the BNP leadership was accused of lying over the matter by the EHRC who claimed that the offending passage had not been removed but merely altered.[209] In a subsequent hearing the BNP leadership was found not guilty of the contempt of court. The EHRC said: "Eighteen months and seven court hearings later Mr Griffin has finally amended the constitution to bring it in line with what the Commission had originally requested."[210] Griffin said: "This is a great day, because the British National Party has won a spectacular David and Goliath victory".[211]

Opposition

Activists of the Socialist Workers Party at University College London protesting against the BNP in 2009

Amongst the most visible and vocal opponents of the BNP are Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and the magazine Searchlight.[212][213] High-ranking politicians from each of the main parties have, at various times, called for their own supporters to vote for anyone but the BNP.[214][215] In 2008, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated: "Londoners and the rest of the British people know that backing the BNP is totally at odds with what it really means to be British—and the great British values the rest of us share, such as democracy and decency, freedom and fairness, tolerance and equality."[216] The British Government announced in 2009 that the BNP's two MEPs would be denied some of the access and information afforded to other MEPs. The BNP would be subject to the "same general principles governing official impartiality" and they would receive "standard written briefings as appropriate from time to time", but diplomats would not be "proactive" in dealing with the BNP MEPs and that any requests for policy briefings from them would be treated differently and on a discretionary basis.[217]

Some opponents of fascism call for no coverage to be given to groups or individuals enunciating what they describe as "hate speech". The "No Platform" stance is to deny perceived fascist hate speech any sort of publicity. The policy is most commonly associated with university student unions and debating societies,[218] but has also resulted in BNP candidates being banned from speaking at various hustings meetings around the country. In 2005, an invitation to Nick Griffin by the University of St Andrews Union Debating Society to participate in a debate on multiculturalism was withdrawn after protests.[219]

Veterans and Second World War

In June 2009, the Royal British Legion wrote to Griffin privately to ask him to stop wearing their poppy symbol. After he refused and wore the badge at campaign events and on the party's televised election broadcast, the Legion said in an open letter: "True valour deserves respect regardless of a person's ethnic origin, and everyone who serves or has served their country deserves nothing less ... [our national chairman] appealed to your sense of honour. But you have responded by continuing to wear the poppy. So now we're no longer asking you privately. Stop it, Mr Griffin. Just stop it."[220] In September 2009, the Legion accepted a donation which it had initially rejected from BNP member Rachel Firth. Firth had spent 24 hours raising the money, half of which was given to the Legion and the other half to the BNP. The Legion said that Firth had assured them that the donation would not be exploited politically although the story was later "splashed across" the BNP's website. BNP spokesman Simon Darby denied that the party exploited the story.[221]

Winston Churchill's family has criticised the BNP after the party used his image and quotes from one of his speeches in its campaign. Churchill's grandson, Nicholas Soames, described the BNP as "monstrous" and said its use of Churchill was "offensive and disgusting".[222]

The BNP was also caught up in a dispute with 1940s singer Vera Lynn after she objected to the party selling copies of her White Cliffs of Dover CD on its website to fund its European election campaign.[223]

Violent opposition

In the wake of the murder of Lee Rigby, there were protests and counter-protests between BNP supporters and Unite Against Fascism campaigners in London. 58 people were arrested, all UAF protesters,[224] and at least one man, a BNP activist, was injured.[213][225][226]

Online presence

In September 2007, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Hitwise, the online competitive intelligence service, said that the BNP website had more hits than any other website of a British political party.[227] In 2009, the party's website came under fire after it was revealed that much of the merchandise it sold was made in Honduras, contrary to the party's pledge of "British Jobs for British Workers".[228]

Affiliated organisations

Officially linked organisations

  • The short-lived American Friends of the British National Party gave financial assistance to the BNP from American supporters, and facilitated contact between far right figures in both countries.[229]
  • The Trafalgar Club is a dinner club for BNP supporters that does not require BNP membership.[230]
  • Albion Life Insurance was set up in September 2006 as an insurance brokerage company established on behalf of the BNP to raise funds for its activities.[231] The firm ceased to operate in November 2006.[232]
  • The BNP obtains some of its funding from the sale of books and heraldic or Norse jewellery. The merchandising arm of the British National Party is the Excalibur brand.[233]
  • ProFam was launched in 2012, as a resource for communities to make a stand against Muslim and Asian grooming gangs against vulnerable children[234]
  • Solidarity – The Union for British Workers in 2007 had 100,000 leaflets distributed by the BNP.[235][236]
  • The Christian Council of Britain was set up by BNP members and supporters to organise Christians "in defence of traditional Christian values". The moderator of the organisation is currently BNP member Reverend Robert West.[237][238] The CCB has claimed that the Bible justifies its support for the BNP's repatriation policy.[239] The United Reformed Church has said that support for organisations such as the BNP is incompatible with Christianity.[240]

International political contacts

The BNP and the French National Front have co-operated on numerous occasions. Jean-Marie Le Pen visited the UK in 2004 to assist in launching the BNP's European Parliament campaign and Nick Griffin repaid the favour by sending a delegation of BNP officials to the FN's annual 'First of May Joan of Arc parade' in Paris in 2006.[241] The BNP has links with the National Democratic Party of Germany. Griffin addressed an NPD rally in August 2002 headed by Udo Voigt, who Gerhard Schroeder accused of trying to remove immigrants from eastern Germany. In the run-up to the 2004 European Parliament election campaign, Nick Griffin visited Sweden to give the National Democrat party his endorsement.

In London on 16 May 2008, Nick Griffin met leaders of the Hungarian far right party Jobbik to discuss co-operation between the two parties. Griffin spoke at a Jobbik party rally in August 2008.[242] In April 2009, Simon Darby, deputy chairman of the BNP, was welcomed with fascist salutes by members of the Italian nationalist Forza Nuova during a trip to Milan. Darby stated that the BNP would look to form an alliance with France's Front National in the European Parliament,[243]

The Alliance of European National Movements (AENM) was formed in Budapest on 24 October 2009 by a number of nationalist and far-right parties from countries in Europe.[244][245]

Breakaway parties and pressure groups

Notes

  1. ^ An April 2009 article in The Guardian, based on analysis of leaked membership data, had given a figure of 11,820,[2]
  2. ^ The name British National Party had been used in politics by four organisations, most notably by the a Mosleyite party which became the English National Association and by a 1960s party initiated by John Bean, which became part of the National Front. Tyndall was a leading member of the 1960s BNP and a founder of the present party.

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Bibliography

External links