British National Party

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For other parties of the same name, see British National Party (disambiguation).
British National Party
President Nick Griffin
Chairman Adam Walker (acting chairman)
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]
Ethnic nationalism[12][13]
British nationalism
Anti-immigration
Anti-globalization
Euroscepticism[14]
Political position Far-right[15]
European affiliation Alliance of European National Movements[16]
Colours             
Red, white and blue
House of Commons
0 / 650
European Parliament
0 / 73
Local government[17]
2 / 21,871
London Assembly
0 / 25
Police & Crime Commissioners
0 / 41
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 from 1999 to 2014 was led by Nick Griffin. It advocates "voluntary resettlement whereby immigrants and their descendants are afforded the opportunity to return to their lands of ethnic origin."[18] In July 2014, Griffin stepped down as chairman and was replaced with an acting chairman, Adam Walker, a BNP activist from Spennymoor, England, and a former teacher who was banned from the profession for life.[19]

As well as anti-immigration policies, the party advocates the reintroduction of capital punishment and opposes same-sex marriage, multiculturalism and what it perceives as the Islamification of the UK.

The party's ideology has been described as fascist or neo-fascist by political scientists and commentators, though the party denies this.[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.[20]

An electoral breakthrough in 2008-2009 led to the BNP holding over fifty local council seats, forming the official opposition on Barking and Dagenham Council, winning a seat in the London Assembly and having leader Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons elected as Members of the European Parliament (MEP) in the North West and Yorkshire and Humber regions respectively.

After failing to secure a seat at the 2010 General Election, the BNP has declined in membership and a number of breakaway groups have been formed. In 2014, Griffin lost his MEP seat and the party all but two of its councillors.[21]

History

Early years: 1982–1992

Photograph of people carrying Union Flags, demonstrating outside a factory.
A 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.[22]

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,[23] and founding the New National Front, which became the BNP two years later.[24] The formation of the BNP absorbed the membership of the British Democratic Party,[25] Constitutional Movement[26] and several members of the disintegrating British Movement were allowed to join.[27]

In 1983, Tyndall sought to make an electoral impact by fielding 53 candidates in the 1983 general election, which guaranteed a free party broadcast,[28] 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.[29] Tyndall claimed that the party attracted 3,000 enquiries for membership after the 1983 general election.[30] However, despite an increase in media exposure, the BNP continued to poll very low in council elections.[31] In 1986, Tyndall and John Morse were imprisoned for inciting racial hatred.[32] The party almost ceased its electoral activity in the late 1980s.[33]

Millwall and setback: 1993–1998

A dark blue banner, featuring a white circle, with the letters BNP in red.
A party banner associated with the BNP during the early 1990s

The decline of the National Front during the early 1990s caused an increase in support and membership for the BNP.[34]

In 1993, Derek Beackon won the BNP's first council seat in Millwall, Tower Hamlets with 1480 votes (33.9%), beating the Labour Party. However Beackon lost his seat the following year.

After 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, where it once had considerable support boosted by Beackon's Millwall victory, its average share of the poll slumped by almost half.[35]

Griffin modernisation: 1999–2007

In October 1999, Nick Griffin stood against Tyndall for leadership of the party.[36][37] After Griffin won he began modernising the BNP's image by removing what he perceived as "careless extremist" elements and undertaking an "ideological revamp" for the next general election, spurred on in part, by the electoral gains achieved by Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National of France, and Jörg Haider's Freedom Party of Austria.[36][38]

Griffin founded a new monthly newspaper, The Voice of Freedom, and a journal, Identity.[36]

During the 2001 local elections, the BNP secured three seats on Burnley Council. At local level, the BNP continued to improve on its electoral results in 2002–03,[39] gaining council seats in Blackburn, Calderdale and five more councillors in Burnley[39][40] despite an extensive opposition campaign.[39] 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.[41]

Nick Griffin, former BNP chairman

After the 2004 elections,[42] the BBC and Searchlight created a documentary called The Secret Agent,[42] 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.[43] Collett and Griffin were acquitted on charges of incitement to racial hatred in 2006.[44] The BNP branded the BBC "cockroaches."[44] 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."[45] Griffin claimed that this was the "cost of voting Labour",[45] attacking the government for bringing the United Kingdom into an "illegal" Iraq War and for its immigration policies.[45] Large gains were made in the 2006 local elections, where the BNP more than doubled its number of councillors[46] and became the second party on the Barking and Dagenham council.[46] 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.[47]

Electoral breakthrough: 2008–2009

In 2008, Richard Barnbrook secured a seat for the BNP on the London Assembly after getting 5.3% (130,714 votes). In the following 2009 European elections the British National Party won two seats in the European Parliament. 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".[48] In local elections held the same day, the BNP also won its first three county council seats in Lancashire, Leicestershire and Hertfordshire.[49] The electoral breakthrough of the British National Party was widely reported throughout Britain by the mainstream media at the time.

Matthew Goodwin in his article "The BNP's breakthrough"[50] notes that the British National Party was able to capitalise on widespread public anxiety over immigration. Also in light of the expenses scandal, there was media speculation that the BNP could do well in the polls (having also campaigned on a Punish the Pigs anti-expense platform) as voters sought an alternative party to register their protest.[51]

In October 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.[52]

Last general election to present: 2010–2014

Nick Griffin meeting a Syrian official

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.[53] In aftermath of the elections, the party suffered from infighting over concerns regarding finances and Griffin's leadership.[54] This led to a breakaway group called the British Freedom Party. However the BFP later de-registered as a political party. A leadership election took place in 2011. Griffin secured a narrow victory, beating Brons by nine votes of a total of 2,316 votes cast.[55]

In October 2012, Brons left the party, leaving Griffin as its sole MEP.[56] In the 2012 and 2013 local elections, the BNP won no council seats and witnessed a large drop in terms of their average vote.[57][58][59]

In June 2013, Griffin visited Syria on a "peace mission" along with members of Jobbik to meet with the Speaker of the Syrian People's Assembly, Mohammad Jihad al-Laham, the Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi, among other government officials.[60][61] Griffin claims he was influential in the speaker of Syria's Parliament writing an open letter to British MPs urging them to "turn Great Britain from the warpath" by not intervening in the Syrian conflict.[62]

Nick Griffin lost his European Parliament seat in the May 2014 European election. Two months later, in July, Griffin lost a leadership contest and was succeeded by Adam Walker as acting chairman.[19]

Policies

Immigration

Party literature published by the BNP commonly cites the fact that Britain is the second most densely populated country in Europe, and that White British as an ethnic group are a minority demographically in London, Leicester and Luton.[18] The BNP argue that these areas in England have been "ethnically cleansed" and that "to ensure that we do not become a minority in our own homeland... we call for an immediate halt to all further immigration".[63]

The party allows for what it calls "exceptional [controlled] immigration", but only on an extremely limited basis. For example Nick Griffin has argued that: "If you are talking about Polish plumbers or Afghan refugees, the doors are going to be shut, because Britain is full" but that if Britain needed a physicist, say from Japan, "to help with the UK's nuclear programme" the party would make an exception on an individual level.[64]

The BNP's policy on illegal immigrants is to deport them, while closing the doors to asylum seekers which they regard as "bogus" since: "international law provides that such persons must be given – and must seek – refuge in the nearest safe country. So, unless a flood of refugees from a civil war in France or Denmark shows up on our shores, these refugees are simply not Britain’s responsibility and have no right to refuge here".[65]

In regards to legal immigrants settled in UK, the BNP "recognises the right of legally settled and law-abiding minorities to remain in the UK and enjoy the full protection of the law, on the understanding that the indigenous population of Britain has the right to remain the majority population of our nation". It offers however voluntary repatriation where "generous grants to those of foreign descent resident here who wish to leave permanently".[18]

Economy

The BNP maintains a policy of protectionism and economic nationalism, although in comparison with other far-right nationalist parties, the BNP focuses less on corporatism.[66] The party wish to move towards a greater national self-sufficiency and demands an immediate withdrawal from the European Union.[14] It has advocated ending overseas aid to provide economic support within the UK and to finance the voluntary repatriation of legal immigrants.[66]

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".[66] It has promoted the regeneration of farming in the United Kingdom, with the object of achieving maximum self-sufficiency in food production.[66] 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.[36]

In its 2005 and 2010 manifesto, the BNP opposed "globalism, international socialism, laissez-faire capitalism and economic liberalism".[63][67] The BNP rejects the notion of Thatcherism and "submitting to the dictates of the international marketplace" which "has no loyalty to this country".[63] 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.[63]

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.[63]

Crime

The party advocates capital punishment for "drug dealers, child murderers, multiple murderers, murderers of policemen on duty and terrorists where guilt is proven beyond all doubt".[18][63]

Other key BNP declarations on crime include: "abolishing political correctness from the police service in favour of real crime fighting" and to "establish a penal station for hardened and repeat criminals on the British island of South Georgia".

Other

BNP anti-Halal leaflet

The party is opposed to new mosques being built in UK, as well as halal and kosher ritual slaughter. Nick Griffin has worked with extremists from Sikh and Hindu communities in Britain on anti-Muslim campaigns.[68][69]

The BNP is opposed to same sex marriage and proposes that homosexuality should be returned "to the closet". It claims to support traditional family values and encourage the teaching of British folk traditions.

BNP policy pledges to protect freedom of speech, while repealing the 1998 Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.[63]

The party website calls to ban "ID cards, intrusive surveillance and the retention of DNA samples of the innocent".[70]

The BNP says it is "committed to a free, fully funded National Health Service for all British citizens".[71]

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".[72]

The British National Party claimed in its 2005 manifesto to be the "only true ‘Green Party’" in Britain since:

"[O]nly the BNP intends to end mass immigration into Britain and thereby remove at a stroke the need for an extra 4 million homes in the green belts of the South East and elsewhere, which are required to house the influx of 5 million immigrants expected to enter the country under present trends over the next twenty years."

Controversies

Fascism

The British National Party since its foundation has been described as fascist by political scholars, tabloid newspapers, the BBC and leading politicians including David Cameron.[73][3][74][75][76][77][78][79][80] Nick Griffin however claims that his modernisation of the party removed "extremist" elements.[81] Further, Griffin argues that while Tyndall's BNP had it ideological roots "in the sub-Mosleyite wackiness of Arnold Leese's Imperial Fascist League" there is "a huge gulf between this totalitarian approach and the modernist approach of the new BNP" which rejects fascism.[82] According to political scholars who have analysed the BNP's 2005 and 2010 general election manifesto, the party signifies a "fascism recalibration" rather than a break with it, despite Griffin introducing right wing populism. It is argued that the BNP attempts to hide its fascist politics to attract popular support.[83][84][85][86] The BNP continues to deny that it is fascist and claims that such accusations are "a smear that comes from the far left" to discourage people from voting BNP.[87]

Racism

Under the leadership of John Tyndall, the party was openly racist.[88] Griffin in 2001 denounced the parties former views on race arguing that: "The BNP is no longer a genuine white racial nationalist party"[89] calling the party's new ideology ethno-nationalism based on "concern for the well-being of the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish ethnic nations that compose the United Kingdom" and that "unlike racial nationalist purists, we would be opposed to the arrival at Dover of several million German or Swedish immigrants".[90]

According to Matthew Goodwin: "Ideologically, Griffin’s BNP has modified its exoteric appeals, moderating its discourse on race and immigration, and adopting more voter-friendly themes such as ‘Democracy’,‘Identity’,‘Freedom’ and ‘Security'. Under Griffin, the party now downplay the crude anti-black racism and conspiratorial anti-Semitism that characterized its predecessors in favour of ‘differentialist racism’ based on the ethno-pluralist doctrine, stating for example: ‘The BNP does not claim that any one race is superior to any other, simply that they are different."[91] Another study points out that under Griffin's modernisation of the party: "Although race still figures, it does so less prominently and it no longer forms the premise of their nationalist agenda which gradually and increasingly comprises of civic values such as liberal sovereignty and the rule of law."[92] Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show in 2009, Nick Griffin declared that, unlike Tyndall, he "does not want all-white UK" because "nobody out there wants it or would pay for it".[93]

The party is still accused of racism since it only regards people of White British ethnicity to be British:

"BNP activists and writers should never refer to ‘black Britons’ or ‘Asian Britons’ etc, for the simple reason that such persons do not exist. These people are ‘black residents’ of the UK etc, and are no more British than an Englishman living in Hong Kong is Chinese."[63]

"The British National Party recognises pro-British members of assimilated minorities as British in a civic sense 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."[18]

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. 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.[94]

The party accepts mixed-race relationships, but argues they are not normal.[95] The BNP supported the controversial 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".[96][97]

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".[98] 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.[99] The BNP claimed: "All he did was drive away very fast from a combat zone."[98]

Islamophobia and anti-semitism

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".[100]

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."[101] 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".[102]

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."[103] The BNP has more recently expressed views that could be construed as critical of Israel,[104][105] which some have interpreted as an abandonment of the party's move towards moderation.[106] In April 2013, the BNP declared that it believes 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".[107]

Homophobia

The BNP is opposed to same sex marriage and wishes to ban what it perceives as the promotion of homosexuality in schools and the media.[108][109] It proposes that homosexuality should be returned "to the closet".[110] BNP spokesman Phil Edwards stated that homosexuality "is unnatural" and "does not lead to procreation but does lead to moral turpitude and disease".[110]

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."[111]

Same-sex marriage isn't about rights of gay people. It's fundamentally an attack by a Trotskyite Leftist and capitalist elite which wants the pink pound and the pink dollar. It's an attack on marriage. It's an attack on tradition. It's an attack on the fabric of our society. ... Teach them about homosexuality? That's not in any way for the rights of homosexuals. That's some dirty pervert trying to mess with the minds of my kids and I think it's great that a major European power has stood up and said: Leave our kids alone!

—Nick Griffin[112]

Gurkha 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".[113] 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".[114] Nick Griffin has described the commentary about his party's policies on the Gurkhas as "lies",[115] 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."[116]

Structure

The chairman of the BNP has final say in all policy matters.[117] 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".[118]

The party is organised into 12 regions, based upon the UK European Parliament constituencies,[118] each with an organiser.[119] 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.[120]

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.[121]

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.[122]

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.[123][124]

The BNP put forward candidates for 338 out of 650 seats for the 2010 general election[125] gaining 563,743 votes[126] (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.[127]

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.[128]

The party had 55 councillors for a time in 2009.[128] After the 2013 local county council elections, the BNP was left with a total of two borough councillors in England:[129]

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.[130] However, in August 2010, he resigned the party whip and became an independent.[131]

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.[123]

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.[132] Party chairman Nick Griffin was elected in the North West region, with 8% of the vote.[133] Nationally, the BNP received 6.26%.

European Parliament

European Parliament
Election year # of total votes  % of overall vote # of seats won Rank
1999[134] 102,647 Steady 1.1% Steady
0 / 87
0 Steady
2004[135] 808,200 Increase 4.9% Increase
0 / 78
0 Steady
2009[136] 943,598 Increase 6.3% Increase
2 / 72
2 Increase
2014[53] 179,694 Decrease 1.09% Decrease
0 / 73
0 Decrease

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.[137] 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.[138] In 2 out of the 7 FPTP constituencies contested the BNP saved desposits: (Swansea East and Islwyn).[138]

Scottish Parliament

In the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, the party fielded 32 candidates, entitling it to public funding and an election broadcast, prompting criticism.[139] 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%).[140]

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.[141]

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.[142][143] 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.[144] The BNP claimed that BBC editors were following an agenda.[145]

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.[146]

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.[147] 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,[148] but not those under Article 10 (free expression) or Article 14 (discrimination).[149]

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,[150] following an undercover TV exposure of racism in a police training centre.[151] The Association of Chief Police Officers banned serving police officers joining the BNP in 2004.[152] Greater Manchester Police (GMP) referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission allegations that GMP employees participated in a BNP rally.[153] After BNP membership lists were leaked on the Internet, a number of police forces investigated officers whose names appeared on the lists.[154]

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.[155] In February 2009, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to ban its clergy from joining the BNP.[156] 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."[157][158]

Association with violence

John Hagan claims that the BNP has conducted right-wing extremist violence to gain "institutionalized power".[159] 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.[160]

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."[161] 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."[162]

A BBC Panorama programme reported on a number of BNP members who have had criminal convictions, some racially motivated.[163] 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.[164]
  • 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.[165]
  • 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.[166]
  • 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.[167]
  • 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.[168]

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.[169] He was imprisoned for three years in 1991 whilst serving as the BNP's Director of Propaganda for assaulting a Jewish teacher.[170]

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.[171] The prosecution claimed that Cottage had plans to assassinate Tony Blair and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Greaves.[172] The chemicals recovered by police are believed to be the largest explosives haul ever found at a house in Britain.[173]

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.[174] 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.[175]

Nick Griffin claimed that any party member dismissed from employment would be able to receive substantial compensation.[176] The BNP advised those named on the list to deny their membership and said that they would confirm that in writing if required.[177] The BNP claimed it contained the names of persons who had never been members of the BNP.[174] The BNP's Lee Barnes claimed that the list was false.[177]

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."[178] 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.[179]

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.[180] 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.[181]

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.[182]

The conclusion of the case in October 2009 saw costs awarded against the BNP.[183] 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[184] and would "strip the party of the ability to fight the next general election".[185] Griffin subsequently announced that he would ask BNP members to accept the court's decision and allow non-whites to join the party,[185] claiming that this action "outflanked" the EHRC.[186] The BNP anticipated that its members would accept the change on financial grounds.[187]

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.[187] 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."[187]

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.[188]

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.[189] 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."[190] Griffin said: "This is a great day, because the British National Party has won a spectacular David and Goliath victory".[191]

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.[192][193] 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.[194][195] 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."[196] 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.[197]

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,[198] 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.[199]

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."[200] 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.[201]

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".[202]

The BNP was also caught up in a dispute with the 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.[203]

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,[204] and at least one man, a BNP activist, was injured.[193][205][206]

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.[207] 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".[208]

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.[209]
  • The Trafalgar Club is a dinner club for BNP supporters that does not require BNP membership.[210]
  • 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.[211] The firm ceased to operate in November 2006.[212]
  • 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.[213]
  • ProFam was launched in 2012, as a resource for communities to make a stand against Muslim and Asian grooming gangs against vulnerable children[214]
  • Solidarity – The Union for British Workers in 2007 had 100,000 leaflets distributed by the BNP.[215]
  • 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.[216] The CCB has claimed that the Bible justifies its support for the BNP's repatriation policy.[217] The United Reformed Church has said that support for organisations such as the BNP is incompatible with Christianity.[218]

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.[219] 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.[220] 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,[221]

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.[222]

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

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