British National Party
|Founded||April 7, 1982|
|Headquarters||Wigton, Cumbria, England|
|Newspaper||Voice of Freedom|
|Youth wing||Resistance (YBNP)|
|Membership|| 500 2015 (estimate)
4,200 2013 (official figures)
|European affiliation||Alliance of European National Movements|
Red, white and blue
|House of Commons||
0 / 650
|House of Lords||
0 / 813
0 / 73
0 / 129
0 / 60
0 / 25
1 / 20,565
|Police & Crime Commissioners||
0 / 41
The British National Party (BNP) is a far-right or extreme-right British nationalist political party. Its current leader is Adam Walker. It currently has one councillor in UK local government. During its heyday in the 2000s, it had over fifty seats in local government, two seats on the London Assembly, and two Members of the European Parliament.
The BNP was formed in 1982 by John Tyndall and other former members of the National Front (NF). Like the NF, the early BNP adhered to a Neo-Nazi ideology of racial nationalism. During its first two decades, the BNP placed little emphasis on contesting elections, in which it did poorly, but rather focused on street marches and rallies. A growing 'moderniser' faction was frustrated by Tyndall's leadership and in 1999 ousted him. The new leader Nick Griffin sought to broaden the BNP's electoral base by moderating some of its policies and emphasising localised community campaigns. This resulted in increased electoral growth throughout the 2000s. Concerns regarding financial mismanagement resulted in Griffin being ousted in 2014, by which point the BNP's membership and vote share had declined dramatically.
Ideologically, the party has been characterised as being far right and right-wing extremist, and in its first two decades it adhered to an explicitly fascist and Neo-Nazi ideology. The party is ethnic nationalist, and espouses the view that only white people should be citizens of the United Kingdom. It calls for an end to non-white migration into the UK and the removal of settled non-white populations from the country. Initially, it called for the compulsory expulsion of non-whites, although has since advocated voluntary removals with financial incentives. It promotes biological racism, calling for racial separatism and condemning mixed race relationships. Under Tyndall, the BNP emphasised anti-semitism and Holocaust denial, although Griffin switched the party's focus on to Islamophobia. The party opposes feminism and LGBT rights and promotes protectionist economic policies and Euroscepticism.
The party was based on a hierarchical and centralised structure, with the chairman having near total control. It has also established a wide range of affiliated groups, such as a youth wing, record label, and trade union. Widely regarded as racist, the party was strongly opposed by anti-fascist groups, mainstream politicians and media, and religious and community organisations.
- 1 History
- 2 Ideology
- 3 Support
- 4 Organisation and structure
- 5 Electoral performance
- 6 Legal issues
- 7 Reception
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
John Tyndall's leadership: 1982–99
The British National Party[note 1] was founded by the extreme-right political activist John Tyndall, who had been involved in Neo-Nazi groups since the late 1950s. He had led the far-right National Front (NF) throughout most of the 1970s, although resigned in 1980, complaining that homosexuals like Martin Webster held senior positions within the party. He established his own rival group, the New National Front (NNF), in June 1980, hoping that his breakaway group could eventually be re-merged back into the NF. In January 1981, Tyndall was contacted by the far right activist Ray Hill, who was in reality a spy for the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. Hill suggested that Tyndall establish a new political party through which he could unite many smaller extreme-right groups. While Hill's real attention had been to cause further schism among the British far right, Tyndall liked the idea. Tyndall made suggestions of unity to a number of other small extreme-right groups and together they established a Committee for Nationalist Unity (CNU) in January 1982. In March 1982 the CNU held a conference at Charing Cross Hotel. The fifty extreme-rightists in attendance agreed that they would establish a new political party, to be known as the British National Party.
Tyndall was to be the leader of this new party, with the majority of its members coming from the NNF, although others were defectors from the NF, British Movement, British Democratic Party, and Nationalist Party. The party was formerly launched at a press conference held in a Victoria hotel on 7 April 1982. It was therefore dominated by ex-NF members and inherited that party's tradition of racial nationalism. Tyndall had led the NF on two occasions, and prior to that had been involved in several Neo-Nazi groups, having been involved in the National Socialist Movement during the early 1960s and then founded his own Greater Britain Movement in 1964. Most of the BNP's leading activists, such as Charles Parker, David Bruce, Richard Edmonds, and John Peacock, had previously been senior figures in the NF. Tyndall later remarked that there was "scarcely any difference [between the BNP and NF] in ideology or policy save in the minutest detail". He described the party as being the third serious attempt to built such a movement in Britain, following those of the NF and Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists before that. Under Tyndall's leadership the party was Neo-Nazi in orientation and engaged in nostalgia for Nazi Germany.
The BNP's early appearance in the electoral arena was "irregular and intermittent", and for the first twenty years of its existence, it faced consistent electoral failure. Such failure was shared by other Neo-Nazi parties across Europe; while European populations were often highly critical of immigration, they were unlikely to endorse overt racial prejudice, and they rarely supported the idea of overthrowing the liberal democratic system of governance. When it did take part in elections, it was largely in the hope that the concomitant publicity would bring them new recruits. Throughout this period, the party suffered from low finances and personnel. In the 1983 general election it stood candidates in 54 seats although was only able to launch campaigns in five of them. Of these candidates, 40% had previously stood for the NF at the 1979 general election. The BNP gained 14,000 votes and averaged a vote share of 0.6% in the seats it had contested, however had been able to air a party political broadcast for the first time.
After the Representation of the People Act 1985 raised the cost of a candidate's electoral deposit to £500, the BNP adopted a policy of "very limited involvement" in elections. The party leadership also recognised that the rhetoric on restricting immigration then embraced by the Conservative Party government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was likely to reduce their chances of success. Believing that a campaign would threaten the party's financial security, it officially abstained in the 1987 general election. In the 1992 general election the party stood 13 candidates. At the 1993 local elections, the BNP gained one council seat—won by Derek Beackon in the East London town of Millwall—after a campaign that targeted the anger of local whites over the perceived preferential treatment received by Bangladeshi migrants in social housing. However, following an anti-BNP campaign launched by local religious groups and the Anti-Nazi League it lost this seat during the 1994 local elections. In the 1997 general election, it contested 55 seats and gained an average 1.4% of the vote.
Rather than seeking electoral victories, the BNP focused on a strategy of long-term institutional growth. At the time of the 1983 election, its membership was below 2000, and by 1988 this had dropped to 1000. It adopted a key tactic of the NF, that of street marches and rallies, believing that these attracted publicity and new recruits as well as boosting the morale of existing members. The BNP's first march took place in London on 24 April 1982 to mark St. George's Day, with 400 to 500 activists in attendance. These marches often involved clashes with anti-fascist protesters and resulted in multiple arrests, thus cementing the connection between the BNP and both political violence and older fascist groups in the public eye. As a result, BNP organisers began to prefer holding indoor rallies, although street marches continued to be held throughout the mid-to-late 1980s. In 1986, Tyndall and John Morse were imprisoned for inciting racial hatred.
In the early 1990s, a paramilitary group known as Combat 18 (C18) were formed to act as bodyguards and stewards to protect BNP events from anti-fascist protesters. In 1992, C18 carried out attacks on such left-wing targets as an anarchist bookshop and the headquarters of the Morning Star. By that year, C18 was having an increased influence over the BNP's street activities, something which displeased Tyndall and Bruce. By August 1993, activists from the BNP and Combat 18 were physically fighting each other. In December 1993, Tyndall issued a bulletin to BNP branches declaring Combat 18 to be a proscribed organisation, furthermore suggesting that it may have been established by agents of the state to discredit the BNP. To counter the group's influence, he secured the American white nationalist militant William Pierce as a guest speaker at the BNP's annual rally in November 1995.
In the early 1990s, a group of "modernisers" emerged within the party who favoured a move towards a more electorally palatable strategy and an emphasis on building grassroots support to win local elections. They focused on community-based campaigning among the white working-class populations of London's East End, an area in which many of them lived. Utilising the slogan "Rights for Whites", this involved playing to anxieties regarding neighbouring immigrant and ethnic minority communities. They also called for similar tactics to be employed in those white working-class communities in Northern England which were adjacent to Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, and for the party to promote rural issues to gain traction in the countryside. The modernisers produced a magazine titled Patriot in which they stressed the importance of "suits, smiles and good presentation". They were impressed by the electoral gains made by a number of extreme-right parties in continental Europe—such as Jörg Haider's Austrian Freedom Party and Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front—which had been achieved by both distancing themselves from anti-democratic ideas and towards populism and by switching focus from biological racism to the perceived cultural incompatibility of different racial groups. The modernisers succeeded in introducing some reforms: the BNP's newspaper for instance changed its slogan from "For Race and Nation" to "Voice of the British People". The party nevertheless did not lose its racial nationalist ideology and retained its links to violence-prone extra-parliamentary extreme-right groups such as Blood & Honour. Tyndall opposed many of the modernisers' ideas and sought to stem their growing influence in the party, declaring that "we should not be looking for ways of applying ideological cosmetic surgery to ourselves in order to make our features more appealing to the public".
Nick Griffin's leadership: 1999–2014
After the BNP's poor performance at the 1997 general election, opposition to Tyndall's leadership grew. The modernisers challenged his control of the party, resulting in its first ever leadership election in October 1999. Tyndall was challenged by Nick Griffin, who offered an improved administration, financial transparency, and greater support for local branches. 80% of party members voted, with two-thirds backing Griffin. Often characterised as a political chameleon, Griffin had once been considered a party hardliner before switching allegiance to the modernisers in the late 1990s. In his youth, he had been involved in the NF as well as Third Positionist groups like Political Soldier and the International Third Position. Criticising his predecessors for fuelling the image of the BNP as "thugs, losers and troublemakers", Griffin inaugurated a period of change in the party.
Influenced by La Pen's National Front in France, Griffin sought to widen the BNP's appeal to individuals who were concerned about immigration but had not previously voted for the extreme-right. The BNP switched its focus from Tyndall's compulsory removal of non-whites from the UK to a voluntary system whereby non-whites would be given financial incentives to leave the country. It downplayed biological racism and stressed the cultural incompatibility of different racial groups. This emphasis on culture allowed it to foreground Islamophobia, and following the September 11 attacks in 2001 it launched a "Campaign Against Islam". It stressed the claim that the BNP was "not a racist party" but an "organised response to anti-white racism". At the same time Griffin sought to reassure the party's base that these reforms were based on pragmatism and not a change in principle. Griffin founded a new monthly newspaper, The Voice of Freedom, and a journal, Identity.
Griffin also sought to shed the BNP's image as a single-issue party, by embracing a diverse array of social and economic issues. The party also developed community-based campaigns, through which it targeted local issues, particularly in those areas with large numbers of skilled white working-class people who were disaffected with the Labour Party government. For instance, in Burnley it campaigned for lower speed limits on housing estates and against the closure of a local swimming bath, while in South Birmingham it targeted pensioners' concerns about youth gangs. In 2006 the party urged its activists to carry out local activities like cleaning up children's play areas and removing graffiti while wearing high-vis jackets emblazoned with the party logo.
The close of the twentieth century produced more favourable conditions for the extreme-right in Britain as a result of increased public concerns about immigration and established Muslim communities coupled with growing dissatisfaction with the established mainstream parties. In turn, the BNP gained rapidly growing levels of support over the coming years. In July 2000, it came second in the council elections for the North End of the London Borough of Bexley, its best result since 1993. At the 2001 general election it gained 16% of the vote in one constituency and over 10% in two others. In the 2002 local elections the BNP gained three councillors in Burnley. This breakthrough generated public anxieties about the party, with a poll finding that six in ten supported a ban on it. In the 2003 local elections the BNP gained 13 new councillors, including seven more in Burnley, having attained over 100,000 votes. They invested much in the campaign for the 2004 European Parliament election, at which they gained 800,000 votes but failed to secure a parliamentary seat.
For the 2005 general election, the BNP expanded its number of candidates to 119 and targeted specific regions. Its average vote in the areas it contested rose to 4.3%. It gained significantly more support in three seats, achieving 10% in Burnley, 13% in Dewsbury, and 17% in Barking. In the 2006 local elections the party gained 220,000 votes, with 30 additional councillors, having averaged a vote share of 18% in the areas it contested. In Barking and Dagenham, it saw 12 of its 13 candidates elected to the council. At the 2008 London Assembly election, the BNP gained 130,000 votes, reaching the 5% mark and thus gaining an Assembly seat. At the 2009 European Parliament election, the party gained almost 1 million votes, with two of its candidates, Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons, being elected as Members of the European Parliament for North West England and Yorkshire and the Humber respectively. That election also saw extreme-right parties winning seats for various other EU member-states. This victory marked a major watershed for the party. Amid significant public controversy, Griffin was invited to appear on the BBC show Question Time in October 2009, the first time that the BNP had been invited to share a national television platform with mainstream panellists. Griffin's performance was however widely regarded as poor.
Despite its success, there was dissent in the party. In 2007 a group of senior members known as the "December rebels" challenged Griffin, calling for internal party democracy and financial transparency, but were expelled. In 2008, a group of BNP activists in Bradford split to form the Democratic Nationalists. Eddy Butler then led a challenge to Griffin's leadership, alleging financial corruption, but he had insufficient support. The rebels who supported him split into two groups: one section remained as the internal Reform Group, the other left the BNP to form the British Freedom Party. By 2010, there was discontent among the party's grassroots, a result of the change to its white-only membership policy and rumours of financial corruption among its leadership. Anti-fascist groups like Hope not Hate had campaigned extensively in Barking to stop the area's locals voting for the BNP. At the 2010 general election, the BNP had hoped to make a breakthrough by gaining a seat in the House of Commons, although it failed to achieve this. It nevertheless gained the fifth largest national vote share, representing the most successful electoral performance for an extreme-right party in UK history. In the 2010 local elections, it lost all of its councillors in Barking and Dagenham. Nationally, the party's number of councillors dropped from over fifty to 28. Griffin described the results as "disastrous".
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. In October 2012, Brons left the party, leaving Griffin as its sole MEP. In the 2012 and 2013 local elections, the BNP won no council seats and witnessed a large drop in terms of their average vote.
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, and the Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi, among other government officials. 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.
Griffin lost his European Parliament seat in the May 2014 European election. The party blamed the UK Independence Party for its decline, accusing UKIP of stealing BNP policies and slogans. Two months later, in July, Griffin lost a leadership contest and was succeeded by Adam Walker as acting chairman. In October, Griffin was expelled from the party for "trying to cause disunity [in the party] by deliberately fabricating a state of crisis," he was told in a letter.
In January 2015, membership of the party numbered 500, down from 4,220 in December 2013. At the general election in 2015, the BNP fielded eight candidates, down from 338 in 2010. The party's vote share declined 99.7% from its 2010 result. In January 2016, the Electoral Commission de-registered the British National Party after it had failed to pay its annual registration fee of GB£25. At this time, it was estimated that BNP assets totalled less than GB£50,000. According to the Commission, "BNP candidates cannot, at present, use the party’s name, descriptions or emblems on the ballot paper at elections." A month later, the party was re-registered.
The party stood in various contests within the 2016 local and regional elections, but failed to win any seats, leaving them with only one elected representative in the country, a local councillor. They came next to last in the London Assembly elections on 0.6%, a fall of 1.5% compared to the previous elections.
Many academic historians and political scientists have described the BNP as a far-right party, or as an extreme-right party. As the political scientist Matthew Goodwin used it, the term referred to "a particular form of political ideology that is defined by two anti-constitutional and anti-democratic elements: first, right-wing extremists are extremist because they reject or undermine the values, procedures and institutions of the democratic constitutional state; and second they are right-wing because they reject the principle of fundamental human equality."
Various political scientists and historians have described the BNP as being fascist in ideology, while some also describing it as neo-fascist. Academic observers like the historians Graham Macklin and Roger Griffin have argued that Nick Griffin's reforms were little more than a cosmetic process to obfuscate the party's fascist roots. According to Copsey, under Griffin the BNP was "fascism recalibrated – a form of neo-fascism – to suit contemporary sensibilities". Macklin noted that despite Griffin's 'modernisation' project, the BNP retained its ideological continuity with earlier fascist groups and thus had not transformed into a genuinely "post-fascist" party. In this it was distinct from parties like the Italian National Alliance of Gianfranco Fini, which has been credited with successfully shedding its fascist past and becoming post-fascist. In his writings, Griffin himself acknowledged that much of his 'modernisation' was an attempt to hide the BNP's core ideology behind more electorally palatable policies.
The anti-fascist activist Gerry Gable referred to the BNP as a "Nazi organisation", while the Anti-Nazi League published leaflets describing the BNP as the "British Nazi Party". Copsey suggested that while the BNP under Tyndall could be described as "Neo-Nazi", it was not "crudely mimetic" of the original German Nazism. The BNP has eschewed the labels "fascist" and "Nazi", claiming that it is neither. In its 1992 electoral manifesto, it insisted that "Fascism was Italian. Nazism was German. We are British. We will do things our own way; we will not copy foreigners". Griffin has rejected the description of "fascist", claiming that that label is "a smear that comes from the far left" designed to discourage people from voting BNP. However, many on Britain's extreme-right have sought to avoid the term "British fascism" because of its electorally unpalatable connotations, instead utilising "British nationalism" in its place.
After Griffin took control of the party, it made increasing use of nativist themes in order to emphasise its "British" credentials. In its published material, the party made appeals to the idea of Britain and Britishness in a manner not dissimilar from mainstream political parties. In this material it has also made prominent use of the Union flag and the colours red, white, and blue. Roger Griffin noted that the terms "Britain" and "England" appear "confusingly interchangeable" in BNP literature. The party employed militaristic rhetoric under both Tyndall and Griffin's leadership; under the latter for example its published material spoke of a "war without uniforms" and a "war for our survival as a people". Tyndall described the BNP as a revolutionary party, calling it a "guerrilla army operating in occupied territory".
Ethnic nationalism and biological racism
The BNP displays an obsession with the perceived differences of racial groups, and adhered to biological racist ideas. Tyndall's biological racist approach was close to that of Hitler and Arnold Leese, for he believed that there was a biologically distinct white-skinned "British race" which was one branch of a wider Nordic race. The party emphasises what it sees as the need to protect the racial purity of the white British. When Griffin took control of the party, he downplayed its emphasis on biological racism and stressed what the BNP perceive as the cultural incompatibility of racial groups. However, internal documents produced and circulated during the period of Griffin's leadership demonstrated that it retained its dedication to biological racist ideas. It condemns miscegenation and "race mixing", claiming that this is a threat to the British race. Tyndall stated that he "felt deeply sorry for the child of a mixed marriage" but had "no sympathy whatsoever for the parents".
The BNP adheres to an ideology of ethnic nationalism. It promotes the idea that not all citizens of the United Kingdom belong to the British nation. Instead, it claims that the nation only belongs to "the English, Scots, Irish and Welsh along with the limited numbers of peoples of European descent, who have arrived centuries or decades ago and who have fully integrated into our society". This is a group that Nick Griffin referred to as the "home people" or "the folk". According to Tyndall, "The BNP is a racial nationalist party which believes in Britain for the British, that is to say racial separatism." The BNP does not regard UK citizens who are not ethnic white Europeans as "British", and party literature calls on supporters to avoid referring to such individuals as "black Britons" or "Asian Britons", instead describing them as "racial foreigners".
Tyndall believed the Nordic race to be superior to others, and under his leadership, the BNP promoted a variety of pseudoscientific claims in support of white supremacy. Following Griffin's ascendency to power in the party, it officially repudiated racial supremacism and insisted that no racial group was superior or inferior to another. Instead it foregrounded racial separatism, claiming that different racial groups had to be kept separate and distinct for their own preservation, maintaining that global ethno-cultural diversity was something to be protected. Under Griffin, opposition to multiculturalism in the UK was a central ideological tenet. According to the BNP, multiculturalism promotes the interests of non-whites at the expense of the white British population.
In its 1983 election manifesto, the BNP stated that "family size is a private matter" but still called for white Britons who are "of intelligent, healthy and industrious stock" to have large families and thus raise the ethnic birth-rate. The encouragement of high birth rates among white British families continued under Griffin's leadership. During Tyndall's period of leadership it promoted eugenics, calling for the forced sterilisation of those with genetically transmittable disabilities. In party literature, it talked of improving the British 'racial stock' by removing "inferior strains within the indigenous races of the British Isles". In his magazine Spearhead, Tyndall had stated that "sub-human elements", "perverts", and "asocials" should be eliminated from Britain through "the gas chamber system".
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 downplayed the anti-black racism and conspiratorial antisemitism that characterised its predecessors in favour of so-called 'differentialist racism', based on the "ethnopluralist" doctrine, stating for example: "The BNP does not claim that any one race is superior to any other, simply that they are different." 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 [sic] of civic values such as liberal sovereignty and the rule of law." 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".
Anti-immigrationism and repatriation
It has engaged in xenophobic campaigns which emphasise the idea that immigrants and ethnic minorities are both different from, and a threat to, the white British and white Irish populations. In its campaign material it presented non-whites both as a source of crime in the UK, and as a socio-economic threat to the white British population by taking jobs, housing, and welfare away from them. It engaged in welfare chauvinism, calling for white Britons to be prioritised by the UK's welfare state. Party literature included such as claims as that the BNP was the only party which could "do anything effective about the swamping of Britain by the Third World" or "lead the native peoples of Britain in our version of the New Crusade that must be organised if Europe is not to sink under the Islamic yoke".
Much of its published material made claims about a forthcoming race war and promoted the conspiracy theory about white genocide. In a 2009 radio interview, Griffin referred to this as a "bloodless genocide". It presents the idea that white Britons are engaged in a battle against their own extinction as a racial group. It reiterated a sense of urgency about the situation, claiming that both high immigration rates and high birth rates among ethnic minorities were a threat to the white British. In 2010, it for instance was promoting the idea that at current levels, "indigenous Britons" would be a minority within the UK by 2060.
The BNP calls for the non-white population of Britain to either be reduced in size or removed from the country altogether. Under Tyndall's leadership it promoted the compulsory removal of non-whites from the UK, stating that under a BNP government they would be "repatriated" to their countries of origin. In the early 1990s it produced stickers with the slogan "Our Final Solution: Repatriation". Tyndall understood this to be a two-stage process that would take ten to twenty years, with some non-whites initially leaving willingly and the others then being forcibly deported. During the 1990s, party modernisers suggested that the BNP move away from a policy of compulsory repatriation and toward a voluntary system, whereby non-white persons would be offered financial incentives to leave the UK. This idea, adopted from Powellism, was deemed more electorally palatable. When Griffin took control of the party, the policy of voluntary repatriation was officially adopted, with the party suggesting that this could be financed through the use of the UK's pre-existing foreign aid budget. It stated that any non-whites who refused to leave would be stripped of their British citizenship and categorised as "permanent guests", while continuing to be offered incentives to emigrate. Griffin's BNP also stressed its support for an immediate halt to non-white immigration into Britain and for the deportation of any illegal migrants in the country.
Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
During the period of Tyndall's leadership, the BNP was openly anti-Semitic. From A. K. Chesterton, Tyndall had inherited a belief that there was a global conspiracy of Jews bent on world domination, opining that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was genuine evidence for this. He believed that Jews were responsible for both communism and international finance capitalism, using both to their own ends, and that they were responsible for undermining the British Empire and the British race. He also believed that both democratic government and immigration into Europe were parts of the Jewish conspiracy to weaken other races. Tyndall had expressed the view that "if Britain were to become Jew-clean she would have no nigger neighbours to worry about... It is the Jews who are our misfortune: T-h-e J-e-w-s. Do you hear me? THE JEWS?" In 1983 the party complained that the "Government's grovelling attitude towards Jewry seems to be boundless". Tyndall also added Holocaust denial to the anti-Semitic beliefs inherited from Chesterton, believing that the Holocaust was a hoax created by the Jews to gain sympathy for themselves and thus aid their plot for world domination. Among those to promote such ideas was Griffin, who produced a 1997 pamphlet, Who are the MIND-BENDERS?, in which he outlined the "Jewish conspiracy" to brainwash white Britons. Griffin also engaged in Holocaust denial, publishing articles promoting such ideas in The Rune, a magazine edited by Griffin and produced by the Croydon BNP. In 1998, these articles resulted in Griffin being convicted of inciting racial hatred.
When Griffin took power, he sought to banish overt anti-Semitic discourse from the party. He informed party members that "we can get away with criticising Zionists, but any criticism of Jews is likely to be legal and political suicide". In 2006, he complained that many BNP members had an "insane and politically disastrous obsession" with "the Jews". References to Jews in BNP literature were often coded to hide the party's electorally unpalatable anti-Semitic ideas. For instance, the term "Zionists" was often used in party literature as a euphemism for "Jews". As noted by Macklin, Griffin still framed many of his arguments "within the parameters of recognizably anti-Semitic discourse". The BNP's literature is replete with references to a conspiratorial group who have sought to suppress nationalist sentiment among the British population, who have encouraged immigration and mixed race relationships, and who are promoting the Islamification of the country. This group is likely a reference to the Jews, an old fascist canard. Under Griffin, the BNP's website linked to other web pages that explicitly portrayed immigration as part of a Jewish conspiracy, while it also sold books that promoted Holocaust denial. In 2004, secretly filmed footage was captured in which Griffin was seen claiming that "the Jews simply bought the West, in terms of press and so on, for their own political ends". Sectors of the extreme-right were highly critical of Griffin's softening on the subject of the Jews, claiming that he had "sold out" to the 'Zionist Occupied Government'. In 2006, John Blean, editor of Identity, included an article in which he reassured BNP members that the party had not "sold out to the Jews" or "embraced Zionism" but that it remained "committed to fighting... subversive Jews". 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."
On occasion, these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories also made appearances in the BNP's publicly disseminated material, for instance in leaflets issued by the party's Hull branch in 1999. Under Griffin's leadership, many BNP activists and supporters were found to have socialised with anti-Semites and made anti-Semitic statements; for instance, the party's candidate for Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central, Ken Booth, compared the Auschwitz concentration camp to Disneyland, while the candidate for Luton North, Shelly Rose, stated that she did not wish to buy from "the kikes that run Tesco" on her Facebook account. In 2009, a BNP councillor from Stoke-on-Trent resigned from the party, complaining that it still contained Holocaust deniers and Nazi sympathisers.
Griffin informed BNP members that rather than "bang on" about the Jews—which would be deemed extremist and prove electorally unpopular—their party should focus on criticising Islam, an issue that would be more resonant among the British public. After Griffin took over from Tyndall, the party increasingly focused on an Islamophobic stance, launching a "Campaign Against Islam" in September 2001. Griffin publicly described Islam as a "cancer" that was harming Europe and needed to be removed through "chemotherapy". The BNP has called for the banning of the burka, halal meat, and the building of new mosques in the UK, as well as the prohibition of immigration from Muslim countries. It also called for the immediate deportation of radical Islamist preachers from the country. In 2005 the party claimed that its primary issue of concern was the "growth of fundamentalist-militant Islam in the UK and its ever-increasing threat to Western civilization and our implicit values".
Government, media, and economy
Tyndall believed that liberal democracy was damaging to British society, claiming that liberalism was a "doctrine of decay and degeneration". Under Tyndall, the party sought to dismantle the UK's liberal democratic system of parliamentary governance, although was vague about what it sought to replace this system with. In his 1988 work The Eleventh Hour, Tyndall wrote of the need for "an utter rejection of liberalism and a dedication to the resurgence of authority". Tyndall's BNP perceived itself as a revolutionary force that would bring about a national rebirth in Britain, entailing a radical transformation of society. It proposed a state in which the Prime Minister would have full executive powers, and would be elected directly by the population for an indefinite period of time. This Prime Minister could be dismissed from office in a further election that could be called if Parliament produced a vote of no confidence in them. It stated that rather than having any political parties, candidates standing for election to the parliament would be independent. During the period of Griffin's leadership, the party downplayed its anti-democratic themes and instead foregrounded populist ones. Its campaign material called for the devolution of greater powers to local communities, the reestablishment of county councils, and the introduction of citizens' initiative referendums based on those used in Switzerland.
Under Tyndall's leadership, the BNP had overt anti-Europeanist tendencies. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he maintained the party's opposition to the European Economic Community. Antagonism toward what became the European Union was retained under Griffin's leadership, which called for the UK to leave the Union. Tyndall suggested replacing the EEC with a trading association among the "White Commonwealth", namely countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The party stated that it had no desire to re-establish the British Empire or secure dominion over non-white nations, however in his The Eleventh Hour, Tyndall had called for the recolonization of parts of Africa by the British.
Tyndall described his approach to the economy as "National Economics", expressing the view that "politics must lead, and not be led by, economic forces". His approach rejected economic liberalism because it did not serve "the national interest", although still saw advantages in a capitalist system, looking favourably on individual enterprise. He called on capitalist elements to be combined with socialist ones, with the government playing a role in planning the economy. He promoted the idea on the UK becoming an autarky which was economically self-sufficient, with domestic production protected from foreign competition. This attitude was heavily informed by the corporatist system that had been introduced in Benito Mussolini's Fascist Italy.
A number of senior members, including Griffin and John Bean, had anti-capitalist leanings, having been influenced by Strasserism and National Bolshevism. Under Griffin's leadership, the BNP promoted economic protectionism and anti-globalisation. Its economic policies reflect a vague commitment to distributist economics, ethno-socialism, and national autarky. 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. 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". It has promoted the regeneration of farming in the United Kingdom, with the object of achieving maximum self-sufficiency in food production. 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.
When it comes to environmentalism, the BNP refers to itself as the "real green party", claiming that the Green Party of England and Wales engages in "watermelon" politics by being green (environmentalist) on the outside but red (leftist) on the inside. Influenced by the Nouvelle Droite, it framed its arguments regarding environmentalism in an anti-immigration manner, talking about the need for 'sustainability'. It engages in climate change denial, with Griffin claiming that global warming is a hoax orchestrated by those trying to establish the New World Order.
The party wish to move towards a greater national self-sufficiency and demands an immediate withdrawal from the European Union. It has advocated ending overseas aid to provide economic support within the UK and to finance the voluntary repatriation of legal immigrants. Although Tyndall held imperialist views and was sympathetic to the re-establishment of the British Empire, the BNP itself does not promote imperialism. In the 2000s, it called for an immediate military withdrawal from both the Iraq War and the Afghan War. It also called for the reintroduction of national service in the UK.
The BNP long considered the mainstream media to be one of its major impediments to electoral success. Tyndall claimed that the media represents a "state above the state" which was committed to the "left-liberal" goals of internationalism, liberal democracy, and racial integration. The party has claimed that the mainstream media has given disproportionate coverage to the achievements of ethnic minority sportsmen and to the victims of anti-black racism while ignoring white victims of racial prejudice and the BNP's activities. Both Tyndall and Griffin have claimed that the mainstream media is controlled by the Jews, who use it for their own devices; the latter promoted this idea in his Who are the MIND-BENDERS?. Griffin has described the BBC as "a thoroughly unpleasant, ultra-leftist establishment". The BNP has stated that if it took power, it would end "the dictatorship of the media over free debate". It claims that it would introduce a law prohibiting the media from disseminating falsehoods about an individual or organisation for financial or political gain, and that it would proscribe the media from promoting racial integration.
BNP policy pledges to protect freedom of speech, while repealing the 1998 Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. 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". Under Tyndall, the BNP rejected both Welsh nationalism and Scottish nationalism, claiming that they were bogus because they caused division among the wider 'British race'. In the early 1990s, the party was endorsing its support for Loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. The BNP promoted the reintroduction of capital punishment, and the sterilisation of some criminals.
The BNP has stated its opposition to feminism and had pledged that if in government it would introduce financial incentives to encourage women to leave employment and become housewives. It has also stated that it would criminalise abortion, except in cases where the child is a result of rape, the mother's life is threatened, or the child will be disabled. Under Tyndall, the BNP called for the re-criminalisation of homosexual activity. Under Griffin's leadership, it moderated its policy on homosexuality, proposing that it should be returned "to the closet". It opposed the 2004 introduction of civil partnerships for same-sex couples, and the introduction of same-sex marriage and wishes to ban what it perceives as the promotion of homosexuality in schools and the media. During his 2009 Question Time appearance, Griffin described the sight of two men kissing as "really creepy". BNP spokesman Phil Edwards stated that homosexuality "is unnatural" and "does not lead to procreation but does lead to moral turpitude and disease".
In contrast to the UK's mainstream parties, the BNP received few donations from businesses, wealthy donors, or trade unions. Instead it relied on finances produced by its membership. Under Tyndall, the party operated on a shoestring budget with a lack of transparency; in 1992 it collected £5000 and in 1997 it collected £10,000. It also tried raising money by selling extreme-right literature, and opened a bookshop in Welling in 1989, although this was both attacked by anti-fascists and proved too costly to run, being closed in 1996. In 1992 the party formed a dining club of its wealthier supporters, which was renamed the Trafalgar Club in 2000. By the 1997 general election it admitted that its expenses had "far out-stripped" its income, and it was appealing for donations to pay off loans it had taken out.
Griffin placed greater emphasis on fundraising, and from 2001 through to 2008 the BNP's annual turnover increased almost fivefold. Membership subscriptions grew from £35,000 to £166,000, while its donations raised from £38,000 to £660,000. However, expenses also rose as the BNP spent more on its electoral campaigns, and the party reported a financial deficit in 2004 and again in 2005. Between 2007 and 2009 the BNP accumulated debts of £500,000.
For most of its history, the BNP had a whites-only membership policy. In 2009, the state's Equality and Human Rights Commission stated that this was a violation of the Race Relations Act 1976 and called on the party to amend its constitution accordingly. Responding to this, in early 2010 members voted to remove the racial restriction to membership, although it is unlikely that many non-whites joined. At its creation, the BNP had approximately 1,200 members. By the 1983 general election this had grown to approximately 2,500, although by 1987 had slumped to 1000, with no significant further growth until the 21st century. After taking control Griffin began publishing the party's membership figures: 2,174 in 2001, 3,487 in 2002, 5,737 in 2003, and 7,916 in 2004. Membership dropped slightly to 6,281 in 2005, 9,297 in 2007, and 10,276 in spring 2010. In 2011, it was noted that this meant that the BNP had experienced the most rapid growth since 2001 of any minor party in the UK.
A party membership list dating from late 2007 was leaked onto the internet by a disgruntled activist, containing the names and addresses of 12,000 members. This indicated that membership was concentrated in particular areas, namely the East Midlands, Essex, and Pennine Lancashire, but with particular clusters in Charnwood, Pendle, and Amber Valley. Many of these areas had long been targeted by extreme-right campaigns, dating back to the NF activity of the 1970s, suggesting that such longstanding activism may have had an effect on levels of BNP membership. This information also revealed that membership was most likely in urban areas with low rates of educational attainment and large numbers of economically insecure people employed in manufacturing, with further correlations to nearby Muslim communities.
The leaked membership list showed that the party was 17.22% female. While women have occupied key positions within the BNP, men dominated at every level of the party. In 2009, over 80% of the party's Advisory Council was male, while from 2002 to 2009, three-quarters of its councillors were male. The average percentage of female candidates presented at local elections in 2001 was 6%, although this had risen to 16% by 2010. Since 2006, the party had made a point of selecting female candidates, with Griffin stating that this was necessary to "soften" the party's image among the electorate. Goodwin suggested that membership fell into three camps: the "activist old guard" who had previously been involved in the NF during the 1970s, the "political wanderers" who had defected from other parties to the BNP, and the "new recruits" who had joined post-2001 and who had little or no political interest or experience beforehand.
Having performed qualitative research among the BNP by interviewing various members, Goodwin noted that few of those he interviewed "conformed to the popular stereotypes of them being irrational and uninformed crude racists". He noted that most strongly identified with the working-class and claimed to have either been former Labour voters or from a Labour-voting family. None of those interviewed claimed a family background in the ethnic nationalist movement. Instead, he noted that members claimed that they joined the party as a result of a "profound sense of anxiety over immigration and rising ethno-cultural diversity" in Britain, along with its concomitant impact on "British culture and society". He noted that among these members, the perceived cultural threat of immigrants and ethnic minorities was given greater prominence than the perceived economic threat that they posed to white Britons. He noted that in his interviews with them, members often framed Islam in particular as a threat to British values and society, expressing the fear that British Muslims wanted to Islamicise the country and eventually impose sharia law on its population.
Goodwin described the BNP's voters as being "socially distinct and concerned about a specific set of issues". Under Griffin's leadership, the party targeted areas with high proportions of skilled white working-class voters, particularly those who were disenchanted with the Labour government. It has attempted to appeal to disaffected Labour voters with slogans such as "We are the Labour Party your Grandfather Voted For".
The BNP had little success in gaining support from women, the middle-classes, and the better educated.
Goodwin noted a "strong male bias" in the party's support base, with statistical polling revealing that between 2002 and 2006, seven out of ten BNP voters were male. That same research also indicated that BNP voters were disproportionately middle-aged and elderly, with three quarters being aged over 35, and only 11% aged between 18 and 24. This contrasted to the NF's support base during the 1970s, when 40% of its voters were aged between 18 and 24. Goodwin suggested two possibilities for the BNP's failure to appeal to younger voters: one was the 'life cycle effect', that older people have obtained more during in their life and thus have more to lose, feeling both more threatened by change and more socially conservative in their views. The other explanation was the 'generational effect', with younger Britons who have grown up since the onset of mass immigration having had greater social exposure to ethnic minorities and thus being more tolerant toward them. Conversely, many older voters came of age during the 1970s, under the impact of the anti-immigrant rhetoric promoted by Powellism, Thatcherism, and the NF, and thus have less tolerant attitudes.
Most BNP voters had no formal qualifications and the party's support was centred largely in areas with low educational attainment. According to the 2002–06 data, two-thirds of BNP voters had either no formal qualifications or had left education after their O-levels/GCSEs. Only one in ten BNP voters possessed an A-level, and an even smaller percentage had a university degree. Most of the BNP's voting base were from the financially insecure lower classes. Research conducted from 2002 to 2006 indicated that seven out of ten BNP voters were either skilled or unskilled workers or unemployed. A 2009 poll found that six out of ten BNP voters fitted this profile. Goodwin suggested that it was the skilled working classes rather than their unskilled or unemployed neighbours who were the main support base behind the BNP, because they owned some assets and thus felt that they had more to lose as a result of the economic threat posed by immigrants and ethnic minorities.
Research indicated that BNP voters also held opinions that were distinct from the average British citizen. They were far more pessimistic about their economic prospects than average, with seven out of ten BNP voters expecting their economic prospects to decline in future, contrasted with four out of ten who held this view in the wider population. In the 2002–06 period, 59% of BNP voters considered immigration to be the most important issue facing the UK, compared with only 16% of the wider population who agreed. By 2009, 87% of BNP voters identified immigration and asylum as the most important issue, to 49% of the wider population. BNP voters were also more likely to identify law and order, the EU, and Islamic extremism as the most important issues facing the EU than other voters, and less likely than average to rate the economy, NHS, pensions, and housing market as the most important.
BNP voters were also more likely than average to believe both that white Britons face unfair discrimination, and that Muslims, non-whites, and homosexuals had unfair advantages in British society. 78% of BNP voters endorsed the belief that the Labour Party prioritised immigrants and ethnic minorities over white British people, to 44% of the wider population. When asked questions about immigration and Muslims, BNP voters were found to be far more hostile to them than the average Briton, and also more willing than average to support outright racially discriminatory policies toward them. Research also indicated that BNP voters were more mistrustful of the establishment than average citizens. In 2002–06, 92% of BNP voters described themselves as being dissatisfied with the government, to 62% of the wider population. Over 80% of BNP voters were found to distrust their local Member of Parliament, council officials, and civil servants, and were also more likely than average to think that politicians were personally corrupt. Research also indicated a tendency for BNP voters to read such tabloids as the Daily Mail, Daily Express, and The Sun, all of which promote anti-immigration sentiment; whether they gained such sentiment as a result of reading these tabloids or they read these tabloids because it endorsed their pre-existing views is unclear.
The early stronghold of the BNP was in London, where it established enclaves of support in the boroughs of Enfield, Hackney, Lewisham, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets, with smaller units in Bexley, Camden, Greenwich, Hillingdon, Lambeth, and Redbridge. By the late 1990s, the party was increasingly retreating from its original East End heartland, finding that its electoral support had declined in the area. Griffin expressed the view that it was too dangerous for BNP activists to campaign in East End, suggesting that they would likely be attacked by opponents. Instead the party shifted its focus to parts of Outer London, in particular the boroughs of Barking, Bexley, Dagenham, Greenwich, and Havering.
After Griffin took power, the party focused on building support in the North of England, taking advantage of the anxieties generated by the ethnic riots that took place in Bradford, Oldham, and Burnley in 2001. In the period between 2002 and 2006, over 40% of the BNP's voters ere located in Northern England.
Organisation and structure
On its formation, the BNP sought to evade the infighting and factionalism that had damaged the NF, and thus avoided the Front's committee-rule system of collective leadership. Instead it was founded around what it called the "leadership principle", with a central chairman having complete control over the party, which was then arranged in a highly hierarchical structure. The BNP lacked any internal democracy, with the grassroots membership having no formal powers. On taking power, Griffin retained the leadership principle inherited from Tyndall. He nevertheless established an Advisory Council which would meet several times a year; the members were to be selected by Griffin himself and would serve as his advisors.
Under Tyndall, the party operated with a skeleton organisation. It had no full-time staff and for most of the 1980s lacked a telephone number. Instead it relied on a handful of geographically scattered, unpaid regional organisers. Its early activists were recruited from within the extreme-right movement, and thus lacked the experience and skills in electoral campaigning. When Griffin took control, he introduced a variety of internal departments to help manage the party's activities: the administration and enquiries department, department for group development, legal affairs department, security department, and communications department. Griffin tried to build a more professional party machine by educating and training BNP members, providing them with incentives, establishing a steady income stream, and overcoming factionalism and dissent. He launched an "annual college" for activists in 2001 and formed an education and training department in 2007. In 2008 and 2010 he oversaw the establishment of "summer schools" for high-ranking officials. The party also began employing full-time members of staff, having three in 2001 and 13 in 2007.
To incentivise members to remain committed to the party, Griffin implemented a new "voting membership" scheme in 2007. This meant that those who had been BNP members for two years could become a "voting member", at which they would go on a year's probation. During this year they were required to attend educational and training seminars, to have engaged in a certain amount of activism, and to have donated a certain amount of money to the party. Once completed, they were allowed to vote on certain matters at general members' meetings and annual conferences, to participate in policy debates, and to be eligible for intermediate and senior positions. This policy thereby ensured that those who reached the higher echelons of the BNP were fully trained in the party's ideology and electoral strategy.
Under Griffin's leadership, the BNP zealously embraced the use of alternative media to promote itself in a way different from the negative portrayal that featured in the mainstream media. On its website—which had been established in 1995—it created an internet television channel, 'BNPtv'. It has created blogs that cover different themes without being explicitly political in order to promote the party's message.
In 2003, the BNP claimed that it had the most viewed website of a political party in Britain, and by 2011 was claiming to have the most viewed such website in Europe. 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.
Affiliated groups and individuals
Griffin hoped to built a wider social movement around the BNP by establishing affiliated networks and organisations. Most of these affiliated groups were poorly funded and had few members. The party established its own record label, Great White Records, a radio station, and a trade union known as Solidarity – The Union for British Workers. It formed a group for young people known as the Young BNP, although in 2010 renamed this group as the BNP Crusaders, "to pay homage to our ancestors from the Middle Ages who saved Christian Europe from the onslaught of Islam". It established a Land and People group to recruit support in rural areas, a Family Circle to recruit women and families, and both a Veterans Group and an Association of British ex-Servicemen for former military servicemen. A group called Families Against Immigrant Racism was established to counter perceived racism against white Britons, while an Ethnic Liaison Committee was created to build links with Hindu and Sikh communities in Britain. Another group was the American Friends of the British National Party (AFBNP), set up by Mark Cotterill in 1999 to gain support from sympathisers in the United States. In 2001 it had 100 members, and by 2008 had 107.
Griffin's BNP also established an annual Red, White and Blue festival, which was based on the 'Blue Blanc Rouge' organised by France's National Front. The festival brought party activists together and aimed to promote a more family friendly image for the group, although also provided a venue for white power skinhead bands like Stigger, Nemesis, and Warlord. At the party's 2001 festival, around 1000 BNP members attended.
Under Griffin, the BNP forged stronger links with various extreme-right parties elsewhere in Europe, among them France's National Front, Germany's National Democratic Party (NDP), Sweden's National Democrats, and Hungary's Jobbik. Griffin unsuccessfully urged the NPD to move away from Neo-Nazism and embark on the same 'modernisation' project that he had taken the BNP. Following the election of two BNP MEPs in 2009, the following year saw the BNP join with other extreme-right parties to form the Alliance of European National Movements, with Griffin becoming its vice president. The party also had close links with the Historical Review Press, a publisher focused on promoting Holocaust denial.
Britain's extreme-right has long faced internal and public divisions. Disgruntled BNP members left the party to found or join a wide range of rivals, among them the British Freedom Party, White Nationalist Party, Nationalist Alliance, Wolf's Hook White Brotherhood, British People's Party, England First Party, Britain First, Democratic Nationalists, and the New Nationalist Party. Various BNP members were involved in the nascent English Defence League (EDL)—with EDL leader Tommy Robinson having been a former BNP activist—although Griffin proscribed the organisation and condemned it as having been manipulated by "Zionists".
Some members of the BNP were radicalised during their involvement with the party and subsequently sought to carry out acts of violence and terrorism. Tony Lecomber was imprisoned for three years for possessing explosives, after a nail bomb exploded while he was transporting it to the offices of the Workers' Revolutionary Party in 1985. He was imprisoned for three years in 1991 whilst serving as the BNP's Director of Propaganda for assaulting a Jewish teacher. In 1999, the ex-BNP member David Copeland used nail bombs to target homosexuals and ethnic minorities in London. In 2005, the BNP's Burnley candidate Robert Cottage was convicted of stockpiling chemicals for use in what he believed was a coming civil war, while a Yorkshire BNP member, Terry Gavan, was convicted in 2010 for stockpiling firearms and nail bombs.
- 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. The firm ceased to operate in November 2006.
- 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.
- ProFam was launched in 2012, as a resource for communities to make a stand against Muslim and Asian grooming gangs against vulnerable children
- 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. The CCB has claimed that the Bible justifies its support for the BNP's repatriation policy. The United Reformed Church has said that support for organisations such as the BNP is incompatible with Christianity.
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.
Nick Griffin met leaders of the Hungarian far right party Jobbik to discuss co-operation between the two parties and spoke at a Jobbik party rally in August 2008. 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,
- The Steadfast Trust was established as a charity in 2004 with the stated aims of reducing poverty among those of Anglo-Saxon descent and supporting English culture. It has many former and current BNP, National Front and British Ku Klux Klan members. It was deregistered as a charity by the Charity Commission in February 2014.
- In 2014, after Nick Griffin lost the leadership of BNP, he set up British Voice, but before it was launched, he decided to set up a different group, British Unity.
- Shown by default in chronological order of leadership
|Year||Name||Period||Time in office||Deputy leader/s|
|1982||John Tyndall||1982 – September 1999||17 years|
|1999||Nick Griffin||27 September 1999 – 21 July 2014||15 years|
|2014||Adam Walker||21 July 2014 – present||incumbent|
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.
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|
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.
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.
The BNP put forward candidates for 338 out of 650 seats for the 2010 general election gaining 563,743 votes (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.
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.
As of 2011, the BNP had yet to make "a major breakthrough" on local councils. The BNP's councillors usually had "an extremely limited impact on local politics" because they were isolated as individuals or small groups on the council. Councillors from the main parties often disliked their BNP colleagues and deemed having to work alongside them as an affront to dignity and decency. Questions were often raised as to whether BNP councillors could adequately represent the interests of all of their local constituents. On being elected, Beackon for instance stated that he refused to serve his Asian constituents in Millwall. There were also allegations made that BNP councillors had particularly low attendance at council meetings, although research indicated that this was not the case, with the BNP's attendance record being largely average.
There is evidence to suggest that racially and religiously motivated crime increased in those areas where BNP councillors had been elected. For instance, after the 1003 election of Beackon, there was a spike in racist attacks in the borough of Tower Hamlets, with BNP members being directly responsible for some of it; the party's national organised Richard Edmonds was for instance sentence to three months for his part in an attack on a black man and his white girlfriend.
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. However, in August 2010, he resigned the party whip and became an independent.
The BNP has taken part in European Parliament elections since 1999, when they received 1.13% of the total vote (102,647 votes).
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. Party chairman Nick Griffin was elected in the North West region, with 8% of the vote. Nationally, the BNP received 6.26%.
|Election year||# of total votes||% of overall vote||# of seats won||Change|
0 / 87
0 / 78
2 / 72
0 / 73
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. 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. In 2 out of the 7 FPTP constituencies contested the BNP saved desposits: (Swansea East and Islwyn).
In the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, the party fielded 32 candidates, entitling it to public funding and an election broadcast, prompting criticism. The BNP received 24,616 votes (1.2%), no seats were won, nor were any deposits saved.
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.
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. 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. The BNP claimed that BBC editors were following an agenda.
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.
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. 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, but not those under Article 10 (free expression) or Article 14 (discrimination).
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, following an undercover TV exposure of racism in a police training centre. The Association of Chief Police Officers banned serving police officers joining the BNP in 2004. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission allegations that GMP employees participated in a BNP rally. After BNP membership lists were leaked on the Internet, a number of police forces investigated officers whose names appeared on the lists.
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. In February 2009, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to ban its clergy from joining the BNP. 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."
Association with violence
John Hagan claims that the BNP has conducted right-wing extremist violence to gain "institutionalized power". 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.
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." 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- Joseph Owens, a BNP candidate in Liverpool's local elections, served eight months in prison for sending razor blades in the post to Jewish people and another term for carrying CS gas and knuckledusters.
- 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.
- 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.
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. The prosecution claimed that Cottage had plans to assassinate Tony Blair and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Greaves. The chemicals recovered by police are believed to be the largest explosives haul ever found at a house in Britain.
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. 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.
The BNP advised those named on the list to deny their membership and said that they would confirm that in writing if required. The BNP claimed it contained the names of persons who had never been members of the BNP. The BNP's Lee Barnes claimed that the list was false.
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."
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. Matthew Single was subsequently found guilty and fined £200. The fine was criticised as an "absolute disgrace" by a BNP spokesman and a detective sergeant involved said he was "disappointed" with the outcome.
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.
The conclusion of the case in October 2009 saw costs awarded against the BNP. 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 and would "strip the party of the ability to fight the next general election". Griffin subsequently announced that he would ask BNP members to accept the court's decision and allow non-whites to join the party, claiming that this action "outflanked" the EHRC.
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.
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. 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." Griffin said: "This is a great day, because the British National Party has won a spectacular David and Goliath victory".
In 2011, Goodwin described the BNP as being "the most successful party in the history of the extreme right in Britain". That same year, John E. Richardson noted that it had achieved "a level of electoral success that is unparalleled in the history of British fascism". The historian Alan Sykes stated that "in electoral terms", the BNP achieved "more in the first three years of the twenty-first century" than the British far right "as a whole achieved in the previous seventy". However, Copsey noted that the party's belief that one day the conditions would be right for it to win a general election belonged to the "Never-Never Land of British politics".
The BNP's growth met a hostile reaction, and in 2011 the political scientists Copsey and Macklin described it as "Britain's most disliked party." It was widely reviled as racist and even following Griffin's 'modernisation' project it was still heavily tainted by its associations with Neo-Nazism. The Conservative leader Michael Howard stated that the BNP were a "stain" on British democracy, adding that "this is not a political movement, this is a bunch of thugs dressed up as a political party". His successor David Cameron described it as a "completely unacceptable" organisation which "thrives on hatred". The Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair called it a "nasty, extreme organisation". The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg called the BNP a "party of thugs and fascists". The Bishops of the Church of England stated that supporting the BNP was "like spitting in the face of God".
The BNP remained unable to gain wide appeal or widespread credibility. In a 2004 poll, seven out of ten voters said that they would never consider voting for the BNP. A 2009 poll found that two-thirds would "under no circumstances" consider voting BNP, while only 4% of respondents would "definitely consider" voting for them. The British police, Fire Brigades Union, and Church of England, prohibited its members from becoming BNP members. Individuals whose membership of the party was made public sometimes faced ostracism and the loss of their job: examples include a school headmaster who had to resign, a caretaker who was sacked after attending a BNP rally, and a police officer dismissed from his position.
Mainstream media and academia
Attitudes toward the BNP in both mainstream broadcast media and print journalism have been overwhelmingly negative. This hostile coverage has even been found in right-wing tabloids like the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun which otherwise share the BNP's negative attitude toward issues like immigration. In 2003, the Daily Mail described the BNP as "poisonous bigots", while in 2004 The Sun printed the headline of "BNP: Bloody Nasty People". Senior BNP figures nevertheless believed that these tabloids' hostile coverage of immigration and Islam helped to legitimise and normalise the party and its views among much of the British public, a view echoed by some academic observers. When, in 2004, protesters picketed outside the Daily Mail office in central London due to its negative coverage of asylum seekers, BNP members organised a counter-picket, in which the placard "Vote BNP, Read the Daily Mail" was displayed. The BNP initially faced a 'no platform for fascists' policy from the broadcast media, although this eroded as Griffin was invited on to a number of television programmes amid the party's growing electoral success. When the BBC invited him to appear on Question Time in 2009 it was criticised by several trade unions, sections of the media, and several Labour politicians, all of whom believed that the BNP should not be given a public platform. Anti-fascist protesters assembled outside of the television studio to protest Griffin's inclusion.
The first academic attention to be directed at the BNP occurred after it gained a councillor in the 1993 local elections. Nevertheless, throughout the 1990s it remained the subject of little academic research. Academic interest increased following its victories at local elections from 2002 onward. The first detailed monograph study to be devoted to the party was Nigel Copsey's Contemporary British Fascism, first published in 2004. In September 2008, an academic symposium on the BNP was held at Teesside University.
Anti-fascists and the wider extreme-right
Opposition also came from the organised anti-fascist movement. By the mid-1990s, the BNP's attempts to stage public events in Scotland, the North-west and the Midlands were largely thwarted by the militant disruption of the Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) group. The BNP's modernisation and move away from street demonstrations and toward electoral campaigning caused problems for the AFA, who proved unable to successfully change their tactics; on those occasions when AFA activists tried to forcibly disrupt BNP activities, they were prevented and arrested by riot police. More liberal sections of the anti-fascist movement sought to counter the BNP through community-based initiatives. Searchlight encouraged trade unions to establish localised campaigns that would ensure that ethnic minority and other anti-BNP locals got out and voted. It suggested that such campaigns should avoid associating with the mainstream parties from which BNP voters felt disenfranchised and that they should not be afraid of also calling out Islamic fundamentalists and extremists active in the area. The Unite Against Fascism group also sought to maximise anti-BNP turnout at elections, promoting a message of "anyone but fascists".
The BNP often received a hostile response from other sections of the British extreme-right. Some extreme-right-wingers, such as the British Freedom Party, expressed frustration at the party's inability to moderate itself further on the issue of race, while those such as Colin Jordan and the NF accused the BNP—particularly under Griffin's leadership—of being too moderate. This latter view was articulated by an extreme-right groupuscule, the International Third Position, when it claimed that the BNP "has been openly courting the Jewish vote and pumping out material which confirms what most us knew years ago: the BNP has become a multi-racist, Zionist, queer-tolerant anti-Muslim pressure group".
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.
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, 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.
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." 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.
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". 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.
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