Nick Griffin had the cheek to say yesterday, following the change to the BNP constitution which will now allow non-white people to join the party, that no-one could now call the BNP racist. Well, I for one am.I've always been slightly uneasy with the media's unhealthy fascination with the BNP membership rules, often to the exclusion of their other policies and rules. I was always afraid that the media would really believe something had fundamentally changed when they altered the party rulebook. Nothing has changed and it is vital for everyone to realise that. Quite apart from the thuggery which saw a Times journalist assaulted because he had written something unfavourable to the BNP, the rules were changed only because a court had demanded it.
The Times, in its editorial, summed it up perfectly: “The BNP is racist. Racism is an attitude, not a legalistic nicety. Mr Griffin made clear that the vote was merely an acknowledgement of “legal reality”. The party does not throw off a history of ideological conviction by acquiescing in what the law demands.” While the BNP will want everyone to focus on its rulebook change as proof of its new non-racist view, I would like people to concentrate on another part of the BNP constitution - which remains unchanged.“The British National Party stands for the preservation of the national and ethnic character of the British people and is wholly opposed to any form of racial integration between British and non-European peoples. It is therefore committed to stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration and to restoring, by legal changes, negotiation and consent, the overwhelmingly white makeup of the British population that existed in Britain prior to 1948.” Now, tell me that the BNP is not racist.
Meanwhile Griffin continues frantically to try to persuade his members to upgrade to gold or life membership of the party. In his latest electronic newsletter, Griffin claims that the legal process undertaken by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure the BNP complies with anti-discrimination legislation is in fact “criminal actions … designed to scupper our General Election plan” by starving the party of membership fees. The party agreed in court to put recruitment on hold pending adoption of a new constitution, which his members have agreed to at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 14 February. However Griffin has now decided there is more to the supposed conspiracy against the BNP. “Recent developments have revealed a far more sinister long-term plan”, he writes. According to Griffin, the “old-gang Lib-Lab-Con” parties want to introduce proportional representation and state funding of political parties but to exclude the BNP. The recruitment freeze is designed to damage the BNP’s general election effort, limit the number of constitu-encies the party can contest and thereby ensure it receives a low percentage of the national vote. Then PR and state funding of parties would be introduced, but the BNP would receive nothing because of its low vote.
Seriously, that is the imaginative scenario Griffin describes, before referring to “low-life vermin [one of Griffin’s favourite words] that are trying to sabotage our party”, invoking “the heroes of the Somme, D-Day and the Falklands” and urging: “If we cannot welcome new members, then existing members MUST upgrade to fill the gap, otherwise their evil plan might succeed!” The fact is that the membership freeze cannot have much effect on the BNP’s income. In 2008 the party took in membership fees amounting to £166,006. Much of this would be renewals, which are still allowed. New membership fees during the three to four month membership freeze would hardly top £30,000 and may be much less. The party could easily save that sum by shedding one or two of its large number of staff. But when has the BNP ever allowed the truth to get in the way of a good fundraising pitch?. As Darby said when confronted with the evidence that the party had only spent £282,843 on its European election campaign rather than the over £500,000 it had claimed, the party needs to exaggerate “there’s a bit of hyperbole with politics”.
The British National Party voted on Monday to abandon its bar on non-white members. This was not a belated and humbled acknowledgment of historic bigotry but an expedient to avoid a court injunction under human rights legislation. Meanwhile, BNP security guards assaulted and expelled Dominic Kennedy, theTimes journalist who was reporting the party’s meeting. Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, declared after the meeting: “We will carry on throwing The Times out until they report the truth. That’s all we ask.” The Times meets that request with journalistic scrupulousness and no little incredulity. If Griffin wants the truth to be told about the BNP, we can recount it from direct observation. The BNP purports to be a legitimate party; yet its behaviour reveals it at every turn to be exploitative, cynical, xenophobic and thuggish. Griffin also said after yesterday’s amendment to the BNP constitution: “We have done it and now, for one thing, they can’t call us racist any more.” The BNP is racist. Racism is an attitude, not a legalistic nicety. Mr Griffin made clear that the vote was merely an acknowledgement of “legal reality”.
Political parties by definition have a point of view. A newspaper’s responsibility is to report their actions and statements fairly but with critical detachment. When Mr Kennedy entered the BNP’s press conference, Richard Barnbrook, a BNP member of the London Assembly, demanded that he leave. Mr Barnbrook had taken exception to a profile of him published in Saturday’s edition of The Times. That was enough. Mr Kennedy was not attending the meeting covertly. He had expressly been invited to report on it by Simon Darby, the party’s national press officer. On pointing this out, Mr Kennedy was physically ejected. His nose was grabbed, twisted and bloodied. A punch was thrown. He was pushed into a parked car outside the building. Mr Griffin complained recently that the press would “go overboard to demonise and create an atmosphere in which lunatics will feel justified in physically attacking us”. The extravagance of his rhetoric betrays the ugly underlying reality. Even the BNP’s extremist associates in the European Parliament are at pains to present themselves as wedded to constitutional politics. The BNP, by contrast, just cannot help its lineage from showing. It affects a respectable and patriotic face, and a concern with popular welfare. But its ideology draws on extremist currents and its attempts at concealment are dishonest.
The most contemptible of the BNP’s tactics is to associate itself with the Armed Forces and Services’ charities. A group of generals expressed their concern last October that the party was hijacking the reputation of the Forces. BNP organisations have masqueraded as servicemen’s support groups. It would be an affront to public service for any political party to claim a special relationship with the Armed Forces. It is repugnant for it to be done by a party that reviles the values of fairness that the Armed Forces exemplify and defend. The BNP now likes to pose as a normal British political party. In fact, they are no such thing. In this country, it is not normal for political parties to rough up journalists. In this country, it is not normal for people to disown racism for reasons of convenience, rather than conviction. In this country, it is not normal to hijack the birthday celebrations of a wounded soldier for electoral gain. The BNP like to boast their Britishness but seem to have forgotten the most essential British values: free speech and fairness, compassion and respect. Yesterday, the BNP showed they are many things, but not British.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.