British National Party

From Example Problems
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Template:Infobox British Political Party




The British National Party (BNP) is the largest political party of the far-right in the United Kingdom.


History and overview

The modern BNP was originally founded in 1980 as the New National Front by the late John Tyndall, a former chairman of the National Front and a public follower of Nazi racial ideals, something that still harms the party in the polls after his death. It changed its name to the British National Party in 1982. The current National Chairman, Nick Griffin, joined the BNP in 1995, and replaced Tyndall following a leadership election in 1999. Griffin had previously been chairman of the National Front and had spent time as an activist whilst reading law at Downing College, University of Cambridge.

Tyndall was expelled from the BNP in 2003. The reasons for this mainly related to articles published in his magazine, Spearhead, which were highly critical of the BNP leadership. It was also believed that his often 'sick and racist' views did not tally with contemporary party policies. However, Tyndall was readmitted to the party in December 2003 after an out of court settlement with Nick Griffin. He was expelled again in 2005. John Tyndall died on 18 July 2005.

In 1998, before becoming BNP chairman, 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. In 2005, he was charged with four further charges of incitement to commit racial hatred, subsequent to secret filming of BNP meetings for a BBC documentary.

File:Griffin apr 04.jpg
Nick Griffin gives a press conference, 25 April 2004 (to his right sat Jean-Marie Le Pen).

In recent years the BNP has reflected many aspects of a concept known as Euronationalism. This is a pattern of emphasis and presentation of policies that has been adopted by a number of far-right parties in Europe. It is often cited as a factor in their increased electoral successes of the 1990s and, arguably much more, the 2000s.

On 25 April 2004, Nick Griffin made national headlines when he appeared at a joint press conference with Front National leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

On Tuesday, 12 July, it was reported that the BNP released leaflets showing images of the "Number 30 Bus" after it was blown up in the 7 July 2005 London bombings. The slogan "Maybe now it's time to start listening to the BNP" was printed beside the photo. The BNP were accused [1] of using the leaflet to stir racial hatred. The leaflet can be viewed here [2]

On 21 July 2005, Nick Griffin and Mark Collett attended Leeds Crown Court with both pleading not guilty to incitement to racial hatred charges that resulted from the BBC documentry 'The Secret Agent'. BNP founder John Tyndall was also due to appear on related charges but died earlier in the week on 18 July.

On 11 September 2005, sixty thousand copies of BNP newspaper, The Voice of Freedom (Vof), were confiscated at Dover by British police (Special Branch) on the orders of the Crown Prosecution Service. The next day Police handed back the seized VoF papers after the BNP sent a legal letter, delivered by a barrister acting on the BNP's behalf, which warned that they would press for “serious and maximum damages” against Kent Constabulary for the loss of earnings from the newspaper with a further expectation of taking the Force to the European Court of Human Rights.

Policies

According to the BNP's website [3], the party's policies include:

Other policies include the promotion of organic farming, increasing defence spending, also reducing unemployment benefits and disability benefits.

In a recent speech he gave in the United States, Griffin criticised the IRA and Sinn Féin for using violence and intimidating attacks against unionists in Ireland. He referred to them as "Marxist thugs who undermine true Irish nationalism", but he failed to mention the BNP's well documented links with loyalist death squads.[4][5]

A continuous theme of the BNP's campaigning activities involves criticism of the mainstream media, which it accuses of giving less prominence to racially motivated violence, harrasment, rape and murder, when the victims are white. The BNP has made frequent mention of Gavin Hopley of Lancashire and Kriss Donald of Glasgow, two young white men whose murderers were in both cases Asian. The BNP conducted a demonstration outside the offices of the National Union of Journalists to highlight what it regarded as "racist" coverage of the Hopley case [6]. Gavin Hopley's family have declined to be associated with the BNP.

File:BNP Sun headline.jpg
A front page from The Sun newspaper lambasting the BNP.

Allegations of racism

In October 1990, the British National Party was described by the European Parliament's committee on racism and xenophobia as an "openly Nazi party... whose leadership have serious criminal convictions". When asked if the BNP was racist, Richard Edmonds, deputy leader of the BNP, said, "We are 100 per cent racist, yes". Then leader John Tyndall had previously proclaimed "Mein Kampf is my Bible." Under his leadership, the BNP was strongly supportive of the South African Apartheid system; it is alleged that the party still has friendly contact with white supremacist elements from that country.

When Nick Griffin eventually became leader, the party began to water down their public statements about racial issues. The party changed their public position to stating that their desire is to preserve the British race, and not to interfere with others. Its constitution states that all members must be of "British or closely kindred native European stock." The party is opposed to mixed race relationships on the stated ground that ethnic differences must be preserved; it argues that when a white person produces a mixed race child "a white family line that stretches back into deep pre-history is destroyed." However, while it has stated on several occasions it strongly opposes any unfair discrimination on the grounds of race, during election times, the BNP has been accused of candid racial incitement, and the use of distorted facts and statistics, and stereotypical misinformation designed to mislead.

Nick Griffin has stated his views on race as follows:

"... while the BNP is not racist, it must not become multi-racist either. Our fundamental determination to secure a future for white children is restated, and an area of uncertainty is addressed and a position which is both principled and politically realistic is firmly established. We don't hate anyone, especially the mixed race children who are the most tragic victims of enforced multi-racism, but that does not mean that we accept miscegenation as moral or normal. We do not and we never will." [7]

Since Griffin took over leadership of the party, the BNP has also attempted to move away from the violent image it attained during the Tyndall years, that were often seen as racist and thuggish, and has invoked policy changes in order to present itself as a more moderate, mainstream and respectable far-right party.

An example of this is the party's stance on repatriation: under Tyndall's leadership, the party campaigned for the compulsory "repatriation" of all ethnic minorities. However, since Griffin's election to national chairmanship, this policy has been moderated to the slightly less forceful suggestion that immigrants who wish to return to their countries of origin, and descendants of immigrants who wish to migrate to such countries, should be assisted in doing so by the provision of what the BNP describes as "generous homeward-bound grants". The BNP has also pointed out that a policy of voluntary repatriation of "foreigners" already exists under the 1971 Immigration Act, which they would use to enact their policy.

Despite this moderation, Nick Griffin had previously made anti-Semitic statements. His 1997 pamphlet "Who Are The Mindbenders" alleged that a cabal of Jews controlled the British media.[8] He also denied the Holocaust in several party publications prior to becoming leader. [9]

Despite the changes made by Griffin, there remain a number of prominent BNP members with openly racist and/or violent histories. The BNP states that many questionable characters have been expelled from the party and it publicly condemns both violence and racism, however, the sincerity of these claims have been called into question by many.

The BNP's professed policy of anti-racism was publicly questioned on July 15 2004, when a BBC documentary sought to expose what it claimed to be 'racist elements' in the party. Documentary-maker Jason Gwynne went undercover and joined the BNP for six months. His secret filming recorded party leader Nick Griffin calling Islam a "wicked, vicious faith"; party member Steve Barkham confessing to assaulting an Asian man in the 2001 Bradford Riots; and party member Stewart Williams stating that he wanted to "blow up" Bradford's mosques with a rocket launcher and council candidate Dave Midgley confessing to pushing dog faeces through the letterbox of an Asian takeaway. In his speech, Griffin stated that "For saying that, I tell you, I will get seven years if I said that outside", apparently referring to the maximum sentence for the criminal offence of incitement to racial hatred. In the aftermath, the party said that Barkham and Midgley (but not Williams) had been expelled. Mr. Griffin did not apologise for his own comments, stating that "it's still not illegal to criticise Islam".

In its response to the documentary, the BNP described it as involving "the loudest and most hot-headed BNP activists [who] were deliberately plied with drink and subject to suggestive provocation."

On July 16, 2004, Barclays Bank froze the bank accounts of the BNP, apparently as a result of the BBC documentary. Nick Griffin is reported to have said "If we can, we will take them [Barclays] to the cleaners. We don't want to take them to the cleaners, all we want is the democratic right to access bank accounts." [10]

In December 2004, the British tabloid press reported that a BNP member had hired a black DJ by telephone for the BNP Christmas party without knowing that he was black, resulting in some members leaving and others refusing to make their speeches. The DJ had not known that he was going to work for the BNP until he arrived at the event. [11] [12] [13] The BNP denies that any of its members left in protest at this and commended the professionalism of the DJ in an article on its website [14].

Allegations of neo-nazism

Although the BNP strongly disputes that its policies or members espouse neo-Nazism, some opponents of the party, as well as journalists in two newspapers, the right wing tabloid Daily Express and the left wing broadsheet The Guardian, have claimed often that the BNP is not only racist, but an explicitly fascist or neo-Nazi organization, despite the seemingly democratic nature of internal BNP elections. The leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard, in a political speech in the BNP's heartland area of Burnley, criticised the group, describing it as 'a bunch of thugs dressed up as a political party.'

When Tyndall was still chairman, the BNP's 1995 national rally was addressed by American neo-Nazi Dr. William Pierce, head of the US National Alliance. Pierce wrote The Turner Diaries, which allegedly inspired Timothy McVeigh to carry out his Oklahoma city bombing, killing 168 people. The American Friends of the BNP, a party offshoot headed by Mark Cotterill, was still having extensive contacts with the openly neo-Nazi National Alliance as recently as 2003, as documented at length by Nick Ryan in his book Homeland: Into A World of Hate. [15]

Nick Griffin has appeared on the same platform as David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan and a former member of the Louisiana state legislature. In 1996, Griffin launched a scathing attack on the Holocaust denier David Irving for admitting that some people might have died in the Holocaust. "True Revisionists will not be fooled by this new twist to the sorry tale of the Hoax of the Twentieth Century," Griffin wrote. Despite this, the website of the BNP has stated that racially British or European Jews may join the party.

While Griffin was still a leading figure in the National Front, he was a close associate of Roberto Fiore, an Italian who belonged to a Fascist group which carried out the Bologna massacre, killing 85 people and injuring 200 others in the train station of that town.

In the early 90s the BNP regularly and openly published the journal Holocaust News; a newspaper whose sole purpose was to deny the existence of the massacre of six million Jews by the German Nazi movement. [16]

The openly violent neo-Nazi group Combat 18 was formed in 1992 (although not originally under this name), to act as stewards for BNP rallies, which were often physically assaulted by left-wing groups, such as Anti-Fascist Action. According to the BNP, all associations with Combat 18 were ended shortly after the latter were formed, John Tyndall telling BNP members that they could not be members of both organisations simultaneously.

Searchlight magazine, Red Action and other commentators on both the left and right spectrums of the media have alleged that Combat 18 was the brainchild of the British secret service organisation MI5, being designed to 'honey-trap' to attract the most violent neo-Nazis in Britain into a single organisation where they could be monitored, while anarchists and anti-racists accuse the British goverment using organised fascism to divide and conquer the working classes.

It is also believed that Combat 18 were used by MI5 to infiltrate Loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. In 1998, the leader of Combat 18, Charlie Sargent, a Special Branch informant, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1997 murder of another member of the group. This effectively ended the organisation, although a small group of people still use the name to describe themselves. However, the BNP leadership, have themselves, forged close links with loyalist paramiliraries, which seems to cast clear doubt on far-right conspiracy theories.

The 2002 Channel 4 Documentary "Young Nazi and Proud" featured secret filming of BNP youth leader Mark Collett claiming his admiration for Hitler, and stating "I'd never say this on camera, the Jews have been thrown out of every country including England. It's not just persecution. There's no smoke without fire." It also featured footage of visitors to the party's annual "Red White and Blue" festival, some of whom wore SS symbols and the legend "88" (code for HH; Heil Hitler), others simply had straightforward swastika tattoos. [17] Collett resigned from the party after the documentary's filming, but rejoined shortly afterwards, with the tactic approval of Nick Griffin, who still, to this day, claims the BNP aren't a fascist party.

It is not unusual to see BNP graffiti on town walls in England accompanied by swastikas. The graffiti may be carried out by BNP sympathisers rather than members, while the BNP itself claims such graffiti is written by enemies of the party to discredit them.

BNP terrorist David Copeland (who became known as the "London nailbomber" after a 12-day bombing campaign in April 1999 aimed at London's black, Asian, and gay communities) was a member of the alleged neo-nazi organisation for about two months before moving to the hardcore Nazi National Socialist Movement. Copeland says he left the BNP because it did not support his extremist views as fully as he had liked. Nontheless, his stated aim was to start a "race war" which would "lead white people to vote for the BNP". The BNP distanced itself from the bombing. However, Griffin attracted criticism for writing in the aftermath of the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub bombing (which killed three people, including a pregnant woman) that the gay people protesting against the murders were "flaunting their perversion in front of the world's journalists, [and] showed just why so many ordinary people find these creatures disgusting."

In response to allegations of neo-Nazism the BNP under the leadership of Nick Griffin has publicly denounced the utility of neo-Nazism in relation to British Nationalism.[18] Similarly, Griffin urges white nationalist oriented youth to join the BNP and use the ballot box instead of violence to achieve political aims. [19]

Criminal records and extreme or violent affiliation of some BNP organizers

A number of prominent members of the BNP have been reported [20] as:

The BNP dismisses these instances as past misdemeanours, however, there are present day criminal charges brought against BNP members, including for assault, racism, and other nefarious activities.

While they claim any individuals involved with criminality would be immediately expelled from the BNP, Brian Turner, a Burnley local authority BNP councillor found guilty of attacking his wife and a police officer – has recently been told he will keep his job. Turner was arrested on February 5th 2005 at Cuthbert Street in Burnley, after reports of a domestic violence incident at a house in St Cuthbert Street, Burnley. The court was told at a previous hearing how Turner, who has 11 previous convictions, was aggressive towards the police officer who tried to restrain him, and kicked him in the leg. The party has said it is supporting him and his place on Burnley Borough Council, while opposition councillors repeatedly called for his resignation.

In their defence, the BNP try to emphasise how over 20% of the working population has some criminal record or another, however, what the party fails to emphasize, is the percentage of elected politicians with criminal records belonging to respectable political parties, is much lower.

Opponents of the BNP remind people that many of the offences commited by the BNP are substantially more serious than the offences typically committed by the general population of minor criminals, and that the people named are "leading members" of the BNP.

Tony Lecomber, is a convicted bomber and racist attacker, almost killing a man on the London Underground. He was never expelled from the party, and is now the BNP's national development officer.

Jason Douglas took 10% of the poll on the sprawling Hainault estate in the London Borough of Redbridge on a "law and order" platform, despite the revelation during the campaign that he has football hooligan convictions going back 14 years.

Critics add the claim that because the BNP is far smaller than any of those parties, so the proportion of BNP members with criminal convictions appears to be much higher than in any of the major parties. The BNP argues that it does not and cannot painstakingly vet every single member. It is therefore impossible to know the real proportion of members with a criminal conviction in any party, it continues. However, because of its particular brand of racial politics, the BNP attracts more people of questionable background to its ranks, than ordinary, mainstream political parties.

Joe Owens, a BNP candidate in Merseyside in 2004, was a close associate of Nick Griffin and acted as his personal bodyguard. Owens was convicted of sending razor-blades to Jewish people in the post during the 80s,and also had a well-established history of participating in non-political gangland violence in Liverpool over the past three decades, resulting in several convictions. [21] More recently he and BNP youth leader Tony Wentworth were convicted of assaulting several demonstrators at an anti-BNP event in 2003. [22] Owens quit the party in 2004 after a dispute with Nick Griffin, though Wentworth remains a member, and the leader of the BNP youth movement.

BNP member Simon Sheppard was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment at Hull Crown Court on Wednesday 14th June 2000 for the crime of "Publishing or Distributing racially inflammatory material." Sheppard produced and still produces a website entitled "Heretical Press" which dwells at length on his hatred of both Jews and women. Whilst misogyny is the prevalent theme of his website, it was the Holocaust Denial of the site which led to his prosecution. [23]. The page remains in existence, containing gloating pictures of Jews in death camps with mocking captions. Sheppard was expelled from the party following his prosecution. He was still a party member however when he helped set up the Redwatch website [24] (see below.)

In December, 2004, police arrested Griffin after he was secretly filmed calling Islam "a wicked, vicious faith".[25]. In 2005, he was charged with two further charges of incitement to racial hatred, subsequent to secret filming of BNP meetings.

A member of the BNP, Mark Collett, has been implicated in involvement with the Redwatch website, run by self-identified neo-Nazis linked to Combat 18 and the National Front. Redwatch prints the addresses and pictures of left-wing activists and invites its readers to make them "pay for their crimes". Many people featured on the site have been threatened or attacked. The BNP leadership, aware of the damage caused by association of the party with Redwatch, proscribes use of the website by BNP members. [26] Despite this, Collett was seen advocating use of the site in the BBC's The Secret Agent documentary. He remains a BNP member.

In September 2003 the party's annual "Red, White and Blue" social event was marred with violence when recently elected BNP Burnley councillor Luke Smith smashed a bottle in the face of fellow party member Martin Reynolds. Reynolds had to be admitted to casualty and required several stitches. Smith was forced to resign as a councillor. [27] [28]

In August 2005, Ben Boylen, a member of the BNP, was arrested at Dover in Kent for smuggling an Albanian woman and her two children into England. He is thought to have told fellow BNP members that he was arrested for drug smuggling.

BNP member Stuart Kerr was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for firebombing an Asian shop in Chichester, Sussex. [29]

Other organisers and candidates for the party with criminal records include Kevin Scott, BNP North-Eastern organiser (assault and threatening behaviour), Warren Bennett, BNP chief steward (football hooliganism), Colin Smith, BNP south-east London organiser (17 convictions for burglary, theft, stealing cars, possession of drugs and assaulting a police officer), and Paul Bennett, BNP council candidate for Barnsley (assaulting a pensioner.) All are still currently active in the party. [30]

Electoral strategy

The BNP aims to appeal to those members of the population who consider immigration to be a threat to jobs, a cause of rising crime, and a basis for cultural decline. Under its current policy, the party backs an immediate halt to "all further non-European immigration" and the "voluntary resettlement" of foreigners to their lands of ethnic origin by way of generous "homeward-bound" grants which would be made available to anyone who wanted to take advantage of them.

Some critics of the party claim that it endorses consideration of "forcible repatriation" for those foreigners who refuse to return, as it states so in various papers, and documents.

The party has also stated that it does not regard non-white people as being 'British', even if they have been born in the UK and are British citizens. Instead, the BNP has stated that such people living in the UK would be regarded as 'permanent guests'.

The party has often been accused of exploiting and inflaming racial tensions for its own benefit in a number of areas, a claim the BNP vociferously denies - indeed, it states that if any individuals responsible for inflaming racial tensions have any connection with the BNP, such connections would swiftly be ended once discovered. The party also claims to be merely the 'messenger' of racial tension, not their creator, which it attributes to current immigration policy.

The party cites its statement that all members must stay out of volatile areas at times of high racial tension, or face expulsion from the party. While the BNP has regularly marched in areas where their presence was provocative, the BNP claims it has made no marches since Nick Griffin took up its leadership, however the night before the riots in Bradford, the BNP held a meeting of 100 in a Bradford pub, as claimed by several independent witnesses. Indeed, Hasmukh Shah, an international trustee of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) often boasts that Nick Griffin arrived personally, to meet him, looking to create sectarian alliances against Muslim people.

A 22 year old Kurdish refugee was stabbed to death in Sighthill, Glasgow, following a British National Party meeting in which The BNP boasted in the July edition of its publication Identity that they "spearheaded a new campaign ... against asylum seeker placements in the Sighthill area".

When the BNP had its headquarters in Welling racist attacks rose in the area by 210% and there were four racist murders including that of Stephen Lawrence. Racist attacks rose in East London by 300% when the BNP got its first councillor elected on the Isle of Dogs in September 1993.

In the case of Burnley, BNP election canvassers handed out leaflets claiming that the town's Asian population was receiving preferential treatment from the local council (which the council has strenuously denied). Critics cite this as an example of the BNP's efforts to incite racial division, the BNP states that it simply wants to see fair and equal funding to all ethnic groups within the town.

The official government report into the Burnley troubles showed that a majority of white people living in the town believed that Asians were receiving preferential treatment to the detriment of the white population. [31].however official government statistics easily dismiss this claim as completely and utterly false.

The BNP does still hold protests at specific events - one of the most famous of these was at the count in the Oldham elections of 2001, where Nick Griffin and convicted gang-rapist Mick Treacy, the party's Oldham organiser, wore gags and T-shirts bearing the words "Gagged for telling the truth" in protest of the decision to ban candidates' speeches at the event due to the BNP's presence.

No BNP candidate has ever won a seat as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, although in 2001 - possibly partially due to a number of riots in the North of England that were arguably race-related - BNP local election results improved markedly. The then growing issue of asylum-seekers was another probable factor contributing to this increased electoral success.

In the current climate the major emphasis of the BNP's electoral propoganda appears to be anti-Islamic, alleging widespread support of extremism and terrorism amongst the Muslim community. Despite this, the BNP has many overlapping ideological convergances with Islamist extremism, especially given the anti-Zionist stance and authoritarianism of the two. When current leader Nick Griffin was still a member of the National Front, he appealed to Ayotolla Khomeini and Colonel Gadaffi for funding, and both were praised in the NF's publications.[32]

A further ironic development is the conversion of David Myatt, the cultural guru of Combat 18(C18) to Islamism. Myatt continues to be respected by ex C18 members, several of whom are now BNP candidates.

Electoral performance

The BNP currently has 24 elected local councillors, out of the many thousands of local councillors across the UK. Nick Griffin light-heartedly described the Party's PR department (one of its most important strata) as being "basically made with shoestring, sealing wax and bits of orange peel". However, with the parties growth comes greater resources, so we can expect to see more work from BNPtv, their audio/visual wing.[33]

The BNP's first electoral success came in September 1993, when Derek Beackon was returned as councillor for Millwall (in London) on a low turnout. He lost his seat in further elections the next year, although his personal vote actually increased by 30% (on a turnout of 70%). The Millwall seat was the Party's only electoral victory in John Tyndall's seventeen year reign as leader.

In the council elections of May 2002, three BNP candidates gained seats on Burnley council. This was interpreted in some quarters as an indicator of the mood of the British electorate. The BNP had fielded 68 candidates nationwide.

In the council elections of May 2003, the BNP increased its Burnley total by five seats, thus briefly becoming the second-largest party and official opposition on that council, a position it narrowly lost soon afterwards to the Liberal Democrats, which beat the BNP by a margin of just 0.4% in a by-election. The five new Burnley seats were formerly held by a combination of all three mainstream political parties, suggesting that the BNP was winning votes from across the political spectrum. The Party contested a record 221 seats nationwide (just under 4% of the total available). They won eleven council seats in all, though Nick Griffin was unsuccessful in his attempt to gain a place on Oldham Metropolitan Council.

The BNP failed to win any council seats in Sunderland despite putting candidates up for election in all 25 of the city's wards, and an extensive campaign. However, the Party did substantially increase its Sunderland vote. In the general election of 2001, their candidate received 1,263 votes. In the May 2002 council election, the BNP fielded a candidate in just one ward, receiving slightly over 13% of the vote on a 22% turnout. In the 2003 elections, the party received an average of just under 14% of the votes across all 25 seats, on an increased average turnout of 46%. The party retained 24 of its 25 election deposits, narrowly losing the other one with a vote of 4.84% against the deposit retention benchmark of 5%. Of the other 24 seats, six gained between 5 and 10% of the vote, twelve between 10 and 20%, and six between 20 and 29.65%, the latter figure being the highest single percentage. The total vote gained was 13,652, more than ten times the general election figure of just two years previously. One of the most interesting points about the Sunderland elections was how the different news media reported the outcome. The BNP has also gained council seats in parts of the Black Country in the West Midlands and in Hertfordshire and Essex in the South East of England.

Local council election results in the second half of 2003 have proved encouraging for the party, winning three out of six seats contested and narrowly missing out on a fourth. In September 2003, the newspaper The Independent described the BNP as an "emerging" threat to the Labour Party, whilst a Labour MEP warned his party that the BNP could gain a seat in the 2004 elections to the European Parliament. The BNP has also stated that it believed it could win "between one and three seats" in that election, almost certainly including the "North West England" EU constituency. In fact, although their share of the vote increased to 4.9%, they failed to win a single seat.

As of October 2003, the Party has seventeen elected councillors, all in England. This was previously eighteen, but the BNP expelled one of its existing Burnley councillors from the Party after his alleged unruly behaviour at its annual 'Red, White and Blue' festival. At the Party's request, the councillor subsequently resigned his council seat. The former councillor in question had been hurriedly chosen after the party's first choice was unavailable to stand for election at very short notice. The BNP claimed it had no way of predicting the unsuitability of this last-minute choice due to the circumstances, and describes the incident as only a "minor setback". The party lost the subsequent by-election for this resigned seat.

The BNP is a UK-wide party and has contested seats in Wales and Scotland, as well as England. In the Scottish parliamentary elections of 2003, it only contested the Glasgow region (with one person on their list) and polled poorly. It failed to contest any Scottish seats in the 2001 elections, but did put up a candidate for Newport West in Wales. It has now announced plans to contest elections in Northern Ireland and has already selected some candidates. On 18 December, 2003, the party polled 14.7% in a by-election in Aston Ward for Flintshire County Council, north Wales.

The Party is also picking up an increasing share of the vote in the South West of England, where its strongly eurosceptic policies were believed to be most popular.

Many commentators have put the electoral successes of the BNP down to voters' casting a 'protest vote' against what they perceive as incompetence by their local councils, and disillusionment with the mainstream parties, rather than support for the BNP's policies. However, the BNP's consistent good polling in some areas has led some to question this analysis.

In December 2003, the BNP welcomed its first councillor defector - a former member of the Conservative party on Calderdale council [34], [35]. The move surprised many commentators, but the party has stated that it expects such events to become frequent occurrences: "A number of councillors from other parties are reported to be awaiting the outcome of next June's Local Election results and where a BNP Group (two or more councillors) exists we expect quite widespread defection from the Tories in particular." Since this statement was made, three further defections to the party has taken place (as of October 2004).

The party's most recent election success saw it gain its highest ever proportion of the vote - 51.9% (on a turnout of 28.8%), more than all the other parties put together, in the Goresbrook ward of Barking on 16 September 2004. However, less than ten months after his election, BNP Cllr. Daniel Kelley has, after compaining to the local press that other councillors treated him "like a leper" and on supposed grounds of ill-health, resigned his seat. Kelley had also told the local newspaper, the Barking and Dagenham Recorder [36], that "There's meetings that go right over my head and there's little point in me being there". A new election was held on 23 June 2005, in which this time the Labour candidate gained 51% of the vote, and the BNP came second with 32%. [37]

In a subsequent byelection in the nearby Village Ward in Dagenham on 7 October it polled 38.4% of the vote, coming second to Labour and gaining more than twice the vote of the Conservative candidate. No other parties stood.

In the 2005 General Election the British National Party stood 119 candidates across England, Scotland and Wales. Between those candidates the BNP polled 192,850 votes, gaining an average of 4.2% across the seats they stood in, and 0.7% nationwide - a 0.5% rise from the 2001 election. Notable results included 16.9% in Barking, where candidate Richard Barnbrook narrowly missed 2nd place to the Conservatives, Keighley, where party chairman Nick Griffin took 9.2% of the vote, and Dewsbury, where David Exley took 13.1%. Overall, the BNP saved 32 deposits and increased their total vote by 410%. In those seats which the BNP stood in they were the 4th largest party. However, they did not stand nationwide, meaning that their national share of the vote was substantially lower than other minor parties.

Opposition to the BNP

The BNP's policies have been rejected by a majority of the voters in most places where its candidates have stood for election, although its share of the vote has increased in recent years in many of the areas in which they have stood.

The BNP is condemned by all sections of the mainstream media, including right-wing newspapers, such as the Sun and Daily Mail, which share some of the party's concerns over immigration. Representatives of the three major mainstream political parties all condemn the BNP, although the party has taken council seats from them all in various areas. High-ranking politicians from each of the mainstream parties have, at various times, called for their own supporters to vote for anyone but the BNP. This message has confused many as, for instance, Conservative supporters are not sure whether their own party are asking them not to vote for their own candidate, but rather for whoever is most likely to defeat the BNP. Where the BNP has still proved successful, the mainstream parties have usually been quick to blame each other for the BNP's success. At the 2003 Conservative Party Conference, Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (and former Labour Party candidate), said that the BNP's success was partly due to lacklustre election campaigns by the Tories. He asked local Conservative branches to "raise their game when it comes to electioneering." This request was subsequently ignored when a local Conservative branch in Halifax refused to stand a candidate against the BNP in an election which they, themselves, had no chance of winning. This was in spite of their own Conservative Central Office's ordering them to do so.

According to the BNP, an increasing number of former Conservative supporters are also turning to the party. It is thought that their strong anti-EU policies strike a chord with many disenchanted Conservative voters; however, in the run up to the 2004 European elections this position was taken by the right-wing UKIP (UK Independence Party), resulting in them receiving the majority of the anti-Europe "protest vote", rather than the more hardline BNP.

Because of its lack of substantial electoral support across the country, but despite their high media profile, the BNP is still widely considered to be at the fringes of British politics. However, media comment on some issues such as asylum-seekers is often very close to the BNP's position, and the party's chairman, Nick Griffin, has described the tabloids as "one of the BNPs best recruiting agents" in the past.

Amongst the most visible and vocal opponents of the BNP and other right-wing groups at the present time are Unite Against Fascism and Searchlight. Unite Against Fascism, which aims to unite the broadest possible spectrum to oppose the BNP and the far-right, includes the Anti-Nazi League (ANL). The ANL, along with Rock Against Racism (RAR) originated during the late 1970s by the Socialist Workers Party. The ANL disappeared during the 1980s and was revived in the 1990s, again by members of the SWP. During the late 1970s, the more radical and revolutionary "Red Action" camp broke away from the rest of the ANL due to ideological differences and formed the AFA.

Searchlight magazine, edited by Gerry Gable, has monitored the activities of the BNP and its members for many years, and has published many articles highly critical of them and other organisations of the right, including UKIP and the Conservative Party's "Monday Club". One of the more effective campaigning resources available to anti-fascists has been Searchlight's "election special" tabloids - free eight-page newspapers written in the style of a red-top tabloid but with national and local stories critical of the BNP.

The UAF and Searchlight both obtain a large amount of income from trade union donations. There are also many local anti-fascist groups which draw on the resources of one or both of these organisations.

A great deal of controversy has taken place regarding the values of free speech as opposed to hate speech in regards to the BNP. Griffin and the BNP have called for more open debate on racial/immigration issues within the public sphere.

The BNP calls, in common with other far-right organisations, generally accepted terms to describe people who hate, such as "fascist", "racist", "Islamphobe" and "homophobe", 'politically correct buzzwords used to silence free speech'. On the other hand, how else can the victims of hate crimes, rightfully describe such evil occurrences, other than with terms such as racist or homophobic attacks, when the colour of one's skin, or the orientation of one's sexuality, is the only motive in a particular crime?

Anti-fascist groups like the ANL call for no positive coverage to be given to groups or individuals enunciating what they describe as "hate speech". Such a tactic states that the BNP and similar parties should be ignored by both rival politicians and the media. 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.

Examples of the "no platform" policy being operated include:

  • Complaints directed at the Leeds Student newspaper after it published a full-page article/interview with Nick Griffin. The Leeds Unite Against Fascism (LUAF) group accused the publication of breaching Leeds University Students' Union policy by giving platform to 'racists' and 'fascists'. [38]
  • An invitation to Nick Griffin by the University of St Andrews Union Debating Society to participate in a debate on multiculturalism was condemned [39], then withdrawn after protests and threats against the organisers [40].

Examples of more direct action against the BNP include obstruction of BNP activists who set up stalls in shopping centres. For example, members of the Scottish Socialist Party in Edinburgh blockaded and forced a BNP publicity stall to close. [41]

Such cases are often used by the BNP to push their messages against "so-called political correctness", in their supposed support of "freedom of speech, and democracy".[42]

Due to campaigning from anti-fascist groups, the BNP has encountered difficulties finding a company prepared to print their monthly publication The Voice of Freedom [43]. At one point they had to resort to using a Saudi Arabian-owned firm which mainly employs Asians and Muslims [44].

The Party subsequently aquired a printing press in the run up to the 2005 general election, thereby removing its dependency on external printing houses. In September 2005, 60,000 copies of Voice of Freedom, which had been printed in Slovenia, were seized by British police at Dover.

A teacher who stood for the BNP in the 2004 European Elections was suspended. A Leeds careworker who stood for them in the 2005 General Election was sacked. Also dismissed was a disabled persons Bus driver, elected as a BNP councillor in Bradford. The police have issued a directive banning BNP members and this policy has been discussed in the firebrigade and Civil Service.

The BNP argue argue that the 2005 European Elections were gerrymandered to keep them out and were rigged, claiming (without any evidence) that they won the 2000 Stoke Mayoral Election, accusing the Returning Officer of refusing to count preference votes.

Affiliated parties

The BNP and the Front National have co-operated on numerous occasions. Jean-Marie Le Pen visited the UK last year to assist launching the BNP's European Parliament campaign [45], 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 this year [46].

The BNP also has links with Sweden's National Democrat Party (Nationaldemokraterna). In the run-up to the 2004 European Parliament election campaign, Nick Griffin visited Sweden to give that party his endorsement. Members of the Swedish National Democrats were present at the BNP's Red White and Blue rally which took place over the weekend of 20-21 August 2005.[47]

Previous British National Parties

The current use of the name British National Party is its third appearance in British politics. The original BNP emerged after the Second World War when a handful of former members of the British Union of Fascists took on the name. This party was absorbed quite quickly into the Union Movement.

A second British National Party also emerged in 1960 and went on to form a part of the NF.

External links

Official Party Sites

General press articles

Epping Forest Guardian : BNP attended awards without any incident (11 April 2005)

Police press release

Anti-BNP sources

BNP sources

Other pro-BNP sources

  • Right Now Magazine, - British right wing magazine. Issue No. 50 (February - March 2005)* Features an interview with Nick Griffin (available online). Look for article called "Hearing the BNP's side" by Derek Turner. (PDF format only) *NOTE - After this date see archives.
  • Spearhead Online - Website of Spearhead Magazine, edited by former BNP leader John Tyndall until his death, and, at least in more recent years, extremely critical of aspects of BNP policy.
  • Sovereignty (Issue: April 2004) Interview with Steve Blake: Lead Candidate for the BNP in Scotland.
  • Pro-Democracy League website - Right-wing and critical of the ANL (Anti-Nazi League) and UAF (Unite Against Fascism).


Indifferent

de:British National Party sv:British National Party