Some longstanding members of the BNP have been asking why Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, took time out from the election campaign only three days before polling day to attend a secret meeting in London with three leading European extremist politicians, one of whom has a recent conviction for Holocaust denial.
Initially billed as a press conference, its true purpose seems to have been to further Griffin’s ambition to become a Member of the European Parliament by building links with far-right MEPs.
The meeting had been organised by Arthur Kemp, the former agent for the South African apartheid regime and now keeper of the BNP’s ideological Holy Grail. Making the arrangements on behalf of the visitors was Georg Mayer, a senior officer in the Austrian Freedom Party. Mayer had also acted as the spokesperson for the short-lived Identity Tradition Sovereignty (ITS) group in the European Parliament until its collapse late last year when five ultra-nationalist Romanian MEPs walked out in protest at anti-Romanian remarks by their Italian colleague Alessandra Mussolini, the dictator’s granddaughter.
Their ill-conceived plan was to send out invitations to the media to attend the press conference only a short time in advance. Initially three MEPs were down to attend, then fairly late in the day Marie-Rose Morel, a member of the Flemish Parliament for the extreme-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) and former Flemish beauty queen, said she would come along too.
The star guests were to be Bruno Gollnisch, a French MEP and vice president of the far-right National Front, and Andreas Mölzer, an Austrian MEP and leading member of the Austrian Freedom Party.
Their presence revealed the true face of the BNP and confirmed Griffin’s continued failure to break away from Holocaust denial and antisemitism. In January 2007 a French court handed Gollnisch a three-month suspended prison sentence and fined him €5,000 (£4,000) for denying the Holocaust. The court in Lyon found he had “disputed a crime against humanity” in remarks he made during a news conference in the city in October 2004.
Gollnisch, who was chair of the ITS group, had questioned the number of Jews who died in the Holocaust and said the “existence of the gas chambers is for historians to discuss”.
Mölzer is the publisher of Zur Zeit, an Austrian political magazine in which racism, antisemitism and xenophobia are staple features. Its recent promotion of openly Nazi and antisemitic books prompted the Berlin weekly Junge Freiheit, on which Zur Zeit was originally modelled, to sever all connections. All that did not stop Griffin giving an interview to Zur Zeit earlier this year, in which he assured Mölzer of his firm belief in “nationalist cooperation” to deal with the “Islamic threat” and “the tide of Third World immigration” and to oppose the entry of Turkey into the EU.
The third MEP who was due to come was Philip Claeys, a VB MEP who was the vice-chair of the ITS. He did not want to show his face at the press conference but was keen to join a private meeting.
Claeys had previous links with the British far right. In May 2005 he addressed a conference organised by Right Now!, a now-defunct magazine that claimed to be the “voice of the patriotic and conservative Right”. It was Right Now! that hosted a column by Nick Eriksen, who at the beginning of April was forced to stand down as number two on the BNP’s list of candidates for the London Assembly to save the BNP from further bad publicity over his despicable views on rape expressed on his blog.
Writing in Right Now! under the name “John Bull” Eriksen maintained that voting BNP represents the “only solution” to remedy the current malaise in Conservative politics. BNP members regularly attended the magazine’s conferences and no doubt listened avidly to Claeys railing against Islam in general and Turkey in particular.
Arrangements for the press conference were proceeding in secret, though not without Searchlight’s knowledge through one of our main moles in the BNP hierarchy. What puzzled us was why, at a time when the BNP was trying to shed its antisemitic image in a bid to win Jewish votes, the party leadership should want to parade a bunch of Holocaust deniers before the media.
But Kemp had made a fatal mistake, possibly intentionally, in his choice of Jason Douglas to pick up the guests from the station in his black cab. This decision had also surprised some party members who know what a loose tongue Douglas has. Douglas, a convicted football hooligan, runs three BNP groups in east London.
The BNP had been attempting to play on what it sees as historic enmity between the Jewish and Muslim communities. But Jewish organisations had denounced the BNP’s advances and were giving strong support to calls by the HOPE not hate campaign for a high turnout of Jewish voters against the BNP in the London and other local elections.
Then suddenly despite weeks of secrecy, Simon Darby, the BNP’s press officer and deputy leader, used his blog to announce on 24 April that the party was “honoured to be playing host to a special press conference to be held on the afternoon of Monday 28th April 2008” with “a number of guests from allied Parties from Europe”. He even named Gollnisch and Mölzer.
Had Darby boobed? Two days later the BNP had pulled the plug on the press conference, with Darby lamely declaring: “It looks like we’ve lost the venue, but our foreign friends have been most understanding about this.”
Searchlight was unconvinced, believing this to be a smokescreen to cover up Darby’s breach of security in publicising the event so far in advance. Other senior figures in the BNP then tried to reinforce the claim that the meeting was off.
Sure enough, in the early afternoon of 28 April, Gollnisch, Mölzer and Mayer arrived at St Pancras International station on the Eurostar and were whisked off, not to a press conference but to a private meeting with Griffin. They were two short. Claeys, already nervous, had pulled out as had Morel, so it was just the beasts without the beauty.
Searchlight later tracked down the visitors at the plush Rembrandt Hotel in South Kensington where they were staying. By that time, Griffin had already sped off into the night.
The hotel confirmed the three men’s presence and a Searchlight reporter had an illuminating telephone conversation with Mayer before he caught the 8.05am Eurostar back home the next morning.
So what was Griffin playing at? Is he so consumed with his desire to join these latter-day fascists in the European Parliament next year that he did not care what damage exposure of such a meeting might have done to the electoral chances of Richard Barnbrook, the BNP’s lead candidate for the London Assembly? Such selfishness would be typical of Griffin.
Some senior and very angry BNP officers think the whole thing was set up by the intelligence services to discredit the party on the eve of the election. Perhaps that is something Colin Auty, who is challenging Griffin for the party leadership, might like to investigate.
One thing we can be sure about is the sort of disgusting company Griffin intends to keep if ever he does manage to make it to the European Parliament.