“After months of research, we have come up with a better way of spreading the ‘Nationalist Message’ right across this country,” says the message that the British National Party has been sending out to its supporters for several weeks.
“Our very own personal advertising lorry, a ‘Truth Truck’ – brand new and custom-built, complete with a high definition special lighting system for night-time use, and a massive audio system for addressing the public. Can you imagine it?” continues the appeal in terms designed to pull hard at the purse strings of “nationalists”.
There have been personalised letters from Nick Griffin, the party chairman, headed and “last chance to help ‘Operation Truth Truck’”, imploring in underlined type: “Just imagine how you will feel, being part owner of our very own British National Party advertising lorry …”. The party website has carried a picture and online donation form for several weeks.
But behind all the excitement lurks yet another dodgy deal by the BNP to hoodwink its own members.
One appeal letter puts a figure on the cost of buying and equipping the “truth truck” of £39,550, arrived at after Griffin personally “worked very hard researching this project”. It then suggests that “we can knock £13,000 off the amount needed” by opting for a “used lorry in first class condition”. Yet there is no indication on the website appeal that the lorry will be anything other than “brand new and custom built”.
Such a compromise could be explained away as a better use of members’ hard-earned and generously given donations, though that is no excuse for pulling the wool over potential donors’ eyes long after the decision to go for a second-hand vehicle has already been taken. But the lies go further than this.
At first the excitement rubbed off onto BNP members. Posting on the members’ internet forum, one person, who claimed to have “surprised myself by not even hesitating to donate £100 towards the campaign”, said the truck would also “counter commie smear leaflets”.
One discerning poster was more cautious. “Just one thing What happened to Bodicea [sic]?” asked “the benwell hopper”. “Boudica”, as “Captain Black” was quick to correct, was a second-hand “battle bus” and the target of an appeal in 2006 for money to put it on the road. Agreeing that “a few people will be very miffed that it has never been seen by the rank and file”, Captain Black could only plead that “the failings of the Boudica hobby horse should not detract from the ambitions of this new venture”.
Others smelt a rat. Despite Griffin’s claims to have carried out “months of research” before coming up with this “new, innovative” idea, if it comes to fruition the BNP will not be the first organisation in the UK to pin its hopes on a “truth truck”.
Two years ago the anti-abortion UK LifeLeague boldly announced the “Launch of Britain’s first ever ‘Truth Truck’”. A press release on 21 April 2006 thanked supporters who “donated generously to make this project possible” and claimed this would be: “the most innovative and what will possibly be the most effective campaign in UK Pro-life history”. “Operation Truth Truck” would: “enable the pro-life message to reach the unreached across the towns and cities of Britain. These vehicles are wholly owned and operated by LifeLeague activists,” it continued.
There was a picture. And it was no coincidence that the only difference between the LifeLeague’s “truth truck” and the BNP’s one was the particular lie on the billboard, because it was the same vehicle.
The UK LifeLeague and the BNP had milked their gullible supporters twice over for the same truck.
This is not the first time the BNP has had dealings with the UK LifeLeague, and more particularly its founder and national coordinator, James Dowson. Earlier this year many BNP members were angry when they found out that the party was sending key BNP officers on management training courses in Spain. Why could the training not be held in the UK, asked irate, xenophobic party members on a popular nazi internet forum until the site administrators pulled the discussion thread.
The courses were organised by Dowson’s Belfast-based fundraising and management training business, the Midas Consultancy, which has signed a three-year consultancy contract with the BNP. Whether it was because of the BNP’s growing financial difficulties or because Griffin was reacting to criticism of his poor administrative skills, the party has handed over key organisational functions to the self-styled vicar and militant anti-abortion campaigner.
It was Dowson who wrote the “truth truck” appeal letters in professional fundraising style. The Building to Grow appeal at the end of last year was also his work. The BNP claimed that appeal had raised £70,000, which paid for the party to move into the new Excalibur warehouse and buy “a vast array of new equipment” including “an envelope stuffing machine”, which by June had mysteriously disappeared when Simon Darby, the BNP’s deputy leader, appealed for volunteers to stuff election leaflets into envelopes by hand.
The involvement of Dowson has already upset some BNP members who do not share his extreme anti-abortion views and think he is a Catholic, which is anathema to many in the nationalist party who view the Battle of the Boyne as one of England’s greatest historical triumphs. In fact Dowson is a Protestant but has been linked to far-right Catholics in Ireland, including Justin Barrett, an anti-EU campaigner and vocal opponent of immigration, which he describes as a “genetic” problem. Back in 2001, when Searchlight first exposed Dowson, Barrett had donated £50,000 so that Dowson’s outfit could produce anti-abortion hate CDs and videos to distribute in schools and churches in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Dowson is a former member of the Orange Lodge in Northern Ireland and has admitted involvement with hardline loyalist groups in the West of Scotland. His tattooed arms are evidence of his extremist hate connections.
The LifeLeague, which is secretive about its finances, uses highly provocative tactics, such as publishing the home addresses of abortion clinic staff. Similar actions by anti-abortion groups in the US have resulted in the murder of doctors.
Dowson’s professional “begging letters”, as one disillusioned party member described them, have not been universally welcomed in the BNP. Some see their “tone of desperation” as indicative of the BNP’s “very serious financial trouble”, according to the blogsite set up in support of Colin Auty’s failed attempt to challenge Griffin for the party leadership.
One member is quoted saying: “These bloody letters are an embarrassment, I’ll not pay another penny so he can go and waste it or lose another blimp”, in a reference to the BNP’s helium balloon that slipped its moorings in June because, Darby suggested, David Shapcote failed to secure it properly. The BNP later blamed the loss on a faulty rope.
The letters themselves may have been professional, but Dowson fell down in compiling the mailing lists. Naturally he needed to dispatch the letters to a much wider audience than the BNP’s members, who have little left to give after constant appeals at branch meetings and to support election campaigns. However Searchlight has received a stream of complaints from anti-fascist trade unionists and members of the Jewish community who have received them.
The website appeal for the “truth truck” shows it adorned with the BNP’s ubiquitous election picture of Nick Cass and his family alongside the slogan “Decent people vote British National Party”. The picture, which adorned election leaflets and newspaper advertisements all over the country in this year’s May elections and several by-elections, concealed Cass’s less than decent “tree of life” tattoo.
The symbol, also known as the life rune, is a favourite among nazi groups worldwide and, under Hitler, was used to represent a project that encouraged SS troopers to have children out of wedlock with “Aryan” mothers and kidnapped children of Aryan appearance from the countries of occupied Europe to raise as Germans.
A lying picture for a lying appeal. How appropriate.
This article is from the August edition of Searchlight magazine