Having now had the opportunity to view the 2007 Accounts of the BNPs Regional Accounting Unit, I shall seek to assess its significance to the party as a whole. By a very brief word of explanation the RAU acts to draw together all of the local BNP groups and accounts, in order to present consolidated accounts to the Electoral Commission, as required by law. (At least, that's the theory; as we shall see, the reality is a little different.)
At face value the RAU accounts look to be the party's salvation, a cavalry racing over the horizon to rescue the party from insolvency. During 2007 it recorded a substantial increase in income (up 35%), achieved a surplus on the year, and recorded year-end balance sheet assets sufficient to exceed the deficit recorded by the party nationally.
But closer examination reveals a picture which is distinctly less rosy. Griffin's critics, on the challengeforleadership website, have tabled a damning verdict on the RAU accounts, all the more telling for being an internal critique. I don't normally recommend far-right websites, but this one is worth a read on this occasion.
Anyway, back to my take on the RAU. Initially the income and expenditure account looks to be in trouble, with donation income down from £136,000 to £93,022 and fundraising down from £15,000 to £2,500. "Commercial activities" (somehow the terms activity and commercial seem unlikely terms to apply to the BNP !) made a loss of £16,000 in 2006, which had worsened to a loss of £66,000 in 2007! Add to this an increase of campaign expenditure of over £50,000 and it's all looking grim ... until, from nowhere, there appears a new income line - "Petty Cash Difference" amounting to £147,119. This, it would seem, is simply cash held in various petty cash accounts at branch, regional or fundraising group levels for which no source can be traced - "we've got this money, but we don't know where it's come from !"
There are probably any number of possible explanations for this, but two seem particularly interesting to your author:
- That it is money sourced from "dodgy" places - impermissible donors; overseas sources (contrary to electoral law?); or other questionable practices.
- Incompetence - with the BNP it has to be the likeliest answer!
Anyway, the sudden discovery of that £147,000 in the petty cash box (!) means that the RAU's income for the year is up by £75,000 on the year - neatly (suspiciously neatly?) balanced by an increased expenditure of £76,000. So the surplus for the year is £16,059 against £17,399 in 2006.
And so to the balance sheet, where net assets show a corresponding increase from £85,138 at end 2006 to £101,197 at end 2007. Which means - to cheers from pig farms throughout the Welshpool area - that the Party finished 2007 with assets exceeding liabilities to the tune of £15,606. The Party is not bankrupt, nor is it insolvent. It has net assets. It's doing better than the Labour Party. One can sense the leader's raised finger(s) in the face of his critics.
But, but, perhaps it's not that straightforward.
Firstly, the party's claim to have net assets depends on the valuation of its fixed assets and as I have indicated previously there must be doubts that the book value of its assets (all those printing machines!) could actually be realised if offered for sale.
Secondly, the party overall is only solvent if the national party can access moneys held by branches and other bodies within the party. Now don't get me wrong - I have no doubt that exercise of the fuhrerprinzip would allow the leadership to seize any assets within the RAU. That would help the national party's solvency, but at what cost to the party? How would the officers of local parties in Stoke, or Barking, or Rotherham or Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh respond to seeing locally-raised cash, already set aside for local campaigning, seized for national party purposes?
Thirdly, this process has already begun with RAU money being "loaned" to the national party at a rate of around £20,000 in each of the past two years. This has led the auditors to qualify the RAU accounts by a proviso that the money loaned to the national party (£41,831 at December 2007) might be unreclaimable.
Fourthly, there is increasing evidence that the party's financial discipline (never very robust) may be disintegrating. The appearance of £147,000 of unsourced income in 2007 was a sign of this, linked to comments on various far-right websites to the effect that local fundholders are concealing income to protect it from national officers. The 2007 accounts showed a 39% decrease in income from collections at meetings, in a year when membership supposedly increased by over 50%. I'd love that to be an accurate reflection of members' declining commitment - perhaps it is. But I suspect it's probably also linked to more localised fundholding which theatens to cut off a vital source of income for Griffin and his clique.
Under Griffin transparency has not been a feature of BNP accounting. How ironic that increasing secrecy at a local level, and a growing reluctance to allow the party nationally access to local financial details, could create such difficulties for Griffin!
I promise that I've nearly finished. Just one more submission to round it all off, and tidy a few loose ends. Many thanks for your patience and all your kind observations.