Sometime circa 400BC a famed Chinese general, Sun-tzu by name, gave the world an astute piece of advice that has ever since been a guiding principle of tyrants and dictators, kings, ambitious politicians, corporate executives, crime syndicates, and men (and women!) on the make generally: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
We wonder whether Sun-tzu's eternal words might have crossed the mind of one Richard Edmonds, as he accepted Nick Griffin's invitation to join the BNP's Advisory Council, an event only slightly less believable than that of Peter Mandelson's return to government at the behest of his most implacable enemy, the Prime Minister.
Glibly disposing of a long history of bitter personal hatred between the two men, Griffin announced Edmonds's appointment on the BNP's website, citing Edmonds as "one of the real old-hands of British nationalism whose counsel has been missed for too long", and adding: "...old differences between genuine nationalists need to be buried".
That these "differences" are not so old, and have a vampire-like tendency to find their way out of any crypt into which they have been interred, is silently acknowledged by Griffin, who refrained from heaping other than this most restrained of praise on Edmonds's thinning head.
Richard Edmonds is, of course, one of the BNP's few remaining founding members, and was for years deputy to John Tyndall, a man for whom he displayed intense personal loyalty. Edmonds's loyalty to Tyndall and the behind-closed-doors strain of Nazism Tyndall represented, stretches way back into the 1970s National Front, and since Tyndall's death the task of personifying and representing the small but still vibrant neo-Nazi - or Tyndallite - faction within the BNP has fallen upon Edmonds's wiry shoulders.
A former mathematics teacher, Edmonds has a record that - anywhere beyond the shores of the fawning racist Right - is eminently unenviable. In 1987 Edmonds sustained a conviction for causing damage to a statue erected in honour of Nelson Mandela, and more seriously in 1994 he was convicted for his part in a 1993 racial attack in which a black victim was hit in the face with a glass. Sentenced to six months in gaol, Edmonds was released immediately, having already spent three months on remand.
The BNP's former National Organiser was also a long-time purveyor of Nazi and Holocaust-denial literature, notably Holocaust News, which found a wide circulation among the racist Right in the late 1980s. Edmonds told the BBC Panorama programme that Holocaust News was a "wonderful statement of the truth".
Not long after that, Edmonds told the journalist Duncan Campbell that the BNP was "100% racist". Note that he did not pettifog with the word "racialist" and the often-made inference that a "racialist" merely recognises and respects racial differences, upon which supposed differences the credo of "separate development" (apartheid) is allegedly built. He went directly for the word "racist", with its naked (and only) meaning of one who harbours an unreasoning emotional hatred against those of other races.
Nothing Edmonds has said or done in the intervening years could lead any unbiased observer to believe that the man is not now what he always was - an unrepentant anti-Semite, a racist, a Holocaust denier, and very much a standard-bearer for John Tyndall's brand of National Socialism.
Nick Griffin has been all of these things, or at the very least worked hard to give an impression that he was, most notably during the early stages of his long campaign to usurp John Tyndall, when it was necessary for Griffin to ingratiate himself with the BNP's founder.
Unlike Nick Griffin, Tyndall never heeded the advice of Sun-tzu. Perhaps for feeling safe within his own authoritarian constitution, he appears genuinely to have believed Griffin to be a rare "talent" in a movement noticeably short of the commodity, and, as he later admitted, was prepared to ignore the warnings of his more perceptive wife to bring the National Front's undertaker on board the BNP. But the undertaker, even if he had never heard of Sun-tzu, did know the value of keeping his enemies closer than he kept his friends, and the truth of Griffin's duplicity was a long time dawning on the deluded Tyndall.
Naturally, when Griffin made his long-planned bid to oust John Tyndall, the Hess-like figure of Richard Edmonds was also firmly in his sights, and Edmonds duly received his allotted portion of opprobrium and hatred. When the scurrilous campaigns of both sides were over and Griffin stood as Leader regnant of the BNP, Edmonds's name appeared on the same ticket as the names of John Tyndall and John Morse as prime candidates for expulsion.
If you can no longer keep your enemies close, and if they suspect that one day you will (while extending a friendly hand and wearing a disarming smile) plunge a stiletto between their shoulder-blades, then you must destroy them openly, and by any means possible.
Griffin's first, well-documented, attempt to do this descended into an expensive farce, as his second (negated by Tyndall's death) was almost certainly fated to do.
Tyndall's timely demise, and the subsequent purging and resignations of miscellaneous Tyndallites should have afforded some relief for the paranoic Griffin, then riding high on the self-generated myth that Success and Griffin were transposable terms, but enough Tyndallites remained as to be a minor cause for concern - one of them being Richard Edmonds.
It is a fact that the Tyndallites remaining within the BNP have demonstrated a greater intelligence than those who found themselves without and who were obliged to coalesce around various Nutzi grouplets - one suspects that even their adored spiritual leader would regard them as being of the lowest grade of human material (to use Tyndall's turn of phrase). Those remaining within the BNP sat tight and endured following the shock of their leader's death, playing what, with hindsight, appears to have been a canny waiting game.
Hardliner Christian Jackson's 2007 leadership challenge has been well enough documented on this website not to require further elaboration, but there were several things worthy of notice at the time to which our attention is again drawn.
The timing of the announcement of Jackson's candidature, coming as the BNP's 2007 local election campaign got underway, seemed designed to cause inner turmoil at the worst possible moment, and handed to Griffin a large stick with which to beat those behind Jackson's challenge - something Jackson's backers cannot possibly have failed to have considered if they were at all serious about driving the challenge forward.
There was also the muted response to the allegation that the barely-known Jackson constituted little more than a stalking-horse candidate, smoking out the real strength of Nick Griffin's support and laying the ground for a subsequent, better known candidate to hole Griffin below the waterline should Griffin's support come in at 80% or less.
We should also note the huffing and puffing concerning, and ultimate spineless surrender to, the anti-democratic terms imposed by Nick Griffin on the conduct of the election. Hand in hand with that went Griffin's demand that the pro-Jackson Britain Forward internet blog be shut down. It was Richard Edmonds, not exactly coy in his support for Jackson, who ordered the plugs to be pulled.
Why re-visit all this?
Well, what is striking is that the Tyndallites and their allies knew that they could very well do irreparable harm to the BNP's election prospects if the national press were to take up the story, portraying the BNP as a party in turmoil, with its leader under attack. Though they might deny it, they made strenuous - but fruitless - efforts to do exactly that.
What is also striking is that never in their wildest dreams did the Tyndallites expect Jackson to win, and knew very well that Griffin's hamstringing of their campaign was bound to scupper even a modestly encouraging vote in their favour.
And yet they persisted.
It follows that if the Tyndallites did not expect Jackson to win, then they must have expected - or hoped for - something else. The generally accepted premise is that Jackson was indeed a stalking-horse, but the events of this spring, when Jackson announced and withdrew from a second challenge, seem to negate this.
The only other likely scenario is that the Tyndallites hoped to cause a split in the party from which they could benefit - just as the veteran arch-plotter Nick Griffin surmised in his deranged "vermin" "liars" and "thieves" rant.
Prominent among the "vermin" "liars" and "thieves", of course, was Richard Edmonds, and there must be more than a suspicion that he would rather have split the BNP than see Nick Griffin remain at the helm. Chris Jackson's leadership challenge doesn't appear so badly managed at all when viewed in that light, even if it did appear to fail to attain any of its objectives.
But did it fail? If there was a fall-back objective of feeding Griffin's paranoia and chaining him with a bad case of the jitters, then it succeeded magnificently, as events ever since bear witness.
Though Edmonds and other Tyndallites appeared to offer some remote and desultory support for the Decembrist rebels (they attended a Voice of Change meeting in January), they could never have believed that these were the people to overthrow Griffin. To a man of Edmonds's hardline convictions, the Decembrists were little more than Tories, not even on a par with the National Front "populists" he opposed more than thirty years before. The Decembrists did, however, demonstrate a willingness to wash Nick Griffin's dirty linen in public, which Tyndallites always welcome, and there was a vanishingly small chance that they might begin the process that would unseat Griffin - to be unseated in their turn by the Tyndallites, who would never have countenanced leaving the BNP in the hands of mere "civic nationalists".
It is a matter for speculation whether in the febrile post-Decembrist period Griffin, still jittery and finding himself with more internal enemies than he could cope with, somehow made tentative contact with the keeper of John Tyndall's flame, and that - as part of some as yet unrevealed initial deal - Edmonds agreed to call off Jackson's unserious second challenge. The reverse might equally be possible.
Whatever really happened in the swell of internal debate surrounding the constitutional position of BNP leadership challenges, it is difficult not to believe that somewhere along the line a deal was cut, and that much of the internal "debate" was mere window-dressing for the benefit of the BNP infantry. This appears also to be the suspicion of some of the more astute BNP members.
At all events, we do not believe for an instant the tale that Richard Edmonds simply turned up at the BNP's EGM and made such an impression on Nick Griffin that the BNP leader suddenly felt impelled to bring him in from the cold and to offer him a seat on the party's Advisory Council.
Things simply don't happen that way.
The visceral years-long hatred Griffin and Edmonds nurture for one another is not of the kind that melts into unalloyed love overnight - or even over years. There is too much history, too much distrust for that to be in any way a realistic prospect. Griffin knows full well that Edmonds would depose him this instant if he could do it, and Edmonds knows full well that Griffin's dearest wish is that Edmonds should follow his political master into the grave at the first convenient opportunity.
We heavily suspect that sometime before the EGM these two irreconcilables made some compact, and that the instigator was Griffin. For whatever reason, the idea suited both men, but neither of them will have engaged with it for the benefit of the other.
The stage-managed fudge agreed to at the EGM might be a morsel of the carrot offered to Edmonds, and a seat on the Advisory Council another, but before speculating on the purpose of Griffin's apparent about-face regarding his arch-enemy, we might consider Edmonds's reasons for his apparent turnaround.
And here, we must confess, we are at a loss. His AC seat will certainly give him a higher profile and the opportunity to put forward his ideas; it might be that Edmonds believes he can quietly beaver away undermining Griffin at a higher level, and that when the next bout of factionalism strikes - as it surely will - then his respectability and influence as a member of the Advisory Council will stand him in good stead.
Of course, Edmonds may simply have turned-coat and accepted his metaphorical thirty pieces of silver in return for keeping the hardliners quiet.
Whatever Edmonds's motives, there can be very little doubt that when Nick Griffin decides that differences need to be buried it is because the decision serves the interests of Nick Griffin, and no other. If Nick Griffin wanted to place Richard Edmonds on the Advisory Council it was most emphatically not because he had the greater good of Edmonds and his supporters in mind.
The fact is that Griffin - as always - holds all the aces. Griffin could not as easily rid himself of Edmonds as he did Jackson-backer Mike Easter. Edmonds has a following, a name, worldwide connections, and can demonstrate his deep roots in the fascist scene, added to which he is a founder member of the BNP - Tyndallism in human form. All this makes him extremely difficult to tackle, the more so when, as an "ordinary" member, he openly exercises his right to back a legitimate leadership challenge. There is also the high probability that Edmonds would not take the verdict of any Griffinite kangaroo court lying down, and would have little difficulty in obtaining the funding to mount a legal challenge in the event of his expulsion.
However, as a member of the Advisory Council, certain restraints apply to Edmonds and how he henceforth conducts himself. Should he say or do anything that may even loosely be interpreted as inimical to the interests of the BNP (for which we may normally substitute the name of Nicholas Griffin) then he will be isolated and attacked with savage implacability for misusing his position, for disloyalty to the man who magnanimously restored him to favour, or any other of the inexhaustible supply of all-purpose excuses the Griffinites magic into existence as weapons to deploy against their opponents.
In accepting his AC seat, then, Edmonds has voluntarily accepted curbs on his freedom of action. In doing as much he may not have quite put his head in the noose, but he has certainly brought himself nearer to the scaffold, even if he isn't aware of it - "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
We believe, though, that the real reason for the Griffin-inspired rapprochement with his mortal enemy is as simple as it is self-serving: it is all about Griffin's prospects of jetting off to Strasbourg and the riches of an MEP on the back of a low turnout in the Euro-elections.
To that end it would be rather nice for Griffin if those hardliners in the North-west (where he has carpet-bagged his favoured constituency) would stop saying nasty things about him and scuttle their plans to stand "independent" nationalist candidates for the express purpose of preventing Griffin's election. It would also be rather nice if there were no distracting leadership challenges that might draw the unwelcome attention of the press and stretch the loyalties of the members. Since, with the demise of the Decembrists, only the Tyndallites remain capable of mounting a challenge, it follows that if Griffin can neutralise their living god-head - perhaps even bring him on-side - then he will have gone a long way to ensuring internal peace in the long run-up to the elections.
Should he accomplish this much, then Griffin will have achieved for the BNP one of the longest periods of internal harmony the party has known since he plotted his way into the leadership.
We shall see, but of one thing we can be certain: a man of Nick Griffin's stripe does not keep his enemies close through fair-minded altruism. He does it because his instinct for survival impels him to do it. And that is why, one fine day, Richard Edmonds will surely feel the glistening steel of the stiletto sliding quietly, and painfully, between his shoulder-blades.