The second-in-command of the British National Party is employed at public expense by the Greater London Authority, The Times has learnt.
Simon Darby admitted to The Times yesterday that he regularly used his City Hall office to work in his capacity as the BNP’s media spokesman, a job that is unrelated to his publicly funded position.
The disclosure will raise concerns over whether Mr Darby is receiving taxpayers’ money to support his prominent position in the far-right party.
Mr Darby became a salaried employee at City Hall after the breakthrough victory by Richard Barnbrook, the first BNP representative on the London Assembly, in May. He is employed as a personal assistant to Mr Barnbrook, who was also the party’s mayoral candidate.
Details of his position came to light 24 hours after the party’s membership list was leaked via the internet. With almost 14,000 names on the list, it revealed hotspots of BNP activity throughout the country and left many members fearing for their jobs. Police forces were ordered to root out any officers on the list and membership had already cost a radio DJ his job.
The Association of Chief Police Officers said that all 43 forces in England and Wales were checking the list against names of officers and staff.
The General Teaching Council said that teachers were allowed to belong to the BNP. Government sources said that civil servants could join the party although they faced the standard restrictions on political activism.
Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, pledged to take court action against those behind the leak but welcomed the publicity, while other political parties used the party’s discomfort to their advantage. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: “It probably says something about the BNP that people don’t want to have it known that they are a member.”
The BNP has complained to Dyfed-Powys Police about the disclosure of its list. The party has spent the past 24 hours contacting service providers for websites that ran the names and urging them to remove them. The list includes 11 former Conservative councillors and four former Labour.
The party said it encrypted its membership list and that whoever leaked it must have taken considerable pains to change the material into a new format.
After the leak on Monday, Mr Darby said that those responsible should not be “sleeping very well tonight” as “it will turn out to be one of the most foolish things they have done in their life”. Mr Griffin said in a radio interview yesterday that the remarks were not intended as a threat of violence.
Critics were asking whether it was possible for Mr Darby to be the spin-doctor for the BNP and write a daily blog for the party without it interfering with his public service position. A source at the Greater London Authority told The Times: “There’s all sorts of equipment in there he could be using for political BNP work – mailouts, all sorts of stuff.”
The Times attempted to contact Mr Darby twice at his office in the City Hall yesterday afternoon, but the phone was not answered. Answering his mobile phone, he admitted that he did often carry out BNP business at his London Assembly office but said that he would then “make up the time later”.
He said: “I don’t use GLA resources. Whatever time I use there [at City Hall] for the BNP, I have to make up. I don’t use up paper. I use my own laptop.”
He said that he was paid less than £16,000 a year for his role, for which he was contracted to work 22 hours a week. He denied that there was anything inappropriate about his position and said that his City Hall job hardly earned him “big bucks”.
Mr Darby, who is also listed as West Midlands organiser for the party, refused to say how much time he spent in London. He denied that the City Hall office was a useful resource for his work as the BNP’s media officer and said that he had a separate internet connection for the two roles.
“I don’t need an office. I can do [BNP] work on the train, I can work in my car. What do you expect? When a BNP member is elected, they’re not going to have a Communist or Liberal Democrat working for them.”
Mr Darby was interviewed by a panel of members of the authority before he was given the job as personal assistant. One of the criteria was that he should be able to “promote equality of opportunity” at the assembly. His office is in the same building alongside the Thames as that of Boris Johnson, the Mayor.
Mr Darby is such a confidant of Mr Griffin that he was lined up as care-taker leader when the party chief went on trial for inciting racial hatred. He was cleared in 2006 after a retrial.
The Greater London Authority said that all staff were subject to a code of practice that forbade them from using City Hall resources for political campaigning. He said that the authority had a duty to provide “proportionate resources” to each elected member of the Assembly. Staff earning less than about £35,000 were not politically restricted, but work unrelated to their job should be carried out in their “personal time”.