Horsham MP Francis Maude has condemned British National Party plans to attend the Remembrance Day parade in the town.
In a statement on its website, the BNP said it had been 'formally invited' to attend the official procession in Horsham on November 9 and lay a wreath. But the Royal British Legion said this week that it had not invited the BNP to attend and Conservative MP Mr Maude said: "As far as I am concerned it would be completely inappropriate for any political party to use Remembrance Sunday in this way. No respectable mainstream party would consider doing such a thing and it goes without saying that the BNP should not even think about taking part.
"It would be grossly offensive to those who attend the ceremony to remember servicemen and women who have given their lives for the values that we enjoy in Britain today – values of tolerance and respect that are the reverse of what the BNP stand for."
A BNP activist from Upper Beeding has also confirmed the party will be selling poppies in Horsham to raise funds for the Royal British Legion.
Members of the Crawley and Horsham BNP said they took part in raising cash for the legion last year and contributed nearly £900 to the Poppy Appeal. This year they say they will once again be standing in Horsham town centre selling poppies. BNP member Donna Bailey, of Underhill Road in Upper Beeding, said she did not understand why such a fuss was being made about the party's involvement.
"We are trying to get as many members as possible to come and sell poppies," she said. "Last year we went out as the BNP and sold the poppies for a cause we absolutely fully support. We support the fact our soldiers died in both world wars and while we do not support the war in Iraq and Afghanistan we certainly support our soldiers who are doing a fantastic job there."
She added: "We would like to be there and lay our wreath at the same time as everybody else as is our right to do so. We are doing what we believe in – we are supporting a good cause."
Royal British Legion county manager for Sussex, Mike Payne, said the BNP had not been invited by the legion to attend the parade.
"The Royal British Legion is a non-political organisation," he explained. "The responsibility for inviting political parties, organisational volunteer groups and other groups that wish to take part in the remembrance events is always the responsibility of the civic authority."
Mr Payne said the Royal British Legion had strict rules stating volunteers must not wear anything that may distinguish them as being a member of a particular political party or organisation when raising money for the charity.
Horsham District Council leader Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Colgate) said people could not be banned from attending as it is a public event.
"We can't stop people marching - we can just say it can't be political. We would not want to stop anybody commemorating the fallen providing it is non-political."
Deputy leader of the BNP, Simon Darby, said it was a shame its gesture of support was being taken out of context. He added: "We are not making a big song and dance about it. It is the other parties that accuse us of politicising the charities."
West Sussex County Times