If the plans we have in place to prevent electoral fraud via the spoiling of ballot boxes works then I expect three BNP officials to be elected in London. If their is fraud then only Richard will get elected.So wrote political genius and legal mastermind Lee John Barnes as polling for the local and GLA elections began on May 1st.
Around the country I expect 40 new councillors to be elected and us to come second in about 120 other places.
Mocked by many as the BNP's most suitable case for treatment, Barnes's remarks were derided for being hopelessly optimistic and quite in keeping with his usual predictive extravagance, but what shouldn't be forgotten is that - demented though he may be - Barnes is close to the core of the BNP leadership, and would have had a good idea of the party's private expectations.
Keeping their expectations secret was part of the BNP's game in the run up to the elections, but we have a fair idea that Barnes (himself possessing all the political acumen of a brick) was merely passing on what the leadership believed it could achieve in near perfect political and social circumstances for the racist party. The leadership wasn't alone: the BNP's keyboard army continually referred to 2008 as "the year of the BNP" and their hopes at times verged on the stratospheric.
Opinion amongst anti-fascists was divided as to how well (or badly) the BNP would do. As discontent with the Labour government reached new heights, as migration scares broke almost daily in the press, and as the BBC's infamous "White" season climaxed, it did seem to some that May 2008 really could see the BNP make its long-predicted breakthrough. At Lancaster Unity we exercised restraint, keeping in mind the BNP's failure of the previous year (also prematurely hailed as "the year of the BNP"), and having reported on a mostly uninspiring series of BNP local by-election results during the course of 2007 and early 2008. It wasn't that we didn't harbour concerns, but our experience told us not to expect a political earthquake on May 1st.
Following the dud that was the BNP's 2007 local election performance, and coming as another bout of internal feuding rumbled on, Nick Griffin and his inner circle were deeply concerned that another bad BNP performance would see the end of his leadership as the more astute among the membership tired of Griffin's endless "jam tomorrow" promises. Their plan to circumvent dissention and bolster morale was tried, tested, simple - and guaranteed to work on a party membership remarkable for its gullibility and lack of political perception: everything, no matter how trivial, would be claimed as a BNP victory, even if the polar opposite were true.
To that end members were encouraged to stand in the most paltry of parish and town council elections, and especially to stand in obscure parishes where the BNP's candidate could expect to be returned unopposed. This gave the party the opportunity to brag that it had so many councillors "elected" here or there even before a ballot had been cast on May 1st. That these parish councillors had little or no power was never highlighted, and the party was always careful to omit the all-important word "parish" before that of "councillor".
It was simple trickery, mostly designed to fool the BNP membership, and it worked handsomely.
On election day we experimented with "live" blogging, and the Lancaster Unity community rallied round to support us in what proved to be a long and interesting night.
May 1st 2008 represented the culmination of the BNP's biggest push to date, but as the results began to come in it was obvious that all their effort and bluster was bringing in but scant reward. Searchlight later reported:
On election day the BNP predicted it would win 40 new councillors and three seats on the London Assembly. However, when the first results came in, it quickly became clear that this was too optimistic. As the night continued the size of the BNP failure became apparent.An increase of ten councillors and a falling vote was hardly a glittering success and certainly not what a nervy Nick Griffin wanted to hear. Barnes quickly backtracked on his "40 new BNP councillors" statement, claiming that he had in fact meant 40 new parish and district councillors, and that was enough to satisfy the majority of BNP troops, who convinced themselves that they had somehow made an historic advance, with one of their better known but more moronic bloggers postulating that in future May 1st might be renamed "BNP Day".
The BNP won three seats in Stoke-on-Trent and two each in Amber Valley, Rotherham and Nuneaton & Bedworth. It also took one seat in Thurrock, Three Rivers, Pendle and Calderdale. It also successfully defended seats in Epping and Burnley. This takes the number of BNP councillors to 55, up from 45 before these elections.
However, it also lost two seats it was defending in Epping and one in Kirklees.
In most areas the BNP share of the vote was well down on last year, which in itself was down on the previous election, particularly in its traditional heartlands.
Knowing that the more savvy and rebellious of his members would see straight through the hype, a threatened Griffin desperately hoped to pull a Barnbrook out of the hat in the GLA elections, which were counted on May 2nd.
The BNP could only win seats on the GLA (which, for their purposes, they elevated to something close to the fount of all power) through the party top-up system, and initially believed they were on course to take three GLA seats through these back-door means. As it became increasingly obvious that the party would be lucky to break the 5% barrier necessary to give them a single seat, so the expansive predictions were reined in and an anxious day began for Nick Griffin.
Lancaster Unity again "live blogged" the results with the help of our own loyal community (and as large an audience of BNP lurkers). For much of the night it seemed that the BNP's Richard Barnbrook would not pass the 5% threshold, and while we waited the BNP contented itself with euphoric celebrations on the news that Conservative Boris Johnson had ousted Labour's Ken Livingstone in the mayoral race. Lee Barnes commented incisively:
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HABarnes was more than premature in believing that the BNP had secured a GLA seat, since it was by no means certain at that hour that they had. Richard Barnbrook's appalling performance in the mayoral contest, where he had picked up a derisory 2.9% (not something Barnes dwelled on), suggested caution.
I AM LAUGHING AT YOU
AND I AM GOING TO BE LAUGHING ALL NIGHT YOU PRICK
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
RED KEN GONE
BNP IN THE GLA
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
At one in the morning, however, it became clear that Barnbrook had crept into the London Assembly on 5.4%, and the online element of the BNP erupted with jubilation at their victory, egged on by Griffinites determined to gloss over the uncomfortable fact that in the most ideal circumstances possible the party had stalled in the local election polls and failed by a long way to achieve its GLA targets.
Naturally we weren't delighted with Barnbrook's election, but it wasn't the end of the world, given the pre-poll fears of many that London's PR system might provide the BNP with the electoral breakthrough it craved. We were also happy that the BNP's man on the Assembly was Barnbrook, who immediately demonstrated why in an incoherent slurry-shouty (not to say lonely) speech that set the tone for his GLA tenure.
Barnbrook's election was almost certainly the single most important factor in saving Nick Griffin's leadership bacon. The man had, after all, yet again presided over what were a generally uninspiring set of election results, the only real high point being Barnbrook's GLA seat. In consequence, the hyping of Barnbrook continued apace, but just in case any awkward BNP members of rebellious bent should point out that 5.4% wasn't really very good at all, the party came up with a tale of “massive and organised ballot box tampering”, claiming 400,000 votes went west, a lie quickly nailed by Searchlight.
It was at this moment that the most unlikely (and ill-timed) challenge to Nick Griffin's leadership was announced by disaffected Kirklees BNP councillor Colin Auty. Soon after that, an email of disputed provenance was passed on to Lancaster Unity. Allegedly from the irrepressible Lee Barnes in his capacity as Director of the BNP's Legal Department, the missive certainly hit all the usual Barnsian notes:
I have been instructed to inform you of a bogus and illegal leadership challenge and the disciplinary measures we are now putting in place to squash this diversionary and divisive activity in the bud. This is a deceitful and cynical attempt to divert the party’s attention away from the historical victory last week in London and to derail the activist’s attention away from the all important European Elections next June.The dust had hardly settled after the local elections when three of the BNP's newly elected (unopposed) town councillors in Colwyn Bay resigned from the party for reasons not entirely clear, but protestations on the part of one of them, John Oddy, that "I have never been a racist" indicated a belated opening of eyes to what the BNP is really all about. That, however, proved not to be the case. Oddy had just been fined £100 for using a mobile telephone while driving his car, but later still he told the North Wales Daily Post:
This is a sham nothing and more than a forged challenge devised by the liars, thieves and splitters who tried to wreck the party in December 2007 before their unsuccessful coup was successfully thwarted by quick action from the Party’s own security, legal and intelligence departments. The challenger claims is to be Councilor Colin Autty from Kirkless in Yorkshire, a decent man who is known to many of you but he is being used as a puupet by the gang of malcontents who stole party emails, stole party property, stole thousand of pounds of party monies, spread malicious rumours about the Chairman, myself and other senior party officers on bogus Blogs and through a series of bogus bulletins which they prepared using stolen membership lists which they then passed on to our enemies in MI5, The Special Branch, The Labour Party and the Searchlight organisation. They then tried unsuccessfully to set up a rival political party. It is a cylical attempt by our enemies to try and derail the Party and to stop activities to get BNP members electd to the European Parliament.
“I feel as I have become more high profile I have clashed with the hierarchy in the party and this has now come to a head and led to my resignation. I am at odds with the opinions of the Welsh branch of the BNP, although I have no quarrel with the party nationally.”Paul Harley, who resigned with Oddy, said: "I have found out more about the party and I am not happy with what I have found out."
Better late than never, but was that the whole truth? Antifascist wasn't convinced:
All three remain members of the local golf club, a place where the Colwyn Bay glitterati meet, confer and make deals which, in the words of one of our correspondents, is full of BNP sympathisers, covert supporters and party members, and none of the three protagonists have showed any sign of feeling the need to disassociate from the club - which leads one to believe that this evolution from BNP to Independent is nothing but a cosmetic change, designed simply to allay the fears of the locals that the Colwyn Bay trio may be too close to the BNP and thus they might get grubby by association.The BNP met with a humiliating rebuff in Stoke-on-Trent, where Lord Kamlesh Patel was to discuss violent extremism with local community leaders. Refusing to speak to Alby Walker, BNP group leader on Stoke City Council, Lord Patel said:
"I make no apology for refusing to meet with the BNP during my visit to Stoke. My work is focused on looking at what positive actions local communities can take to prevent extremism. I do not believe that any party with extremist views has anything constructive to contribute to this agenda."With a leadership challenge pending, Griffinite spin on the BNP's election performance reached new heights (or depths, as you will), with the party's website grandstanding the headline: "Tories, Plaid Cymru and Lib Dems trounced in Swansea". The problem was that the BNP had also been trounced, not winning a single seat. A spokesman for the Welsh Tories told the Swansea Evening Post: "These absurd claims fly in the face of the facts. The BNP's divisive, extremist views were rejected by voters in Swansea and every other part of Wales."
At Stafford Crown Court the trial of Stoke-on-Trent man Habib Khan opened. Khan was charged with the murder of Keith Brown, a BNP activist who had subjected the Khan family to "years of racial taunts, threats and violence", as The Times reported:
Mr Brown and his family, none of whom worked, were said to have been jealous of their industrious Pakistani neighbours and to have inflicted a spiral of abuse on them. Habib Khan is accused of stabbing Mr Brown to death with an eight-inch kitchen knife.Keith Brown's tragic death the previous June was the culmination of a series of violent incidents between the neighbouring Brown and Khan families, one the BNP spun for all it was worth. Nick Griffin, who appears never to have met Keith Brown, cynically turned up at his funeral, which became little more than a BNP propaganda exercise as its leader gave a tearful interview to the risible "BNPtv News". The party shamelessly ignored sub-judice as it "reported" its version of events, which cast Brown in the light of a martyr to Muslim violence.
This was very far from the truth, as Stafford Crown Court heard. Habib Khan, described as a "mild and calm-mannered family man", had taken a knife to threaten Brown, who had hold of one of his sons. The trial judge said that Khan had acted "in the honest belief that he needed to protect his son" but in doing so had killed Mr Brown.
Khan was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter and wounding, and later received an eight-year prison sentence.
strange, hectoring email that spoke in one moment of "our Parties [sic] openness and commitment to democracy" then talked of "anyone who has the temerity to wish to stand for leadership". The "temerity to wish"?
Butler gave out strong hints that the BNP's rules might need to be changed to preserve Nick Griffin's position: "There will be pressure, perhaps unstoppable pressure, to change the rules so that leadership challenges can only take place every four years." No prizes for guessing where the "unstoppable pressure" would originate.
As it later turned out, the Griffin-inspired notion of allowing challenges only every four years was a con being worked on the BNP membership, who would be got - through a bogus compromise - to give Griffin what he really wanted.
Butler, possessed of a very Stalinist idea of "democracy", called on members not to sign Colin Auty's nomination forms, referred to the councillor as a "joke candidate" and recommended that the leadership election "should be carried out in the most rapid manner possible with zero publicity allowed" to Auty.
Paranoic Griffinite attrition on Auty was relentless. The BNP's own secret forum banned any pro-Auty discussion, while its dirty tricks department marched around the internet spreading black propaganda. BNP branches were instructed not to invite Auty to speak at their meetings, and branches which had booked troubadour Auty to sing cancelled.
Auty's campaign manager, Roger Robertson, the BNP's former South-East Regional Organiser, was told that he faced disciplinary proceedings, much as Mike Easter (Chris Jackson's manager the previous year) found himself subject to a Griffinite fit-up.
The intention was clearly to dissuade BNP members from signing Auty's nomination papers, the implied threat being that they, too, would face expulsion. It was a telling measure of the febricity infecting the top of the BNP that this vicious overkill was deployed to protect Nick Griffin from a challenge everybody knew he would walk.
In the meantime Richard Barnbrook made an utter fool of himself when he threatened to stampede into London mayor Boris Johnson's office with "100 young people". The brown-suited one had been to Sidcup, hoping to exploit the murder of Robert Knox. In a since deleted blog post he wrote:
I have invited all of the young people there to come down to City Hall this Tuesday for 9:30 in the morning. This knife crime has to be stopped. If I have to bring a 100 young people into Boris's office then that is what I will do.Barnbrook and his aides stood waiting outside City Hall at the appointed time, ready to greet the throngs of incensed young militants rallying to his call. He waited, and waited, and waited, vainly scanning the horizon for signs of massed greasy hair and acne on the march, but saw only the familiar face of self-inflicted humiliation grinning directly back at him.
To be continued...