Barking London Assembly member Richard Barnbrook invited as a representative of Greater London Authority
A member of the far-right British National Party was among the guests at the launch of England’s bid to host the World Cup.
The BNP said that Richard Barnbrook, an elected member of the Greater London Authority, was officially invited to the launch of the campaign to hold the competition in this country in 2018 or 2022. The event was also attended by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and England star David Beckham. Brown and Lord Triesman spoke at the event, putting an emphasis on diversity.
One eyewitness said: "I found it shocking and it undermined the tone of the launch and ran counter to it. They were making all the right sounds during the presentation, phrases like making England a home from home, and here was someone sitting there from the BNP. Why would you invite him?"
A spokesman for the BNP said people must "get used" to party members attending official events. He said: "He was officially invited as a member of the London Assembly. He was there, he wasn't doing anything wrong. It would have been rude not to go. People had better get used to BNP politicians being elected because we are going to see more and more of this."
The spokesman said Barnbrook, the GLA member for Barking, has also been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace.
But an England 2018 spokesman said the politician will not be asked to any future events. He said: "All elected members of the GLA were invited to today's launch. We recognise that the presence of one elected member, who is playing no part in the England 2018 bid, has caused offence and we apologise. He should not have been present at today's event and will not be at any in the future."
Gerry Gable, publisher of anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, said: "We think it's disgraceful that Richard Barnbrook, who represents a party that didn't support the English football team because it had black players and doesn't believe that any black English-born footballer can ever be British, should want to muscle his way in on an event like this. It's shameful."
The London Paper