Relatives of Sir Winston Churchill have denounced as ‘monstrous’ an attempt by BNP leader Nick Griffin to cloak himself in the mantle of Britain's greatest wartime leader.
The far-right British National Party’s election broadcast, which is screened nationwide this evening, features Mr Griffin quoting from one of Churchill’s most famous speeches. The BNP chief uses the broadcast to argue that modern Britain, with its record of welcoming immigrants, has betrayed the ‘the blood, sweat, toil and tears’ of those who fought for freedom in the Second World War.
The advert, which features footage of Sir Winston and British war graves, provoked fury from descendants of Churchill, who have tried to ban the BNP from appropriating his image. Tory MP Nicholas Soames, Sir Winston’s grandson, revealed yesterday that he has tried and failed to get election watchdogs to ban the BNP from using Churchill as a vote winner.
Mr Griffin was also accused of ‘sickening hypocrisy’ after it emerged that he once praised the 'limitless courage and sacrifice', of Hitler’s SS, and described the RAF’s bombing of Dresden as 'mass murder'.
Mr Soames told the Mail he has consulted lawyers and tried to get the Electoral Commission to step in and stop the BNP, but confessed he had been rebuffed. He said he has received ‘hundreds of letters’ from his grandfather’s generation distressed that the far right group is ‘abusing their memory’ and implying that Sir Winston would have backed the BNP’s racist cause.
‘It’s a monstrous thing to do. Most sensible people will be disgusted by the BNP’s use of Churchill’s face and imagery purporting to claim that my grandfather would have supported their policies. ‘It is such a disgusting and outrageous suggestion. They have no right to use Churchill’s face in this way. It causes tremendous offence to people of the wartime generation.
‘They were a generous generation. They weren’t a mean-spirited generation. It is deeply offensive to his family and if the law were different we would take steps to stop it. To suggest that he would have supported something as wicked as the BNP is beyond the pale.’
Newly uncovered copies of ‘The Rune’, a white supremacist magazine edited by Mr Griffin in the late 1990s, show that far from respecting Britain’s war effort in the 1940s he was a fan of the SS units that committed countless war crimes against the allies.
Mr Griffin published one article stating: ‘The tales of Waffen SS courage and sacrifices are almost limitless.’
Another piece claimed: ‘In an unbiased assessment of war-crimes, the Waffen SS were undoubtedly no worse than the troops of other nations – countless Allied war crimes are simply not publicised.’ In 1996 he organised a demonstration on the steps of Coventry Cathedral in which he claimed RAF pilots who bombed Dresden in World War Two were guilty of ‘mass murder’.
According to Griffin, the leaflets were written by 'veteran German patriot', Manfred Roeder, who fought for Hitler in the defence of Berlin in 1945 then founded a neo-Nazi organisation in the 1980s that was classified as a terrorist group by German authorities after it launched attacks against buildings housing asylum seekers.
A spokesman for the anti-fascist campaign group Searchlight said: ‘Griffin’s hypocrisy is sickening. This man is on record as praising the SS and accusing RAF pilots of committing mass murder. For him to evoke the memory of fallen British serviceman to further his campaign of division and hate is beyond belief.’
Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham, where the BNP hope to make gains, said: ‘This exposes the fact that Nick Griffin is on record praising the SS and attacking the RAF. It’s only because there is an election on that he’s pretending to be a supporter of the Armed Forces. People will see through the sham.’