So, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has suddenly become very active on on the great picnic blanket that is the British constitution - and, yes, I do use the term advisedly - by rather hilariously asking the British National Party (BNP) to comply with equality laws or face an application for a legal injunction that would force it to.
I phone the EHRC determined to discover whether the BNP has inadvertently - some might say ironically - fallen victim to some piece of European legislation or other, following its recent success in the European parliamentary elections?
“No, it’s all British law as far as I’m aware,” a charming woman called Krista from the press office tells me. So far, so “Indigenously Caucasian” as the BNP’s constitution would have it. I’m not exactly sure who was involved in creating the 1976 Race Relations Act, on which the EHRC is relying, but my colleague Philip Johnston tells me that it was very likely to have been drafted entirely by a bunch of white people in the government and civil service of the time. So, with any luck, no problem there for Mr Griffin and his cohorts.
The question arises, then, where exactly does the EHRC’s problem lie and what kind of teeth would this injunction have? “It’s the BNP’s constitution,” Krista tells me, drawing my attention to section two on page four, which refers to membership and, interestingly, eleven alleged racial groupings from which it would specifically welcome members. I note that there are plenty of Celts in there, remember being told once that the Irish language had more in common with Sanskrit than anything else, then also remember that I received this information in a pub and file it mentally under “to do”.
“You have to be a member of the BNP to be an employee of the party and membership is restricted to these ethnic groups,” Krista explains. “We think that’s illegal.” A vague memory also wafts back at this point that there is no scientific way of distinguishing the DNA of one ethnic group from any other and I wonder how the BNP would ultimately support its “ethnicity” rules in court.
But even if its constitution is changed, I ask Krista, what’s to stop the BNP doing what everybody else does - employing whomsoever they want and then claiming that they were the best person for the job when challenged? And anyway, what kind of a black or Asian person would want to go and work for the BNP? There was a pause. “Yes, that’s a good point,” Krista admits.
“Something else that has been raised is that it’s possible that the BNP would claim that it is exempt from this legislation because it’s an association and section 26 of the act exempts associations. But we’ve already taken legal advice on this and have been told that a political party cannot qualify as an association, since instead of acting on behalf of its members, a political party is supposed to act on behalf of the community at large.”
The spectre of a million claims that the BNP turned anti-fascists down for jobs heaves into view and I’m reminded at this point of what happened to the Daily Mail’s poll about gipsies last week.
Still, it should be a go-er.