The British National Party held a victory rally in a Manchester pub amid chaotic scenes yesterday. Leader Nick Griffin was celebrating his election as an MEP to represent the North West in this week's Euro elections.
He told journalists that the Manchester Evening News was barred from the meeting because he objected to some of our reporting about his party. However, MEN reporter Yakub Qureshi managed to get into the press conference. Here is his report:
Nick Griffin claims to be the only man voters can trust to police Britain's borders - but perhaps he should start by looking at his own party meetings. The BNP put up a wall of burly minders to provide security at the dingy pub where newly-elected Mr Griffin was holding a victory rally, and also to exclude the Manchester Evening News.
As they monitored the credentials of journalists, the minders said that the M.E.N. was barred and they quickly turned away a crew from our sister television station Channel M on the grounds that they were guilty by association. But when I reached the front, I simply showed my card and walked in. I wasn't exactly difficult to pick-out - I was the only non-white person in the room.
The meeting began with a short speech from the party's werewolf-eyebrowed deputy leader Simon Darby, who complained that his party had been told they couldn't use Manchester town hall.
Party leader Nick Griffin stood metres away as he crowed how he had withdrawn the M.E.N's 'privileges' after we highlighted his policies on Ghurkha veterans.
Mr Griffin's party wants 'non-indigenous' Brits - people like me - to leave the country. The party's manifesto says black and Asian families who have been living in Britain for decades should be offered money as an incentive to leave. I was genuinely worried when I heard this. Being Scottish-Pakistani I might only get half the cash.
Mr Griffin, who has denied the Holocaust and who has a criminal conviction for publishing material likely to incite racial hatred, was asked directly if there was the slightest chance that his party, which only signs white people up as members, could be just a tiny, tiny, little bit... racist.
Surrounded by bunting and limp balloons, his answer was emphatic. Every newspaper, radio and TV station in the country, along with political rivals, church and charity leaders, trade unions, had got it wrong and were deliberately distorting his policies.
During an hour-long question and answer session, he continued to refer to the 'mass media conspiracy' but seemed to falter when asked if he would mind living next door to a Muslim family - eventually responding he wouldn't be 'particularly bothered'. However, he caught everyone off guard with the extraordinary claim that the BNP were the natural choice for Asian women suffering domestic violence.
"Asian women come to the BNP for help because no-one else will touch the subject," he claimed.
He was also taken to task by one journalist who asked him to explain a BNP poster which contrasted 1950s schoolchildren looking happy with a recent picture of two grimacing coloured boys.
"It's not racist. It's factual," he said. "It's not a matter of immigration. It's a matter of colonisation. Places like Blackpool and Preston have been smashed up by the liberal elite."
The party do have other policies apart from race - but they seem a bit woolly. The BNP's website describes the party as 'Britain's only true green party'. However, Mr Griffin told reporters one of his first priorities in Europe would be an urgent campaign for more nuclear power stations.
He also cast doubt on evidence that human activity has caused global warming, saying: "They say the icecaps are melting. The ice has melted on Mars and there are no 4x4s there."
After being pelted with eggs in London the previous day, Mr Griffin and his party had adopted a cloak-and-dagger approach to the Manchester meeting. Party organisers had originally told journalists to meet outside the nearby Sheridan Suite - a well known venue for Asian weddings and other multi-culture events - where they were told they would receive further instructions. But this approach failed when BNP activists were chased off by managers at the Sheridan Suite, who took exception to their car park being used as a staging area.
Unsurprisingly the 'secret location' for the meeting turned out to be the Ace of Diamonds pub some 200 yards away, which is owned by BNP candidate Derek Adams and currently fighting a closure notice. Around 50 anti- BNP protesters chanted slogans outside the Miles Platting boozer as police tried to prevent the egg-pelting scenes which marked Mr Griffin's ill-fated visit to London on Tuesday.
Yesterday, one passer-by was arrested for apparently verbally abusing Mr Griffin as he left the meeting. Minutes before, the newly-elected MEP had told reporters: "There are far more controversial people than me in Europe."
Manchester Evening News