Party reacts after legal challenge to its policy of barring non-whites
The British National party leader, Nick Griffin, said today that the far right organisation should change its membership rules or face being "utterly crushed" in the courts.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is taking the BNP to court over its constitution, which states that only "'Indigenous Caucasian' and defined 'ethnic groups' emanating from that race" are allowed to join. When proceedings were issued last month the party insisted it would fight the case. But Griffin, speaking after yesterday's hearing at the Central London county court was adjourned for seven weeks, appeared to back down, saying that the party should now change its membership rules.
"It is now crystal clear to all concerned that we simply do not have a choice but to change our membership policy," said Griffin. "Adapt or die is the only decision left to make, for failure to adapt would lead either to our being bled white through the courts or crushed by new criminal laws."
Griffin said the party would hold a series of debates over the coming weeks to discuss the matter and then stage a mass meeting for members where they would require a two-thirds majority to rewrite the constitution. The issue is likely to provoke a bitter debate in the party with leading members openly hostile to allowing non-white members.
In today's statement Griffin tried to appease potential opponents. "I have no doubt that it is possible to redraft our constitution so as to ensure we comply with the new law while at the same time holding true to our core principles and most important of all to our purpose – to secure a future for the true children of our islands."
Anti-racism campaigners warned today that even if the BNP changed its constitution it would make no difference to the party's core beliefs. "It is cosmetic window-dressing that does not alter fundamentally the BNP, which is a fascist and racist party," said Nick Lowles from the Hope not Hate campaign.
At yesterday's hearing, Judge Paul Collins ruled the party had 21 days to serve its evidence, with a further 14 days for the claimants to respond before the next one-day hearing, scheduled for 15 October.