In fact, it has done very little for charities except to make hollow promises that are exploited for its own purposes on the BNP's website, giving the visitor the impression that the party is acting responsibly by supporting its chosen causes while actually doing nothing except taking the kudos for its unperformed acts of generosity.
A week or two ago, we reprinted an article in which the Institute of Fundraising Scotland, a leading fund-raising body, warned charities to beware of undeclared donations from the British National Party after a number of good causes claimed they were duped into accepting money from the far-right group. In several cases, the BNP claimed credit for donations to charities who have never knowingly accepted money from the party and in several cases would refuse it if it were ever to be openly offered.
Colonel William Shuttlewood, a director of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, one of the charities the BNP claims to have made donations to, said it would never knowingly accept money from the BNP. Al Sutton, chairman of Troop Aid, another unknowing possible recipient, said: 'We are not associated with any political party, especially the BNP', while the Down’s Syndrome Association vehemently denied a claim on the BNP website that it had asked the party to help it raise funds.
Another more dramatic (and consequently more exploited) donation has been that which the BNP claims it is negotiating with FEBA, a charity which is negotiating £50,000 a year from the BNP to keep open its veterans' drop-in centre in Lanarkshire. A lot of fuss was made about FEBA a few weeks back, with the BNP taking full credit for keeping it open, yet 'negotiations' between Nick Griffin and Tommy Moffat, the charity's administrator, seem to have stalled. No great surprise, as Griffin has already got what he wanted from the announcement - the publicity.
FEBA did receive a donation of sorts from the BNP - or rather the wealthy BNP supporter Walter (or William, depending on which story you read about him) Hamilton - a consignment of radiators allegedly worth £3000 (which may well have fallen off the back of the Lie Lorry). Radiators notwithstanding, FEBA still needs £50,000 a year to run - if the BNP is near-bankrupt, where is that money going to come from?
The truth is, naturally, that it isn't coming from anywhere and there was never any intention of donating such a large sum to anyone (except possibly King Nick himself), only to reap the rewards of the very rare positive publicity that the story generated.
There's a short aside to this story which is worth mentioning. The BNP survives on donations from its gullible members, thanks to the never-ending stream of increasing desperate begging letters from Welshpool. Even though most of the money raised goes directly to non-member Jim Dowson, the organiser of the begging campaign and owner of the Lie Lorry, and a hefty percentage goes to Nick Griffin and various acolytes and hangers-on (including would-be schoolie-bonker and all-round shit Mark Collett, who is allegedly paid £50,000 per year for designing the BNP's propaganda), that leaves little to be used for the BNP for its 'political' work. So who decided to spend substantial chunks of that money by donating it to various charities and were the members asked if that was the way they wanted their donations to be spent?
But now we come to the latest twist in the BNP/charities mess, the bit that is currently (and rightly) causing great embarrassment to the Royal British Legion.
Back in October 2008, one of our contributors Eric the Fish wrote about the BNP's attempted hijack of the Poppy Appeal, the RBL's long-term and popular fundraser. Eric reported;
Neil Griffiths, of the Royal British Legion Scotland, said: "We abhor any association with the BNP. I worked most of my military career with Gurkhas and feel angry by any level of racism when I encounter it. The BNP seem to have forgotten that the Indian Army in the Second World War had two million members. It was the biggest volunteer army in military history and it played a huge role in the war."and
Jim Panton, chief executive of Poppyscotland, said: "I had no idea the BNP have tried to get involved in the Poppy Appeal. It's outrageous for any organisation or group to try to hijack the poppy for their own benefit or gain. It is a misuse and misrepresentation of the sentiment of the appeal and we would take a strong line against that. We are apolitical and have not asked any party to back us."So strongly did the RBL feel that it demanded that Nick Griffin stop wearing the Poppy during the European Election campaign and also that he stop using the armed forces to further the BNP's agenda. To no effect, because Griffin continued to do both.
Having seen that the BNP doesn't give a toss for the armed forces except where they can be used for political and financial gain, one would have expected the RBL to respond vigorously to any attempt by the BNP to directly make capital from any contact. Thus, when BNP member Rachel Firth announced that she would pledge half of the funds she raised by spending twenty-four hours in a cardboard box in the street to the legion and the other half to the BNP, it was no great surprise when the legion refused the donation.
When Firth then clearly stated that the donation would not be used for partisan political activity, the RBL naively accepted her assurance and announced that it would accept the donation, at which point the news of the donation and the RBL's acceptance of it appeared on the BNP's website (August 30th: see image below).
still hasn't had its donation and according to Third Sector (the UK’s leading publication for everyone who needs to know what’s going on in the voluntary and not-for-profit sector), the RBL is now seriously considering whether to reject it even if it is (finally) offered, on the grounds that the party has used it to make political capital.
The dithering of the Royal British Legion over this matter is shameful. The offer of a donation should have been refused outright because of the ridiculous proviso that half the money raised from the stunt was going to the BNP. Under its own rules, that was grounds for the RBL to say thanks but no thanks. Instead, it took the party at its word, was taken in and now has to make the choice again, assuming the offer is ever forthcoming.
The whole issue of charities taking money from political parties is difficult, particularly when the charity appears to be in dire straits and feels that it needs that money simply in order to carry on. FEBA hasn't got any cash of its own and, let's face it, is unlikely to be getting £50,000 per annum from the BNP - but should it even have entered negotiations with such a party anyway? Personally I would say no unless the charity also supports the party's racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Muslim rhetoric and the BNP leader's constantly recurring bouts of anti-Semitism. Easy for me to say, I know, as I do not run a charity that is unable to continue through lack of cash. Nevertheless, there are principles at stake here and there are times when, no matter how painful it might be, it is right and proper to stand up for them.
The BNP as a party has NO real interest in supporting charities unless it can make some political gain from so doing. At the moment, it sees a lot of interest in armed forces personnel and is exploiting that to the full. A couple of months ago, it was a small bird sanctuary that was the focus of the party's attention for as long as it got a little publicity out of it and the the Poppy Appeal - next month it could be sanctuaries for disabled donkeys or depressed circus clowns. As long as there is something to exploit, the BNP will attempt to exploit it because it is a party without ethics whose only great ability is the skill of jumping on the next available bandwagon. Anyone who believes otherwise is doomed to disappointment.