The Royal British Legion last night stood by its decision to accept cash from a British National Party (BNP) member.
A spokesman said the Legion had been assured by BNP member Rachel Firth, of Huddersfield, who raised money by spending 24 hours in a cardboard box, that the donation would not be used for partisan political activity. And he accused the party of taking advantage of Ms Firth’s generosity by publicising it on the BNP website, and stressed the Legion’s political impartiality.
“The Royal British Legion is strictly non-political and for nearly 90 years we have scrupulously remained above the party fray,” the spokesman said. “We have never endorsed any political party nor do we accept party donations made for partisan purposes. We do not accept donations made for political PR purposes, or donations made on behalf of the BNP or any other political party.”
Single mum Ms Firth, 36, spent 24 hours inside a cardboard box to highlight the plight of ex-service personnel who are forced to sleep rough. The Skelmanthorpe mum-of-two was raising cash for the Legion and for the BNP. The Legion originally refused to accept the donation from Ms Firth last month because she was also raising funds for the BNP by sleeping rough. That decision was overturned after Ms Firth gave assurances that the two would not be connected.
“It is unfortunate that the Legion once again finds itself defending its reputation from being identified with political interests,” the spokesman said. “Our only interest is safeguarding the welfare, interests and memory of the British Armed Forces past and present, and their families.”
The Legion did not feel that it had made a mistake in accepting the donation, he said, but would “take another look at it”. People wishing to donate money were not routinely asked whether they supported any political party, he added.
BNP spokesman Simon Darby denied that the party had exploited the donation. “If it was the Liberal Democrats it would be described as campaigning, but because it’s the BNP it’s exploitation,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Legion took out a newspaper advert pleading with BNP party leader Nick Griffin not to use the poppy or other symbols of remembrance for political purposes. That came after Mr Griffin continued to wear a poppy pin despite requests to all parties not to use the symbol during the European election campaign.
Huddersfield Daily Examiner