Former residents of a South Wales street have hit out at the BNP for “hijacking” a picture of their VE Day party
Family members were shocked to see the photograph of the event in Cromwell Street, Merthyr Tydfil, used as a backdrop by the far-right party at an event in Manchester. They have now called on BNP leader Nick Griffin to apologise for using the image and to stop using the picture in publicity.
It is not the first time the BNP has been attacked for using a wartime image. It was previously accused of attempting to “hijack” the reputation of the military by using images of Spitfires and caused outrage by claiming that Winston Churchill would join the British National Party if he were alive today.
The Cromwell Street image appeared in the background when BNP leader Mr Griffin addressed a media conference at a Manchester pub in June, days after he was elected as MEP for the North West of England. The 1945 picture had been superimposed on a backdrop for Mr Griffin, and emblazoned with BNP and VE DAY. It wasn’t until after the picture was printed in a national newspaper that people in Merthyr became aware of its use by the party.
Irate former headteacher and ex-serviceman Lyn Perkins was reading the article when he spotted what he thought was a familiar face in the foreground. As he took a closer look he also recognised the street. Mr Perkins, now 82, had enlisted in the Navy, aged 17, two months before the war ended.
“I suppose there are many people in this photograph still alive and there must be lots of people who, like me, would be incensed that the photograph was used in support of the BNP,” he said. “I was looking at it and thought ‘Good gracious. I’m sure I know that girl’ and that’s what made me look at it more closely. I would think most of the people in that photograph would not want to be associated with the BNP. I certainly think there should be an apology from Nick Griffin.”
When Malcolm Sweet, 66, who was at the party as a small boy, saw the representation for the first time he said: “I think it’s a total disgrace that the BNP has done this. I certainly don’t agree with Nick Griffin’s politics. My mother and father are also in the picture but are obscured by him. I’d like to know where they got this.”
Alan George’s mother Phyllis can be seen on the extreme left and sister Brenda is second from left on the left-hand bench.
“I’ve seen the picture used before but I really don’t like this,” said Mr George, 64, who runs an Old Merthyr picture archive website. “I’m pretty much disgusted. I don’t like anything the BNP do or represent. I think an apology is in order. They should not use it as part of any campaign and should withdraw it.”
And sister Brenda Prosser, 68, said: “I find it offensive. The BNP has now hijacked our street party. I don’t particularly like the idea of being associated even in this way with the BNP. I don’t like their politics.”
But BNP spokesman John Walker defended the use and was adamant the BNP would not apologise for using it.
“This was a grainy black and white photo, which was only partly visible because it was used with logos over it,” he said. “It was a representation of the wartime theme that we used to great effect as part of our European election campaign which we called The Battle for Britain Campaign. The BNP was not even in existence when these photographs were taken. So how could there be any suggestion that these people could be associated? How could anyone infer that from a photo taken in 1945?
“Do people expect the BNP to have to try to trace every single person in a grainy old photograph from 1945? It’s a ridiculous proposition and people should just see this for what it was. It was a representation of the wartime spirit . It doesn’t imply any of these people would support the BNP 70 years later. Most of the people must be dead to be honest, all the adults would be. At the end of the day we are not going to stop using it and not going to apologise. We just see this as another pathetic attack against the BNP.”