The British National Party’s former treasurer could face criminal proceedings for delivering “inadequate accounts” to the Electoral Commission
The BNP’s 2008 accounts finally emerged three weeks before the fine for their late submission to the Electoral Commission would have doubled to £2,000.
Like the 2007 accounts, the latest financial statements do not give a true and fair view of the state of the party’s affairs at 31 December 2008 and of the year’s results, in the opinion of Silver & Co, the party’s regular auditors. However this year the BNP had no easy target to blame of the likes of Kenny Smith, one of the leaders of the party’s internal rebellion in winter 2006, who was used as the excuse for failings in both the 2006 and 2007 accounts.
In 2008 the party simply could not get its act together. As Nick Griffin, the party chairman, explained in his introduction to the accounts, soon after June 2008, when Jenny Noble took over as party treasurer from John Walker, it “became apparent that the task of maintaining central office accounts had become too big for any one individual”. So the job was “outsourced” to “an independent Chartered Accountant and Accounts Technician with the aim of presenting acceptable accounts for the accounting year 2009”.
In other words the BNP gave up on the 2008 accounts, though Griffin admitted lamely: “We recognize that it is not acceptable to present inadequate accounts”.
The failure meant that the accounts not only did not give a true and fair view but also did not “comply with the requirements of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000 as adequate records have not been made available”. In 2007 the accounts did comply with the PPERA, despite not giving a true and fair view.
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission told Searchlight that they had “a number of concerns” about the financial statements and the inadequate records referred to in Griffin’s report and have urgently requested more detailed information about the inadequacies from the party’s auditors. The BNP has until 8 January to reply, after which the Electoral Commission will consider what further action to take.
Under the PPERA 2000 the party’s treasurer on 31 December 2008, the last day of the accounting period concerned, commits a criminal offence by not complying with the regulations governing party accounts. Although the 2008 accounts are presented by Philip Reddall, he was appointed BNP treasurer only in autumn 2009. At the end of 2008 Noble was still the treasurer, until she was shunted out in April 2009 to run the Trafalgar Club, a task she appears to have performed with similar lack of success.
Her only defence, if the Electoral Commission decides to prosecute, would be that she took all reasonable steps and exercised due diligence to ensure the accounts were adequate, or that the failures were attributable to the period before she became treasurer and she did her best to put things right.
Despite the unreliability of the accounts, the figures are very interesting as they prove that the BNP has lied repeatedly to its members and donors.
The BNP started its main fundraising drive at the tail end of 2007 and built it up throughout 2008 with a number of appeals for objectives such as the launch of its provocatively racist Racism Cuts Both Ways booklet, the May 2008 election campaign and the notorious Truth Truck appeal.
The accounts show that the party did indeed raise more money than ever before. Income from donations and fundraising activities (the distinction is unclear) amounted to £688,764 compared to £221,456 in 2007.
Nevertheless the party ended the year with a loss of £82,642, an increase of £32,000 over the previous year’s loss. It was also a far cry from the £100,000 profit claimed in June 2009 by Jim Dowson, the militant anti-abortion campaigner behind the BNP’s fundraising efforts, who controls its Belfast telesales centre and other essential party functions. It was Dowson too who supplied the “independent chartered accountant”, John Thompson, who works for Dowson’s various business interests in Belfast, now charged with getting the BNP’s books into better shape for 2009.
The loss left the BNP bankrupt to the tune of £168,233. While that may not be much compared to some political parties, it is a significant proportion of the party’s turnover of under £1 million and the latest in a trend of growing losses. To stay afloat the party continued to raid the funds of its branches and groups, stayed in arrears with its tax and VAT payments and relied on the advance payment of membership subscriptions for the following year.
Far from spending the increased income on campaigning, most of the money has gone to paying party staff and propping up the party’s lacklustre publications and its failed Excalibur merchandising operation.
The start of 2008 had seen Excalibur’s move, to great acclaim, into new premises with a “vast array of new equipment”. At the end of the year Excalibur was out on its ear after Searchlight, in conjunction with Lancaster Unity and Wales Friends of Searchlight, had tracked it down to a Deeside Industrial Estate (click here for details).
According to the accounts, Excalibur’s stock, consisting of tatty, cringe-making and overpriced goods, including white mugs reading “I’m a white mug”, may have been worth £5,000 to £6,000 at the end of the year, but “the very nature of the stock raises questions as to its realisable value”. In other words, no one wants to buy them – even the BNP doesn’t have enough white mugs to buy its white mugs.
The total cost of the BNP’s “commercial activities”, consisting of Excalibur, Identity, Voice of Freedom and unspecified other printed material, amounted to £285,341 compared to income of £130,526, a loss of £125,000.
Staff wages and “professional fees” – a term that includes staff paid without accounting for income tax and national insurance – grew by over £100,000 compared to 2007. The accounts state there were 13 staff. Management and administration costs rose by £96,000 to £263,000. Rent and associated costs of the short-lived Excalibur unit undoubtedly pushed up this total.
Campaign expenditure was a mere £74,580, of which only £41,095 was on leaflets and £14,325 was the cost of fundraising. Back in March 2008 a BNP appeal letter asked for donations towards the 2008 London and local council election campaigns, promising that the London campaign would cost at least £80,000. That now emerges as another lie.
The party did buy £29,000 of equipment, far less than it made out when it moved into the Excalibur unit. It also spent £19,550 on buying vehicles. The figure does not include the “truth truck”, an advertising vehicle and trailer better known as the lie lorry. Contrary to statements in fundraising appeals that the lorry was “bought and paid for”, Searchlight established that the party was renting it from Dowson’s Adlorries.com business. The accounts do not refer to the “Truth Truck” by name but state that the party leases one vehicle under an agreement that does not give “rights approximating to ownership”.
The accounts also reveal some interesting non-financial details. The Young BNP was “defunct” during the year, “with the failed head being removed at the end of the year and replaced by a new team”. The reference is to the summary dismissal of Danny Lake and his replacement by Mike Howson, a man in his mid-forties, after Lake raised concerns about the “psychopathic” behaviour of Mark Bulman, an erratic and alcoholic teenage YBNP member who was also treasurer of Howson’s BNP branch.
The BNP’s security department is described as responsible for running party events “correctly to ensure the health and safety of all those attending”. This is the bunch of thugs who surround Griffin wherever he goes and have scant concern for the “health and safety” of those on the receiving end of their activities.
The South African influence remained strong, with both Arthur Kemp and Lance Stewart on the party’s 15-strong Advisory Council. Kemp is the BNP’s website editor and during 2008 was also in charge of Excalibur dispatch and “developing Voting Membership educational material”. Stewart, a former high-ranking officer in the South African Police, heads the BNP’s “Intelligence Department”.
BNP members, of whom the accounts state there were 9,801 at 31 December 2008, will not understand or care about the shambolic state of the BNP’s finances revealed in these statements, the potential criminal charges faced by the former treasurer or the proof that the party’s fundraising appeals were a pack of lies. They will not doubt go on pouring money into the bottomless and unaccountable pit that is the racist BNP.
Hope not hate