The British National Party was accused today of “indirectly” discriminating against black and Asian people even though the party no longer bars them from joining
A new constitution allowing people of any ethnic origin to join the party obliged prospective members to support its principles, which meant the door was, in reality, only “pretty narrowly open” for “non-indigenous Britons”, London’s Central County Court heard.
But the BNP, which voted to amend its constitution last month after the Equality and Human Rights Commission took legal action over the far-right party’s whites-only membership policy, denied the allegations and said it had a “waiting list” of black and Asian people and would welcome more applications from ethnic minorities.
The party will have to wait to find out if its decision to scrap the previous policy went far enough to meet race relations laws. After hearing arguments from both sides, Judge Paul Collins said he would issue his judgment on the matter on Friday.
During a day of legal submissions, the court heard prospective members had to sign up to principles including a duty to oppose the promotion of any form of “integration or assimilation” that impacted on the “indigenous British” and a requirement to support the “maintenance and existence of the unity and integrity of the indigenous British”.
Robin Allen, QC, representing the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “That is something which we would submit is indirectly discriminatory. They will put persons who do not fall into the indigenous British category at a disadvantage.”
He argued the principles could be interpreted to oppose mixed marriages and could force people to deny their own identity.
“We simply say from the commission’s point of view we are statutorily obliged to encourage diversity and recognise diversity as part of the British state in its widest sense,” he said. “We’re indifferent as to the expression of views as long as they are lawful. It’s the condition of access that we take exception to.”
The new, twelfth version of the constitution also includes a measure that members have to agree to two BNP officials - one male and one female - visiting their home for up to two hours, the court heard. Mr Allen said this could be used to enable potential members to be intimidated, although there was no evidence it had been used in that way.
Gwynn Price Rowlands, for the BNP, told the hearing there were “significant numbers” of members who were mixed race or in mixed marriages, along with “several” Jewish members.
“They (the BNP) make it clear that they would welcome more applications from ethnic minorities,” he said.
Mr Rowlands told the court he “could not understand” how a black or Asian person supporting the concept of British nationalism could be discriminatory, adding the BNP was “simply putting their principles forward and allowing any ethnic minority member to join and support and espouse those principles”.
Hillingdon and Uxbridge Times