The British National Party’s sacked head of publicity set up a series of front companies apparently with the intention of “skimming off” printing bills, yesterday’s special meeting of the British National Party heard.
Party officers and organisers gathering near Coventry were told that a copy of a tape recording of a conversation between Mark Collett and the party treasurer David Hannam was in the hands of the police who “would be able to investigate a number of potential crimes including threats to murder, assault, fraud and falsification of accounts”, according to a BNP statement issued afterwards.
The meeting had not been allowed to hear the tape and draw its own conclusions, however, but appointed a “four man strong subcommittee” to listen to it and report back on its “full contents and implications”. Its spokesman Michael Simpkins, a BNP town councillor in Corsham, Wiltshire, declared the tape was genuine.
The BNP statement left several questions unanswered, above all why Eddy Butler has been replaced as the party’s national organiser and national elections officer by Clive Jefferson, the North West regional organiser. Members were told that Butler was “still very much with the BNP and is set to play a leading role in the party’s attempt to take control of the Barking and Dagenham council”. However Butler has not issued any personal statement.
Last November Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, announced that Richard Barnbrook, the BNP’s London Assembly member, would spearhead the party’s Barking and Dagenham council campaign. Presumably he has not been producing the canvassing returns Griffin expects.
Griffin read out a statement from Emma Colgate, who resigned as party manager last week, warning that “fake Facebook and YouTube accounts” were being set up in her name “with the obvious intention of sowing confusion”. Despite her continuing important role, running the BNP’s campaign in Thurrock, she was apparently not at the meeting.
BNP members have clearly not been told the full story about the abrupt departures of Butler and Colgate from national party positions and the party’s EU payroll, and their connection with Collett’s “misdemeanours”.
Another omission from the statement is any reference to Jim Dowson, the BNP’s fundraising and management consultant, whose extensive financial hold over the BNP makes him in effect the party’s owner. Last week’s BNP organisers’ bulletin, which first announced Collett’s suspension, referred to a threat to the “personal safety” of both Griffin and Dowson and there have been suggestions since then that it was Dowson who discovered Collett’s financial irregularities.
Collett has long been accused of making a profit at the party’s expense and of being very poor at the graphic design and leaflet production that are a major part of his role, but Griffin has only listened to the allegations now. That may be because Griffin was in desperate need of a scapegoat to allay dissent in the party following his disastrous performance on Question Time last year, his capitulation to the Equality and Human Rights Commission over changing the party’s racist constitution, accusations from members that the central party apparatus is appropriating branch funds, questions about Dowson’s control over the party and Griffin’s very own EU parliamentary expenses scandal.
After venting their “hate” for Collett, in events reminiscent of Geroge Orwell’s 1984, the party united “unanimously” behind Griffin, according to the BNP’s statement, and will contest 326 constituencies in the general election on 6 May.
As for Collett, he claims to be “completely loyal” to the party and willing to help people with local publicity material in the run-up to the elections. “There is currently a smear campaign against me,” is all he has said publicly so far.
Collett had been lined up to contest the Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough constituency against David Blunkett in the general election but has been replaced by John Sheldon, a Sheffield BNP activist.
The events of the past few days are far more than the sort of differences of opinion and personality clashes that any political party suffers. Griffin constantly claims he is the leader of a moderate, non-violent organisation, but it is difficult to see how he can square that assertion with his statement to the police that his own head of publicity has been threatening to kill him. The BNP remains a party full of thugs.
Hope not hate