A BNP candidate is a former National Front member with a criminal conviction, it has emerged
Ian Meller, who is standing in North West Leicestershire, was fined £400 for carrying an offensive weapon – a plank of wood – at a gay rights march. Mr Meller now says he "regrets" the incident, which happened in 2000, and left the National Front shortly afterwards. But he said he did not view the party as extremist.
Mr Meller said he picked up a roofing lath at the march in Humberstone Gate, Leicester, in self-defence. He said: "There were four people arrested and I was one of them – the rest were members of the Anti-Nazi League. The wood was lying in the road – I was there because we were against gay relationships being promoted in schools. It was unfortunate, but it was momentary, I wasn't on my own and I regret what happened. To be honest, that incident opened my eyes and I left the National Front shortly after that because I could see street demonstrations couldn't get us anywhere."
Mr Meller – who was fined £400 and ordered to pay £55 costs after admitting carrying an offensive weapon, was a member of the National Front from 1995 to 2000. Its policies include outlawing homosexuality and abortion, alongside the forced repatriation of immigrants.
He said: "I joined the National Front because at the time I had concerns about immigration and jobs. The National Front wasn't an extremist party, and if they were, then I certainly wasn't one. The BNP and the National Front differ now because we (the BNP) don't want to send anybody back, we want to stop immigration but we don't support compulsory repatriation, it's voluntary."
The Mercury asked Mr Meller about the BNP's policies – which include re-introducing the death penalty and preventing the teaching of gay relationships in schools.
He said: "I'm not here to pass judgement as to who should receive capital punishment, but in my grandfather's day, if there was a murder, you knew there was going to be a hanging. In terms of gay people, the BNP's view is what you get up to in your own house, we don't want to know about it at all. What we are against is using public money to fund things like gay marches. I'm a Christian and my own view is marriage is between a man and a woman and it's for bringing up a family. I wouldn't outlaw homosexuality because we are all equal.
"In terms of immigration – my area of Whitwick has seen a lot of 'white flight', where people are moving away from Leicester because they feel they don't have an identity anymore. They don't want to bring a child up where three different languages are spoken in the classroom."
A spokesman for anti-fascist organisation Searchlight said: "If he doesn't regard the National Front as an extremist party, I wouldn't like to bump into representatives of a party he does regard as extreme. This is indicative of Nick Griffin's BNP – he aims to promote a non-violent and moderate face to his organisation but the reality is that the BNP is still populated by extreme views."
The Leicester Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Centre in Wellington Street was unavailable for comment.
The BNP is fielding candidates in every seat in Leicestershire and Rutland.