Under pressure from a series of revelations by the British National Party’s former webmaster Simon Bennett and calls for new leadership by party activists and organisers stung by their disastrous election results, Nick Griffin has announced that he will step down as leader “by the end of 2013”.
His declaration, made to a meeting of the party’s Advisory Council and key organisers on 22 May, is unlikely to satisfy those who have been contributing to Bennett’s website trying to win support for a leadership challenge this year. Many will consider that three and a half years is too long for the party to stagnate under Griffin, and will be all too well aware of Griffin’s past form at wriggling out of awkward situations and commitments.
According to a statement on the BNP website, Griffin intends to concentrate on getting re-elected to the European Parliament in 2014. He then intends “to help the other European nationalist parties to achieve the level of sophistication which the BNP has been able to build up, because a victory for any one of these parties is a victory to all of us”.
These “European nationalist parties” are likely to include some of Europe’s most hardline racist and fascist organisations. Griffin and his fellow BNP MEP Andrew Brons are members of the Alliance of European National Movements, a far-right group in the European Parliament formed in Budapest last October. Its other members are the three MEPs from Hungary’s fascist Jobbik party and the three French National Front MEPs.
The group is also supported by Italy’s Fiamma Tricolore, the Belgian National Front and the Swedish National Democrats, none of which have MEPs.
Griffin’s announcement shows that he remains more an internationalist fascist than a British nationalist, true to the politics he learned from his mentor, the convicted Italian terrorist Roberto Fiore. No doubt he has also become accustomed to the European Parliament’s generous salary and expenses regime.
Between now and 2013, Griffin intends to concentrate on “putting into place of the last ‘building blocks’ of the BNP’s administrative and political machine”. This is a more buoyant description than in his e-newsletters since the election in which he said that the party’s “underdeveloped elections department” had to be overhauled and restructured.
Griffin would then make way for “a younger person who does not have any baggage which can be used against the party,” a recognition that his presence is a liability for the party. Finding a person without “baggage”, who “will be able to drive support up to where it [the BNP] can be a serious contender for power” may be hard. Until now, any person fitting that description has left the party either in one of Griffin’s “purges” or because they have discovered that the party is not what they expected it to be.
The extended Advisory Council meeting also heard “consultant” Jim Dowson claim that “contrary to internet rumour-mongers”, the BNP owns the “Truth Truck” advertising vehicle for which Dowson raised a reported £80,000 or more in 2008. This was apparently confirmed in person by Jennie Noble, “the BNP treasurer who paid for the vehicle”.
If that is true then why did the BNP’s solicitors tell bailiffs trying to seize the vehicle to meet a debt that it was owned by an unconnected third party?
Dowson also stated that he did not take a commission on transactions through the BNP’s Belfast call centre. However he was silent on whether his call centre staff, who include friends and relations of Dowson and Griffin, were paid commission on party memberships and other sales, as evidenced by Bennett.
He did however reveal that he, under the guise of his “Midas Consultancy” business, was paid £165,000 for raising £2.6 million in donations for the party since January 2008.
Whether Dowson really has raised £2.6 million cannot be verified at present. The 2008 accounts showed an increase in donations of £662,000 over 2007, but the 2009 accounts will not be available until the end of July, provided the party manages to submit them on time. The BNP claimed to have raised over £500,000 for its European election campaign and there have been some fundraising appeals since then, such as to fight the legal action by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over the BNP’s “whites only” membership criterion, but central party fundraising for this year’s elections seemed to have stalled. Much of the money to pay for general election deposits and leaflets was raised locally by party branches, with no input from Dowson.
Even if Dowson has raised a seven-figure sum, BNP members might raise eyebrows at the amount paid to a consultant who is always keen to point out that he is not a party member.
The meeting was told that BNP membership now stands at “just under 14,000 … increasing by several hundred every month” and that the rate at which BNP members fail to renew has decreased from over 70% to less 20%, now doubt testament to the harassment several members have reported from Dowson’s call centre – people rejoin just to stop the constant phone calls. The BNP has past form in exaggerating its membership and we can only wait to see how these claims compare with the audited figures in the party’s 2009 and 2010 accounts.
Missing from the announcements was any response to the numerous members who are calling for greater transparency in the BNP’s finances.
Griffin concluded by claiming that the party had “emerged from the meeting re-energised and ready for the ongoing struggle to save our nation from destruction at the hands of the old parties”, which is a rather creative way of describing the widespread disillusionment following the twin blows of the party’s capitulation over admitting “non-white” members and its rout in the general and local elections.
Hope not hate