Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, has been invited to attend a Buckingham Palace garden party hosted by the Queen, The Times has learned.
Mr Griffin has obtained invitations for himself and three guests in his capacity as the North West’s MEP, in a move which last night provoked concern that other guests would boycott the event. His possible attendance plunges the palace into fresh controversy over its attitude to Mr Griffin, who has been convicted of distributing material likely to incite racial hatred.
He attempted to attend one of the Queen’s garden parties last year, but withdrew after an eruption of public outrage. It was suggested that his presence would tarnish the Queen’s reputation. Other MEPs and opponents of the far-right party warned that Mr Griffin’s invitation “utterly compromised” the Queen and risked politicising the annual event.
Each year British MEPs are entitled to two tickets to one of the Queen’s three garden parties at Buckingham Palace. It was unclear how Mr Griffin obtained four tickets, which he announced during a BNP supporters’ dinner at the weekend. In a video seen by The Times, Mr Griffin produced the invitations in front of his guests, prompting loud cheers and claps. He told the gathered crowd that he, his wife Jackie and their two daughters, Jennifer and Rhiannon, had been invited to the event on July 22.
“So my guess is the six o’clock news on Thursday, July 22, might have a little bit about the British National Party,” he added. So we’re gonna [sic] be back in the news.”
Last year Mr Griffin sparked anger when he said that he would attend a party as the guest of Richard Barnbrook, who had obtained two tickets in his capacity as the BNP’s representative on the London Assembly. However, Mr Griffin withdrew after the Greater London Authority warned Mr Barnbrook that his nomination would be reconsidered if he continued to exploit it for publicity. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, had expressed concern about Mr Griffin’s attendance.
A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace confirmed that an invitation had been issued this year. She said that Mr Griffin was eligible to nominate himself and the Palace would not discriminate against democratically elected representatives.
Searchlight, the organisation which campaigns against the BNP, said it was “bizarre” that Mr Griffin had received an invitation when his party had been soundly rejected by voters at the general election.
Claude Moraes, a Labour MEP for London, said that the move “deeply politicises and embarrasses the Queen”.
“She has been forced into an extremely difficult situation. I would expect some people to boycott the party. If people knew about this it would clearly spoil the occasion for a lot of them. It has utterly compromised the Queen and she is made to feel that she has to make a political decision.”
Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP who trounced Mr Griffin in his bid for the seat of Barking and Dagenham, said: “It sickens me that Nick Griffin uses his elected position to gain access to the Royal garden party.”
The BNP’s media spokesman refused to comment.