One of the British National Party’s few remaining councillors has joined the growing calls for a challenge to Nick Griffin’s leadership of the party.
Graham Partner, who holds one of the party’s two seats on North West Leicestershire District Council, says the BNP is not “being managed in an open and honest way”. Writing on his blog he comments: “I see people are being expelled for asking questions about the accounts and have to wonder what is there to hide. Therefore I conclude there is something to hide and I don’t like it.”
Drawing on his council experience, he notes: “Some good activists have been lost over recent years simply for speaking out. This is not acceptable to me either. I believe in people’s rights to challenge everything in the same way as scrutiny operates on the council. The answers are not always what we hope for but we still ask and don’t get sacked for having the nerve.”
In a reference to the widespread accusations that the party is being run for the benefit of Griffin and his “consultant”, the anti-abortion extremist Jim Dowson, Partner declares: “How can I be expected to encourage people to join, knowing that it is run as a personal empire where the members are merely a source of income.”
Partner would welcome a challenge this year to Griffin’s leadership but believes the new constitution makes it impossible. “I am totally supportive of anyone who wants to challenge for the leadership on the grounds of democracy and if Nick wins again then so be it. The constitution is a farce and designed to make it near impossible to instigate regime change. Those who voted for the current version must be deluded if they think that is democratic. What is more, I haven’t got a clue who the Founders are and would think collecting the required number of nominees as impossible.”
Party members were required to vote for the new constitution at an EGM in February under extreme pressure to settle the action brought by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over the party’s discriminatory membership conditions. If the BNP had not agreed to admit non-white members, the resulting legal proceedings might have prevented the party contesting last month’s elections.
However Griffin used the party’s desperate position to insert clauses imposing onerous requirements on anyone wanting to challenge for the leadership. Members could only vote for or against the constitution as a whole, without amendment and without even seeing these clauses, which were not presented to the meeting.
Under the new BNP constitution candidates for the chairmanship, who must be “voting members” (members of two years’ standing who fulfil activist and ideological training requirements) with at least five years’ continuous party membership, must secure the signatures of 20% of all party members with at least two years’ membership and 20% of all voting members. They must also by supported by 10% of the members attending a general meeting of the “Founders’ Association”, a body that is separate from the BNP but in which all party assets are vested. The constitution does not define the Founders’ Association but it is understood to be people who were paid-up members before the constitutional changes and are still members.
Griffin has promised to resign from the chairmanship by the beginning of 2014 to concentrate on securing his re-election to the European Parliament in June that year. Partner says: “If Nick Griffin is to step down in three years time, there will be a leadership contest anyway so let him accept a challenge now and save the Party three more years of squabbling and membership losses”.
Partner himself will not be a candidate. Apart from the fact that he does not rate himself as a speaker, is not interested in being chairman and would not want “the workload or the travelling about that Nick does”, Partner would not qualify as his party membership has lapsed. “Belfast [the BNP’s purportedly efficient call centre run by Dowson] were supposed to ring me on May 28th but failed to do so, therefore my five years continuous has been broken, ruling me out as a candidate and voter.”
Hope not hate