Nick Griffin is facing a leadership challenge after the British National Party’s disastrous general election performance.
Eddy Butler, who until recently was a senior official in the far-right BNP, announced his candidacy yesterday and began to seek nominations from members. He accused Mr Griffin of an “authoritarian leadership style” that “inhibits new ideas and stifles debate”.
Mr Butler wrote on his blog: “Funding has dried up. Our financial liabilities are mounting. Inquiries to the party from the public have plummeted. Our electoral progress has all but halted. Our activist base has lost its enthusiasm.
“After 11 long years Nick has accumulated a massive amount of baggage which makes him less popular with the public than the party.”
Mr Griffin announced last month that he would step down in 2013 to concentrate on his European Parliament re-election campaign. The decision was widely seen as an attempt to avoid an immediate challenge, amid growing internal criticism about the party’s performance in the election.
The BNP failed to win any parliamentary seats, notably the key target seat of Barking, East London, where Mr Griffin was relegated to third place and trailed Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP, by 18,000 votes. The party also lost all but two of its council seats across the country.
Mr Butler said: “We do not have the luxury of waiting for several years before the current chairman feels it is time to leave. In bringing the party forward Nick has become more of a public liability than an asset.”
Mr Butler, prominent in nationalist politics since the 1980s, was the BNP’s campaign co-ordinator until March, when he was dismissed by Mr Griffin. For a leadership election to take place he must be nominated by 20 per cent of those who have been members of the party for two years. If he succeeds, the campaign will take place over the summer and a postal ballot held in October.
Mr Griffin will try to persuade members that he is the best person for the leadership because of his national recognition. This week The Times reported that he had been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace, owing to his position as an MEP.
A contest would be a bitter one. A website purporting to “expose” Mr Butler has already been formed by Mr Griffin’s supporters. Mr Griffin saw off a challenge in 2007 and also faced a plot by dissidents to overthrow him during the recent election campaign.
The BNP has been plagued by internal turmoil. Members have questioned why Mr Griffin performed so badly given the party’s increased media exposure after the European Parliament breakthrough last year and an appearance on the BBC’s Question Time.
The party did not respond to inquiries from The Times.