A former deputy chairman of the British National Party says that many party officers and staff members are “scared to say what they feel” because of the way Nick Griffin takes “every bit of criticism as a personal attack”.
Scott McLean, a BNP member for 20 years, Scottish organiser from 1990 to 2007 and deputy chairman from 2002 to 2007, condemns Griffin mismanagement and “wrong actions [that] have purged this party … of the best that we had”.
Writing in support of Eddy Butler, who is challenging Griffin for the party leadership, he declares: “Every problem I’ve seen in this party is due to the wrong people being given jobs normally because of who they are, not of what they can do. We’ve seen masses of talent get thrown out or leave the party. Ask yourself how many management people or officers are now gone because of policy disagreements? Very little. They are all gone due to mismanagement.”
Echoing Butler’s accusations over the BNP’s finances, which are born out by Searchlight’s analysis, McLean continues: “Ask yourself why the party finances are a complete shambles? Lots of money going through over the years. Misspent and thrown away on stupid misguided actions.”
McLean’s criticism of Griffin is significant not only because of his party position but also because he was one of a small group of people who organised Griffin’s takeover as party leader in 1999. McLean, who claims dubiously that he built up Scotland as the largest region in the party in the early 1990s, had recognised that John Tyndall, the party’s prime founder and former leader, was holding the party back. “His outlook was more on the past than the future,” says McLean, stopping short of admitting that the past to which Tyndall looked was a pre-1945 German one rather than anything British.
McLean identified Griffin, then not even a BNP member, as “by far the most impressive” of a few potential new leaders for the party. Griffin “took a look at the party and saw it’s [sic] potential. A short time after that he became involved,” writes McLean.
The leadership challenge came in 1999. “Modernisers in the party myself included,” explains McLean, “felt that the party was being held back by not embracing new techniques that had proved successful for our elections guru Eddy Butler. He hadn’t got the proper backing with finance and manpower when he needed it most. Nick was put forward as the candidate for change.”
McLean advised Griffin and his campaign manager Tony Lecomber, who in the 1980s had served a three year prison sentence for explosives offences and later was jailed for another three years for assaulting a Jewish teacher, to “run a clean fight”, which, he says, they did.
However “Mr Tyndall’s camp ran a dirty campaign which I didn’t expect from him. … John Tyndall thought that the BNP was his and he found out the hard way that he was only a part of the machine.”
McLean’s implication is clear: that like the pigs in Animal Farm the former “candidate for change” has now become just like the old dictator he replaced.
Butler has also won the support of Chris Roberts, the BNP’s London regional organiser, who, like McLean, claims that the party’s branches and groups have not prospered because Griffin falls out with far too many people.
He also calls for an immediate stop to non-members of the party having “a bigger and more influential say on its affairs than the members”, a reference to Jim Dowson, the convicted criminal who acts as Griffin’s right-hand man and effectively owns the BNP.
“Furthermore,” continues Roberts, “it is disgraceful to employ non-members on the payroll … it’s our activists who got BNP representatives elected in the first place and they should be put above any outsider and especially outsiders from rival parties”. Although he does not name him, his remarks are directed at Patrick Harrington, a former comrade of Griffin from his National Front “political soldier” days in the 1980s, who is now one of the leaders of the rival, though much smaller, Third Way party.
Harrington is the general secretary of the BNP’s fake trade union, the speciously named Solidarity and was recently taken onto the BNP’s payroll in a human resources role.
Roberts also has some damaging comments on the BNP’s accounts, which have failed to meet the deadline for submission to the Electoral Commissioner “when the National Treasurer has assured us that everything is in order.
“Well I know for a fact that everything is not in order,” writes Roberts. “I have spoken to members of staff who have been paid very late and to activists who have not had their print bills settled for leaflets for the last election. Stop treating the members like idiots. Tell us what the real position is so there can be a proper consensus on what to do!
“The party needs a coherent management structure that all members can understand and follow. Our accounts need to be open to members to examine so they know exactly what amounts are being received and a detailed account of what it’s being spent on. We need to get our talented people running this party efficiently utilising the undoubted skills that exist throughout our ranks. People being employed in specific areas where they are skilled, not employing people in positions of authority because the chairman thinks they are a ‘good egg’.”
Butler has until 10 August to obtain the signatures on nomination forms of 20% of the party’s 4,200 members with at least 24 months’ continuous membership. Whether he succeeds or fails, with such prominent party activists in his camp, the rifts in the BNP are set to deepen.
Sonia Gable at Hope Not Hate