The British National Party (BNP) is being taken to court by its creditors including a North- East printing firm which is owed thousands.
The far-right party’s central office owes the Newton Press, in County Durham, about £16,500 for printing its newspaper, Freedom. It is understood the firm is one of several UK firms taking the BNP to court in an action headed by an as yet unnamed solicitor. The £16,500 has been described as loose change compared to the overall figure being sought from the party, which is allegedly £500,000 in debt.
Party leader Nick Griffin is expected to meet North-East organisers in County Durham today, where he will face tough questions over the party’s finances.
As a political party the BNP is an unincorporated association which cannot technically be declared bankrupt. However, creditors could hold Mr Griffin personally liable along with party members who entered into contracts.
Freedom’s former editor, Martin Wingfield, said he enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the Newton Press for about two years until he stepped down, in July last year. But, when asked about the recent debt, he said: “I understand the case is going to court, so at present, I cannot comment further.”
The BNP’s money woes were highlighted recently when a letter purporting to be from the party’s head office offered creditors 20p for every pound of debt. It was dismissed by some members as a fake, but the BNP’s former North-East organiser, Ken Booth, said it was genuine. He said party members in the North-East were disgusted to learn of the 20p in a pound offer and he had fought for the Newton Press to be paid. In contrast to the national position, Mr Booth said the North- East office has always operated on a pay-as-you-go basis and as such had no debts.
Mr Booth, who was removed from his post by Mr Griffin when he threatened to raise the debts issue, said: “It goes against the BNP’s core principle of local jobs for local people. As far as I can see this is a decent North-East firm that has done a good job and deserves to be paid and I don’t know why it hasn’t been. Central party is £500,000 in debt but it’s on a record turnover of £2.3m. No one is accusing anyone of stealing money, it’s just mismanagement. The general consensus of the members in the North-East is that Nick Griffin should shoulder the responsibility and step down.”
The Newton Press, which publishes the community newsletter, Newton News, declined to comment.
BNP central office spokesman John Walker said: “We could not comment on matters which are internal to the party and the businesses we deal with.”