For some time the apologists and political rent-boys close to the BNP's leadership have been "putting it about", as they say, that the party's income has stabilised at around £1000 per day - a preposterous and currently uncheckable figure, conjured up as being the minimum necessary to sooth the worries entertained by large parts of the remaining membership that the BNP is flirting with insolvency, if it is not insolvent in fact.
Now a membership of 14,000 - as claimed before the General Election - is, via donations, membership fees, sales etc., certainly capable of producing an income well in excess of £1000 per day, but not in any sustained manner. Members might be persuaded to dig deep and often for an election push, but that effort and enthusiasm never lasts past election day.
The trouble for the BNP is, however, that most of its claimed 14,000 members did little beyond pay an annual sub. The majority never attended meetings or made a monetary contribution. The bulk of the party's financial efforts fall on the shoulders of a far smaller number of members.
Even then, since the general election the BNP has lost thousands of (admittedly) paper or low activity members, but with them have gone substantial numbers of stalwart activists and donators, to the point that in large parts of the country the party has ceased to exist or exists in name only.
Estimating the current size of the membership, and further estimating from that the probable size and number of income streams available to the party is problematical, but we are fairly safe in assuming that the BNP's current income bears little comparison with its pre-election income, and that the foggy £1000 per day figure is a gross exaggeration.
The BNP is approaching its old annual membership renewal cycle, and would normally be looking for a substantial replenishment of its coffers, but the omens aren't good. The majority of those renewals are due from paper and fair-weather members all too well aware of the electoral catastrophe that overwhelmed the BNP in May, and perhaps dimly aware of the internal strife that has beset the party ever since. These were the first to desert the National Front in similar circumstances in 1979, while the majority of activists - I am informed by sources who were involved at the time - clung together, if in ever increasing acrimony.
While we can and frequently do compare the BNP's debacle in 2010 with that of the NF in 1979, there are important differences.
There is the lack of a hardline hardcore element loyal to an alternative potential leader, such as that which coalesced around John Tyndall. Without that determined element to support and sustain him, Tyndall's career may well have ended in 1979. And, of course, without Tyndall, that element could never have survived and gone on to found the BNP.
Much of the "moderate" element of the National Front was drawn into Andrew Fountaine's NF Constitutional Movement, which, unhappily for them, quickly went the way of all "moderate" British nationalist parties.
The situation within the BNP does not compare with that of the old National Front. The BNP has a leader who it cannot remove, and is supported by a strange and sycophantic array of hardliners, "moderates", political illiterates (Paul Morris and friends), hangers-on, dependants and chancers whose only real point of agreement is that - unfathomably - Nick Griffin must remain as the BNP's leader.
And, of course, unlike the BNP, the National Front had tangible assets, and so far as anybody is aware, never came close to going broke.
Eddy Butler, in fairness, has never portrayed himself as an alternative BNP leader, and played what might be considered a good game until that moment he accepted the rejection of his leadership nomination bid on Griffin's terms, when the ball was unnecessarily dropped and discontent set in. Though he has sat tight ever since, the same cannot be said of his supporters, who quickly began to drift away. There was no Eddy Butler "situation" in 1979.
The formation of the tiny British Freedom Party might be said to have parallels in 1979, but only as the faintest of echoes. Regionally based, led by unfamiliar names and purporting to have abandoned racism, the BFP is of only the mildest interest to anti-fascists. If we can torture a comparison with anything then it would be Anthony Reed Herbert's Leicester-based British Democratic Party - but Reed Herbert's was a well-known and respected name and his party highly active. Of course, Reed Herbert and the BDP were brought down by rogue elements, roles currently adopted in the BFP by Lee Barnes and Simon Bennett. Few seriously expect the BFP to be a long term venture.
Complicating everything is the BNP's mountain of debts and the unnecessary and ruinously expensive court cases in which it has become embroiled. Unlike the National Front, the BNP really could disappear overnight. One successful creditor demanding a substantial sum would be enough (Eddy Butler claims that two are presently "well advanced in the process of taking insolvency proceedings against the party and against Nick Griffin").
Whispers have also been reaching anti-fascist ears for some time now that the Griffinite neutrality displayed towards clam-like MEP Andrew Brons is not quite what it seems, and is of the belligerent variety. At its simplest, the BNP leadership believes that Brons should have sacked Eddy Butler (who is employed on Brons's European staff) and publicly declared his support for Griffin. Brons has not sacked Butler, and his public utterances of support for Griffin have been at best lukewarm and evasive. There is clearly more to be told here, since Brons could solve Griffin's Butler problem very quickly (if at the probable but worthwhile cost of an employment tribunal) but chooses not to do so.
On the 29th of this month the final part of the case Nick Griffin and Simon Darby brought against the December Rebels is due to be heard at Newcastle High Court. Griffin and Darby lost the first two parts of the case, and according to the remaining rebels have "tried every trick in the book" to postpone the very proceedings they instigated, which they are expected to lose, and lose at great expense to the BNP.
At the weekend rumours that Griffin would not contest the final part of the case began to surface. We cannot confirm these rumours, and in any event past form tells us to be cautious of any rumour originating with the BNP leadership, but whatever the truth, on November the 29th the BNP is very likely to pile another £50,000+ on to its frighteningly high debt mountain. We doubt that the shabbily treated Kenny and Nichola Smith, Steve Blake and Ian Dawson will be prepared to wait long to recover their costs.
The situation of the BNP makes that of the 1979 NF appear hideously uncomplicated by comparison, the great irony of it all being that the BNP's dictatorial leadership system was conceived in the fallout of the 1979 debacle and was intended to ensure that such an implosion could never happen again - yet it has proved to be the fount of so many BNP ills over the past eleven years, and at the last may prove the death of it.