December 07, 2010

Decline and fall but not the far right’s end

Few will lament the BNP’s travails, says Sonia Gable. But something worse may supersede it

The British National Party came out of the European Parliamentary election in June 2009 with two MEPs, albeit by the slenderest of margins. These gains – which could have been greater, had it not been for a strong anti-fascist campaign – boosted the party’s respectability and finances, and enabled several BNP activists to move onto the European parliamentary staff payroll. They also led to an appearance on the BBC’s Question Time in October last year for BNP leader Nick Griffin and opened the possibility that the party would take control of its first council in May 2010.

Eighteen months on, the BNP is disintegrating. Party officers have been expelled and it cannot pay its bills. It has lost half its district councillors and its London Assembly member, who now sits as an independent. It is contesting few council by-elections and where it fights, it gets few votes. Members are leaving and it faces crippling legal costs if the High Court rules against the party in the action brought by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over racial discrimination in its constitution.
The BNP’s collapse is not really surprising and is the result of several factors coming together. A dysfunctional party of bigots and extremists who prefer bickering among themselves to campaigning, led by a man who cannot bear genuine democracy, reason and compromise, and whose only real skill is in political intrigue and playing off one faction against another, could only go so far. Few people with any professional ability or management skills are attracted to the party and any who have been given party positions – which are in the sole gift of Griffin – have been removed as soon as they inevitably clashed with him. Others are promoted far beyond their ability on the back of their unquestioning support for their leader.

Many members were disillusioned after the BNP’s abysmal failure in the general and council elections in May. Right up until polling day, Griffin had held out the hope of taking control of Barking and Dagenham council and winning parliamentary seats. “We stand on the brink of a massive breakthrough”, he emailed supporters on May 3.

The heightened interest in the contest between the three main parties was only partly to blame for the wipe-out of the BNP. A massive campaign by Hope Not Hate dealt a heavy blow, especially in Barking and Dagenham, where the party’s 12 councillors all lost their seats. And Griffin’s mind was not fully on the campaign, as he was preoccupied with laboriously rewriting the party constitution in an attempt to get away with minimum compliance with race relations legislation, while taking the opportunity to insert provisions to consolidate his absolute power in the party and make it near impossible to challenge his leadership. Only a fascist party would give such power to one individual.

Five weeks before the election came the shock revelation that the BNP’s head of publicity had been arrested for threatening to kill Griffin. Mark Collett, who was in charge of producing the BNP’s election literature, was also accused of “financial irregularities and scamming” and of trying to sabotage the party’s campaign. He was suspended from membership and Eddy Butler, the BNP’s national elections officer, accused of conspiring with him, was relieved of his post.

Collett, who notoriously featured in the television documentary Young, Nazi and Proud, in which he said he was inspired by images of German Nazis “sieg heiling” in the streets, was unpopular within the BNP. In accusing him of financial irregularities, Griffin was undoubtedly trying to deflect attention from his own long record of financial mismanagement that would eventually result in the party’s near bankruptcy.

Searchlight has long been on the trail of the BNP’s dodgy finances. For the past few years, BNP national treasurers have lasted only a few months in the job. In 2004, a new treasurer shredded the financial records held by his predecessor. Accounts are delivered late to the Electoral Commission. The 2009 accounts are nearly five months overdue and the 2008 accounts remain under investigation because the auditors were unable to report that they represented a “true and fair view” – a devastating verdict for any organisation.

A major issue in the rebellion within the BNP at the end of 2007 was the incompetence of the treasurer and deputy treasurer. Griffin sided with the treasurers and expelled the rebels. He also brought in James Dowson to kick life into the party’s fundraising ability. Dowson, a man with criminal convictions, who had achieved some success for a militant anti-abortion campaign, made some headway for the BNP. Although many members complained about the constant begging letters, they brought in money.

But Dowson brought with him the seeds of the BNP’s destruction. Searchlight relentlessly exposed every lie, such as the claim that the BNP had bought its own advertising lorry, the misnamed “truth truck”, which remained all the time in Dowson’s ownership. Searchlight also tracked Dowson’s takeover of the bulk of the BNP’s assets and operations, including the leases for party offices and the Belfast call centre, opened before the European elections.

Searchlight’s accusation that Dowson owned the BNP reached the ears of many BNP activists, who were already unhappy at how Dowson, who claimed not even to be a BNP member, had, in effect, become Griffin’s consigliere. Worse, he was being paid £160,000 a year for this. And faster than Dowson brought in the money, Griffin spent it – on long, drawn-out and inept legal battles, unfairly dismissing employees and deliberately provoking Unilever by using a Marmite image in a party election broadcast.

All that might have been forgiven had Griffin brought home the election goods in May. As it was, it sparked an attempt to challenge his leadership. Butler, the sacked elections officer, had no disagreements with Griffin on policy, but condemned his financial and administrative incompetence, his reckless legal actions and Dowson’s excessive power. Griffin pulled out all the stops to prevent Butler getting the almost impossibly high number of signatures needed to require a leadership election, imposing rigid procedural rules and suspending several of Butler’s supporters from party membership.

Inevitably Butler failed and was expelled. He now sits on the sidelines, promoting a new party constitution and exposing Griffin’s continued shortcomings in the belief that he can still rescue the BNP. Some of those who supported Butler’s challenge have formed a new party, the British Freedom Party, largely based in the south-west of England. Ironically, it replaced its first treasurer less than a month after his appointment. With similar policies to the BNP and no charismatic personalities, it is likely to follow the Democratic Nationalists, formed by the rebels of December 2007, into near oblivion.

The BNP continues to lose members rapidly. It has debts that even when Dowson’s fundraising was at its peak, it would have struggled to pay. These debts could cost Griffin his treasured seat in the European Parliament if he is held personally responsible for them and made bankrupt. Dowson appears to have walked out, while Griffin’s dwindling band of henchmen, who now include Patrick Harrington, an old comrade from Griffin’s days as a National Front “political soldier”, are constantly bickering with one another and jockeying for petty positions.

The BNP may limp on, as does the NF, which still insults Britain’s war dead on an annual basis by marching to the Cenotaph on the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday. Few of the BNP’s ex-supporters have joined other far-right parties. The risk is that, disillusioned with electoral politics and with a simplistic outlook on the world, they will be attracted to the English Defence League’s brand of Islamophobia and street violence, fuelled by outrageous and irresponsible daily attacks on Muslims in the right-wing gutter press.

Sonia Gable is deputy editor of Searchlight



Gary said...

An excellent photo to add to this photoless piece of 40 year old far right BNPers who joined the EDL: -

Please can you add it, Ketlan.

Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Good article from Sonia Gable. A good summary on the state of play at present.

Anonymous said...

The EDL are not a real problem. A little kettling at one of their demonstration would rupture their beer bloated bladders and that will be the last we hear of them.

Anonymous said...

I like this article but it's kinda implying that muslims cannot look after themselves & we alreay seen plenty of times how well muslim lads have done against the EDL in London, Birmingham & in Leeds

mary from dublin said...

Hi there, Ketlan,
I have just come across an expose linking the mosque arsen with the EDL.

Luke (not so) Cleverly, a Port vale football hooligan has admitted that they were friends of his that carried out this sickening race crime.

Please post this Facebook screencapture on this blog so the public will be made aware of the deadly fact that THE EDL ARE RACIAL TERRORISTS!

Hopefully the cops will break down cowardly Mister Cleverly's door in the middle of the night and bring him into his local copshop for questioning.


mary from dublin said...

With some research, unemployed racial terrorist Luke P Cleverley (20 years old, lives with his parents), does come from Stoke on Trent (although a Port Vale fan).

Here he is, telling people that he makes music, and is looking for a music producer. According to his blurb, he is a " Rapper/Singer Song Writer... From; Norton, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, England".

His dodgy Stoke (ST6) friends who he associates with are also from Stoke: "Cunnie84", "MozzaaSCFF", "MrPDotKid", and someone called "Carl Baldwin", any of whom might also be able to help the police with their enquiries.

One of his YouTube subscriptions is to a channel called "NSAryan" which is a hardcore white supremacist white power music label whose lyrics include extreme anti-semitic music (so much for the EDL loving Jewish people:

He had some tracks produced by Iron Soul productions:

He set up his own outfit called Norton Man Produxions", but this is doing nothing musically.

Just like Adolf Hitler was a failed artist, so Luke Celverley is a failed musician.

Wander is he can still make music behind bars?


Anonymous said...

I wouldn’t count the BNP out just yet; smart people only have to look at the formidable forces the party has now assembled. Patrick Harrington, the master of intrigue and subterfuge, with an enviable portfolio of high political and business achievements over the last 20 years, and Clive Jefferson, a much admired highly skilled entrepreneur and data processing specialist. Combine these awesome skills with the Walker brothers unrivalled achievements in man management and the building of political structures and you have a party administration team that others could only dream of. People need to beware of this new power house of pulsating skills, now we will watch as the BNP go into 2011 as the slickest machine ever seen in British Nationalism. Only a great leader with super vision and foresight could have pulled together such an impressive array of top flight movers and shakers, the political world will be pole axed when these unique men get going, just you lefties wait and see.

Anonymous said...

Please post this Facebook screencapture on this blog so the public will be made aware of the deadly fact that THE EDL ARE RACIAL TERRORISTS!

Can anyone explain too me how an attempted arson attack on a building is a racist attack.?????????

Anonymous said...

£400.000 or £600.000 in debt no fund-raisers, donors fed up activists in rebellion, I doubt even Sir Sugar could sort the mess out.

John West said...

"Only a great leader with super vision and foresight could have pulled together such an impressive array of top flight movers and shakers, the political world will be pole axed when these unique men get going, just you lefties wait and see".



Wander which Gri££in backside sniffer neo-Nazi troll wrote this?

Green Arrow????

Sounds like Morris's inane ramblings. don't you think, Ketlan?

Antifascist said...

'Sounds like Morris's inane ramblings. don't you think, Ketlan?'

No, I thought it was a very nicely sarcastic piece actually. :-)

ex-fascist said...

Anonymous @ 10.12

Titter ye not, just consider that when the BNP comes to power Jefferson is placed to become Chancellor of the Exchequer.