Disillusioned British National Party activists are ignoring most council by-elections and achieving little in the few places they do stand. In October the party fought just two by-elections, obtaining 6.2% and 2.9%.
The party did relatively better with 9.3% in a Walsall by-election on 11 November, but the following week Peter Tierney, who recently completed a sentence of 100 hours of unpaid work for a violent assault, managed only 4.7% for the BNP in Croxteth ward, Liverpool.
With little else to do, BNP activists continue to set up stalls in town centres to gather signatures for its supposed “Bring our boys home” petition, in reality the party’s autumn recruitment drive, as its leader Nick Griffin openly admitted. So far there has been no sign of the campaign moving on to its next stage, which was to include a “whirlwind tour” of the UK by the party’s misnamed “Truth Truck” advertising lorry and a mail shot to “opinion formers” with a special “Bring Our Boys Home” brochure. One can only assume that Griffin’s appeal early in October for £22,000 to fund these activities was either a sham or a failure.
Instead, the BNP leadership is busily shuffling the deck chairs before the party ship sinks and filling posts vacated by the large number of officers who have left or been pushed out. Last month Griffin, an MEP for North West England who made himself London regional organiser in August on the basis that “I pass by while on the way to Europe anyway”, appointed Steve Squire as deputy organiser in the capital.
However, Griffin accident-ally revealed his true plans on Twitter: “He’s now deputy RO but I hope to confirm him as full one in January. In meantime, treat him as being in charge”. Bob Bailey, well known drunk and failed BNP councillor, is the party’s new London elections officer.
Squire comes with an unimpressive track record. In the council elections in May he stood in Enfield Lock and came tenth out of ten candidates with 6.3%.
In the BNP’s Eastern Region Pat Richardson, the party’s last representative on Epping Forest district council, was appointed membership secretary at her first regional council meeting, which she attended with Rod “Mr Angry” Law, a Loughton town councillor.
Also in a new role is Kieren Trent as Eastern regional press officer. Trent was one of a group of BNP activists who helped Bailey attack three young Asians in Barking and Dagenham just before polling day last May. BBC video footage showed a clearly visible Trent landing blows and kicks to someone on the ground. No charges were brought.
In North Wales a new organiser and fundholder (treasurer) relaunched the party’s Wrexham branch just six months before the Welsh Assembly elections next May. In 2007 the BNP came within 2,580 votes of winning a seat in North Wales in the regional list part of the election, which is fought under proportional representation. Lack of funds and a haemorrhaging membership will make it hard for the party to improve on that result.
Meanwhile Griffin has launched yet another appeal for donations to continue his legal battle with the Equality and Human Rights Commission over whether the party had complied with a court order in March to remove racially discriminatory clauses from the party’s constitution. Griffin absented himself from a High Court hearing on 8 and 9 November after being admitted to hospital with suspected kidney stones, though recovered rapidly to join a large BNP group on a two-night trip to Belgium for Armistice Day.
His current barrister, David Reade QC, argued that there was no case for the party to answer as the court order was ambiguous. Robin Allen QC, appearing for the EHRC, accused Griffin of “simply lying” when he said he did not know the terms of the order. He described Griffin as a “persistent offender” who had repeatedly failed to comply with various orders to change the constitution.
Judgement was reserved and there will now be a further two-day hearing in December. If the BNP loses, it is likely to face crippling legal costs, adding to its debts, which are believed to be at least £600,000 so far.
It would appear, however, that Griffin has given up the fight in his failing legal action against four former BNP employees who rebelled against the party leadership in December 2007. His withdrawal from the case against Steve Blake, Kenny and Nicholla Smith and Ian Dawson is expected to leave the party with tens of thousands of pounds in legal costs. The BNP has still not paid the substantial settlement it agreed with Michaela Mackenzie in front of an Employment Tribunal in June.
One piece of better news for the beleaguered party leader is the return to the fold of Richard Edmonds. Griffin booted the veteran nazi off the BNP’s Advisory Council in summer after he revealed the huge sum – £160,000 a year – that the party was paying its unpopular management and fundraising consultant James Dowson.
Edmonds was refused entry to a BNP meeting in Dagenham, east London, in August and in September attended a “Reform Group” conference held by Eddy Butler, the unsuccessful challenger to Griffin’s leadership. But by November Edmonds was the guest speaker at a BNP meeting in Somerset where he urged: “Everyone needs to support the BNP as Britain needs it more than ever and before it’s too late”.
Griffin needs all the support he can get, even that of an old Holocaust denier, and has presumably forgiven Edmonds’s indiscretion since his own big fallout with Dowson, which has meant a rapid exit of the party’s call centre out of Belfast to Nuneaton. Griffin’s closest henchmen are constantly bickering with each other as Clive Jefferson, promoted far beyond his capabilities, struggles to carry out his myriad party roles.
Andrew Brons, Griffin’s fellow MEP, continues to employ Butler on his European Parliamentary staff, while Butler sits on the sidelines exposing and attacking Griffin’s mismanagement of the party. Brons has recently been running a “consultation” on possible changes to the BNP constitution, to which Butler has contributed at length. Brons has put forward options for “fairly modest reforms” and “more far reaching reforms”, but it is not clear whether the proposals will ever be put to the members or whether the exercise is designed only to give the appearance of democracy in the fascist party.
Although Butler maintains his belief that the BNP can be rescued from Griffin’s deathly grasp, some of his erstwhile supporters launched a new rival party at the end of October. The British Freedom Party has made no impact so far and has distinguished itself only by appointing its second national treasurer in less than a month. John Savage, about whom the BFP boasted it was “probably the first time in decades a nationalist party has a qualified accountant as its treasurer”, resigned “during the early hours” of 6 November after an intem-perate article by Lee Barnes appeared on the BFP website.
Barnes had advocated hanging Abu Hamza, whereas Savage pointed out that under British law he first had to be tried by a court and found guilty. Unlike others in the BFP who are “spellbound” by Barnes, Savage instantly recognised him for the lunatic he is.
“For some strange reason which I am unable to quite fathom,” wrote Savage, “Mr Barnes, who has never joined the British Freedom Party, seems to have a great deal of dominant influence and hold over my former colleagues in the party. However … arguing with him is like trying to push back a tornado with one’s hands. He will not give any quarter nor listen to any other viewpoint or argument other than his own …
“I regret that the British Freedom Party is not at all the party I thought I was involved with in setting up. Mr Barnes seems to have now ensconced himself so deeply into it that no other opinion is possible.”
In true fascist tradition the BFP quickly wrote Savage out of its short history. An announcement praising the appointment of its new treasurer Michelle Marshall, not an accountant but a former assistant adjutant in the Royal Air Force, made no reference to her predecessor.
Sonia Gable in Searchlight