Does the British National Party’s leader have a death wish? Nick Griffin has widely been accused of being incompetent or distracted by his role as an MEP, but increasingly members are wondering whether he is destroying the party deliberately.
The party has suffered a run of very poor by-election results since last May, but it is Griffin’s damaging appointments to senior party positions that are causing hitherto loyal supporters finally to desert him and the party’s regional bases to disintegrate.
Just when the BNP’s Yorkshire region should have been throwing everything into the Barnsley Central by-election campaign on 3 March, members were left confused and disillusioned by Griffin’s imposition of Ian Kitchen as the Yorkshire regional organiser and Simon Goodricke, who served an 18-month prison sentence for perverting the course of justice by tipping off fraudsters while a West Midlands Police detective constable, as his deputy.
Inevitably, it did not take long for Kitchen’s wife Linda, who has stood as a BNP candidate and addresses party meetings, to attract the interest of the media – specifically the Sunday Sport – for her starring role in a hard-core porn film.
Nobody doubted that Griffin had been fully aware of her “outside interests” when he replaced the popular Chris Beverley with Mr Kitchen, who brings little organisational ability to the job. Even more embarrassing was that he appointed the couple to organise this summer’s Red, White and Blue so-called family festival this summer.
Even when the Sunday Sport turned the party into a laughing stock, Griffin stuck by the Kitchens and instead suspended the respected Yorkshire activist Nick Cass for committing the sin of inviting party members to a “special private meeting” to discuss Kitchen’s appointment and the party’s dire financial state. It took a full five days for the BNP to announce that the Kitchens had “laid down all their roles in the party with immediate effect”, leaving Adam Walker, the BNP’s national organiser, to assume charge of the Barnsley campaign.
According to Cass, party members in Yorkshire are “leaving in their droves” and “fed up of being treated like skivvies whilst the leadership offers no explanation for the party’s current financial mess and lack of meaningful leadership”.
Barnsley Central contains several wards in which the BNP has polled 20-31% in recent years and in Enis Dalton the party has a local candidate without any known skeletons in her cupboard. After the BNP’s disastrous showing in the Oldham by-election in January, Griffin tried desperately to concoct excuses and blame others. He now seems to be going all out to achieve a similar failure in Barnsley.
Another region where Griffin appears to be scuppering the BNP’s chances is Wales, which faces Welsh Assembly elections in May. In 2007 the BNP took almost 5% of the vote and nearly got a candidate elected in the regional list section of the election, which is fought under proportional representation.
The ‘liar’ and the thug
Differences between BNP members in Wales came to a head at the BNP’s annual organisers’ meeting in Stoke-on-Trent on 12 February. Kevin Edwards, a Llandybie community councillor and Pembrokeshire party organiser, had tendered his resignation from the party the previous Monday after being inundated with calls from “distraught ex and current members” angry at the conviction of a BNP member for a vicious assault at a working men’s club before Christmas.
The assault was not the first time that Roger Phillips had shown his thuggish nature. Last year he posted death threats against Baroness Uddin on Facebook and in December 2009 he made an expletive-filled telephone call threatening to kill a man who posted an anti-BNP video on YouTube. His Patriot Products business sold racist merchandise including golliwog badges with the names and colours of Premier League football clubs and his Facebook photos included one of a cornflakes box with an open-mouthed black minstrel and the doctored logo “Coon flakes”.
Edwards drew all this to Griffin’s attention, describing Phillips as “unstable” and “a ticking bomb”, who has set the BNP back years in Wales. Griffin replied: “He’s got to go. I’m shocked that this was not dealt with in South Wales ages ago”. Relieved, Edwards withdrew his resignation.
Yet when Edwards turned up at the organisers’ meeting Brian Mahoney, the Wales regional organiser and Griffin loyalist, informed him that the party’s Advisory Council had met the previous night and decided that nothing was to be done about Phillips. If the press broke the story a few days before polling day, “then let them do it”, said Mahoney.
This “shattered” Edwards’s belief in Griffin’s “integrity and honesty”. Resigning again, Edwards explained: “Nick is either a blatant liar, politically naïve or just listens to some very bad advise [sic]”.
Edwards is not the only key activist to leave recently. In the North West region, where Griffin sits as an MEP, James Clayton, one of the party’s new younger activists, resigned as Blackpool organiser and West Lancashire coordinator, saying he no longer wished “to hold a position of responsibility in the charade and financial Bermuda Triangle that is the BNP”.
Paul Morris, the Eastern regional organiser, also resigned apparently unable to cope with the job. According to Eddy Butler, who was expelled from the BNP last year after challenging Griffin for the leadership, no BNP meetings or activities have taken place since the general election in Epping Forest, Morris’s own area, where the BNP once had six councillors now down to one. In the entire region there are “only a couple of functioning units now”, says Butler, compared to about 25 before the general election.
Admittedly Morris suffered under the handicap of sharing the same name as a prolific Welsh blogger who posts under the name “Green Arrow”. That Paul Morris has also become disillusioned with the BNP after a long period of sycophantic belief that the party could do no wrong. His hero-worship of Griffin was mostly not reciprocated – Griffin regarded him with contempt – though on one occasion, desperate for all the support he could get, Griffin invited him to speak at a Red, White and Blue festival and was filmed shaking his hand.
Edwards’s resignation and the Kitchen porn scandal resulted in Morris withdrawing his website’s unconditional support for the BNP, though not his belief that there is no better person than Griffin to lead the party, it is only Griffin’s incompetent advisers who are the problem.
Chronic waste and chaos
But Griffin has gone out of his way to appoint unsuitable people to senior party positions. The moronic Clive Jefferson was in quick succession given the jobs of north west regional organiser, national elections officer, national organiser, national nominating officer and party treasurer, as well as retaining his job on Griffin’s constituency staff paid for by the European Parliament. Even the most capable person could not have done all those jobs properly.
Jefferson in effect controls the BNP together with Patrick Harrington, who is not a BNP member but a leader of a rival party. He appears to have performed little better than Jefferson. According to Paul Golding, who resigned as the BNP’s communications officer last autumn but remains a BNP councillor, six months after Harrington’s appointment as party manager, “we still have chronic wastage, staff chaos, inefficiency, no contracts (a legal requirement), no staff training and wages not paid and several NEW employment-related court cases looming. Several staff are even complaining that they are employed but haven’t got any work to do.”
Golding also castigated the party’s failure to make any effort at fighting by-elections. Instead, explains Golding, Griffin has been “completely taken in by the promises and fantasies” of Jefferson, who promoted the “grand dream” of catching up with the mainstream parties’ “amazing online electioneering databases”. That was why Griffin told Golding he was not bothered to fight elections until the new system, named Alfred, came online to solve all the party’s electoral problems.
Griffin has said that would take two years, and no doubt several fundraising appeals, while providing a ready excuse for numerous electoral failures. But, according to Golding, instead of turning to reputable experts to develop a suitable elections database, the BNP “hired an amateur IT guy who downloaded a free piece of software off Google and began to bodge/edit it”.
Golding reveals that “the IT projects manager brought in to make Alfred work has walked away stating it will never work (and hasn’t been paid his wages in the process), so Alfred has been quietly shelved”, leaving the BNP with no election capability at all.
Griffin has said his main aim is to get re-elected as an MEP, yet he has also spoken of turning the BNP into a “civil rights” movement and abandoning elections. The next European election is in 2014 and Griffin may just be using it as an excuse to do nothing much for the next three years, by which time little will remain of his party. Either that or Griffin believes incredibly that people really will vote for him because of his participation in a parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg about which voters know and care little and BNP activists even less.
Thanks to Sonia Gable at Seachlight