Activists in Huddersfield last night announced they have left the British National Party (BNP) – and compared leader Nick Griffin with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.
A group of former Kirklees Council candidates yesterday told the Examiner they had joined the English Democrats because of their “cleaner” image. Former BNP Colne Valley Parliamentary candidate Barry Fowler and ex-Heckmondwike councillor Roger Roberts issued a statement announcing their breakaway.
They said: “The BNP has been in turmoil for the last 12-plus months with the majority of active members seeking a change of leader and a new cleaner less confrontational approach to getting our ideas across.
“This has been met with contempt by leader Nick Griffin who has gone out of his way to bring the party into disrepute. He has suspended some of the best local activists simply for asking legitimate questions over finance.
“The BNP is currently well over £500,000 in debt and its submitted accounts for the last two years have been classed as poor and incomplete by the Electoral Commission. We believe it is a member’s right to ask legitimate questions about party finance, yet Mr Griffin has met people’s concerns by suspending and expelling them.
“These are not the actions of a leader of a democratic party, but that of a dictator.
“In Kirklees we have worked very hard to improve our image as a party and dispel any negative stereotypes of the party. But the BNP has been held back by Nick Griffin for so long and the new constitution, which could have been written by Mr Mugabe, ensures Mr Griffin will be leader for as long as he chooses.”
The BNP is running just four candidates in this year’s Kirklees Council election – compared with 21 last year. Rachel Firth, the party’s new organiser in south Kirklees, will stand in Denby Dale.
“In every party you get people disagreeing with things,” she said yesterday. “Quite a few of our members in south Kirklees have left. People are going their separate ways, and that’s fair enough, but I’m concentrating on the future not the past.”
Mr Fowler and Mr Roberts said most of the party’s top activists in Kirklees will join the English Democrats.
They said: “The majority of ex-candidates and local BNP officials will be taking our ideas, talents and energy into a new party. We are working to help establish a new hope for England with a party with a good clean image, good policies and sensible decent people at the heart promoting them.
“The English Democrats are a democratic party, concerned with the way English identity and culture is being eroded. But unlike the BNP, which has a terrible image, it has a very clean image and is based on promoting our way of life as opposed to the BNP’s obsession on race.”
Paul McEnhill is the only English Democrat standing in the Kirklees elections on May 5. The Denby Dale candidate welcomed the ex-BNP members yesterday.
“I’ve met Barry Fowler and Roger Roberts and they seem like decent people,” he said. “We are a broad church, we have former members from Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberals.”
But Mr McEnhill added: “We won’t just let in any Tom, Dick or Harry in off the street, new members will be vetted extremely well.”
University of Huddersfield politics lecturer Dr Andrew Mycock predicted that former BNP members may have some problems in the English Democrats.
He said yesterday: “In one sense it’s a logical move because the two parties have a very similar position in many areas like Europe and political correctness. But the English Democrats have accepted that multi-cultural Britain has some value, a view which the BNP has never held.”
VOTERS in Huddersfield have moved away from the British National Party in the past five years.
The party took one in five votes in the Kirklees Council election of 2006, gaining two seats. But by last year’s poll the BNP won just 7.6% and lost its only councillor.
Five years ago the party secured 22,914 votes – 18.5% – across the 23 wards of Kirklees. The party won in Heckmondwike and Dewsbury East, to add to the seat it took at the 2003 Heckmondwike by-election. The BNP also polled strongly in Mirfield and Cleckheaton. Robert Walker won 1,100 votes in Golcar, just 300 behind the winning Lib Dem candidate.
The BNP also performed well in the 2007 election, taking 19,891 votes, which equals 16.2%. The party failed to win any seats that year, but finished a strong second in Dewsbury East and Heckmondwike.
However, the following year the party went into steep decline, taking 15,090 votes – some 12.6% of the total.
David Exley lost his seat in Heckmondwike, finishing nearly 200 votes behind Labour. A few months later Colin Auty resigned his Dewsbury East seat after a disagreement with party leader Nick Griffin. Labour won the by-election.
Last year the BNP’s support in Kirklees slumped to just 7.6%, with the party’s only remaining councillor Roger Roberts losing his seat in Heckmondwike.
Huddersfield Daily Examiner