The leader of the British National Party (BNP) was in South Tyneside yesterday to make a town hall protest over taxpayers’ cash being used to unmask a mystery blogger.
The Mr Monkey blog has made vile and malicious comments about councillors, South Tyneside Council officers, and other figures in the borough, which led to landmark proceedings forcing social network giant Twitter to hand over personal information – including that of Coun Ahmed Khan.
Council chiefs are insisting less than £75,000 was used to fund the fight, and plaintiffs have said that money would be paid back from any proceeds of libel action. But Nick Griffin and about 30 members of his party – one dressed in a monkey costume – were on the steps of South Shields Town Hall claiming that figure was likely to be £250,000.
Mr Griffin also made allegations about the Shields Gazette, claiming the paper had not covered the issue in depth – despite a number of front-page stories. Mr Griffin, who was in the region for a meeting, said: “I’m here today to let the South Tyneside public know exactly how their money is being spent. The council cannot sue for libel, and instead have put their legal action in the names of councillors and an employee. It’s a waste of the taxpayers’ cash, and everyone should be aware of this.
“The support we have received while standing here has been very positive.” Police were present at the demonstration, which lasted about 30 minutes, and one man was arrested for a public order offence after throwing an egg at a BNP member. The 42-year-old was later released with no further action.
However, not all passers-by realised the stunt was in connection with the online blog. A 28-year-old man said: “To be honest, I saw the BNP and then saw a man in a monkey suit. I just assumed they were being derogatory towards certain races. It wasn’t until I stood for a good few minutes and listened to what Griffin was saying that I realised it was connected to the blog, which I admit I don’t know that much about, but had heard of. I guess in a way I do see what they’re trying to achieve, because I do think it was a waste of cash, which could be spent on more worthy things. But then it’s also wrong that some people had to put up with awful things being published about themselves. It’s a tricky one.”
Gazette editor John Szymanski said: “The Gazette has continued to inform the South Tyneside public about the Monkey blog and efforts to unmask its author. We have carried in-depth and extensive coverage both in the newspaper and online about the fight to stop this blog in its tracks.
“This ludicrous publicity stunt by the BNP shows what a clearly ill-informed and misguided party it really is. Thankfully, the BNP holds little sway in South Tyneside and has very little influence with its nonsensical claims and extremist rantings.”
A police spokesman said: “Police in South Tyneside were informed about a protest and carried out the role of monitoring the situation to ensure all parties involved behaved in a lawful manner. As expected, the event was peaceful and passed smoothly.”
South Tyneside Council declined to comment.
The Shields Gazette