June 04, 2007

Architects to be asked to reveal party affiliation

Architects on the profession's ruling council are being asked to reveal whether they are members of a political party following last year's discovery that a presidential candidate was active in the far right British National party.

The move has raised concerns among some of the country's leading architects, who yesterday accused the Royal Institute of British Architects of "McCarthyism".

Riba has ruled that council members and anyone standing for election will be required to make a wide-ranging declaration of interests - including whether they are members of any political party. Last year it emerged that Riba presidential candidate Peter Phillips had been a member of the BNP for five years and had stood as council candidate.

Yesterday Jack Pringle, Riba president, said he had been planning the change for some time, adding: "It was thrown into stark relief last year when it emerged that Mr Phillips was a BNP member."

He said many of the people who had nominated him had not known he was in the BNP. The new system would not prevent anyone from standing, but would allow members to see candidates' views in a wider context. However, Riba member Colin Kerr said he was opposed the new ruling. "This is presumably a reaction [to Mr Phillips's BNP membership], but we now have something approaching McCarthyism. Are we going to see a political slate put forward in future? What happens if there's someone with terrible views who isn't a member of a party?"

Former Riba president George Ferguson said the council should not have anything to do with national politics. "I think this is a very difficult balance to strike and if this is in place it should only apply to extreme movements like the BNP ... But the problem is that although I find the BNP a repellent organisation it is not a proscribed party."


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