May 31, 2008

Rotten Borough?

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The following article is taken from the popular and respected West Midland The Stirrer website. We're reproducing it to stimulate debate amongst our own visitors and supporters on the reasons for the apparent electoral growth of the BNP in isolated areas like Stoke-on-Trent and its continuing decline in other parts of the country.

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Professor Mick Temple sends a despatch from his Potteries homeland, where the BNP have made serious electoral inroads, and have promised to use the high profile manslaughter of one of their members as a rallying cry. All this and a highly critical report of their local council too.

The British media have turned their gaze towards Stoke-on-Trent this week. And their spotlight, superficial or not, has apparently revealed that there is something rotten in the state of the Potteries.

The recent electoral success of the BNP led to a major article in the Guardian, calling Stoke the city that ‘embraced’ the BNP.

A manslaughter trial with racist overtones – BNP leader Nick Griffin attended the funeral and the victim’s coffin was carried by BNP members – offered further evidence of serious racial problems in the city.

And the Local Government Commission’s highly critical report on Stoke’s politics was a serious indictment of the way the council has been run and on the behaviour of the mainstream political parties. Their failure to work together and their failure to engage the public were posited as contributing factors to the rise of extremist politics and the BNP’s success in winning nine council seats.

All this negativity is in danger of damping down the city’s euphoria since Stoke City won promotion to the Premiership – and the feel-good factor has been felt by everyone, even including those who support Burslem’s football team.

Much more importantly, it is contributing to the widely held view of Stoke as a rotten place to live, rife with sub-standard housing, low-paid jobs and racist attitudes.

Stoke-on-Trent does not deserve this reputation. I’ve lived in many places, abroad and in England. And I’ve never lived anywhere where I have felt more welcome, safe and ‘at home’.

The city has been badly run. It does have some social problems – especially low levels of educational achievement by comparison with similar cities. But – and despite the BNP’s success – the city is no more racist than any other. Our streets are not teeming with racial tensions.

The problems of poor housing, schooling and employment prospects mean that some sections of the population feel undervalued and disenfranchised. Traditional rulers Labour have failed to respond in any meaningful manner – the BNP’s pavement politics have been rewarded with electoral success in traditional white working-class areas, from a population which wants to protest against Labour and has nowhere else to go.

Elected mayor Mark Meredith’s initial response to the criticisms and recommendations of the Local Government Commission’s report – essentially, that was the past, we’ve improved so much now, this report does not describe the current situation - does not fill one with confidence that the shrinking Labour group will be able to re-establish themselves as the natural party of government in Stoke.

And the consequences of that failure for Stoke could be more BNP gains and even perhaps victory in a future mayoral election. That really would be a disaster for a city that deserves so much better.

The Stirrer

How the BNP shamefully tried to create a 'white martyr' for their own grubby ends

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A film about the death of Keith Brown was posted on YouTube this week. It begins with a hearse arriving at St Batholomew's church in Stoke.

On one side of the coffin is a wreath which spells KEITH, on the other DADDY. Mr Brown was a father of seven. He was 52 when he was fatally stabbed outside his home last year. It would be difficult to imagine more emotional footage.

Among the mourners at his funeral is a middle-aged man in black suit and tie. When he begins to speak to the camera his eyes well-up: 'It's a very sad day, almost unbearable being there with the little kids,' he says, his eyes full of tears.

The tears - crocodile tears, some might think - belong to Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, who barely knew Keith Brown, if indeed they met at all.

Mr Griffin and his cronies have been accused of hijacking Mr Brown's funeral - and his death. BNP members were pallbearers. They laid a floral tribute depicting the flag of St George (something else they have hijacked).

They were also responsible for the internet broadcast courtesy of 'BNPtv'; the party now has its own specialist camera crews precisely for such occasions.

Standing outside the church, moments after the service has ended, Mr Griffin tells his online audience: 'I loathe not so much his killers as the police and authorities in this city who let down his family. They knew something like this was going to happen.

'His family, and Keith himself, was subjected to a reign of terror by the racist neighbours and their gang friends and the authorities did nothing about it. These people I loathe . . . when it's English, white victims, they simply don't care.'

Spin, even political spin, is one thing, outright lies quite another. Anyone - aside from the BNP - who was at Stafford Crown Court for the trial of Keith Brown's killer this week would be in little doubt into which category Mr Griffin's comments fell.

Keith Brown, the court heard, was not a 'white martyr,' but had a history of violence. The man in the dock, on the other hand, was a community leader who had never been in trouble before. He also happened to be Mr Brown's next-door neighbour and a Muslim.

The long-running dispute which finally ended in Mr Brown's death, however, was about property boundaries and building work, not race and politics. And Habib Khan, 50, was convicted of manslaughter, not racially motivated murder.

The truth is shocking only if you view the BNP in the same way as you might other political parties, that is, constrained by basic decency, and forget that it was founded in the early Eighties following splits in the far-Right National Front.

Many remain convinced that the BNP has the same relationship with the shaven-headed thugs who made up the NF, as Sinn Fein did with the bombers of the IRA.

It's easy to forget about the skinheads (lurking in the shadows or in the background at funerals) in Cambridge-educated Nick Griffin's besuited BNP.

And in a Britain plagued with knife and gun crime, and legitimate concerns over immigration, there has been an increasingly receptive audience for the BNP's message, not just in predominantly poor, white, working-class areas of the North, but also in the more affluent South-East.

Today the BNP has 56 local councillors, a net gain of ten in the recent local elections (with parish and community councils, it claims 100 elected representatives across the country) including Richard Barnbrook, the first BNP member to win a seat on the London Assembly.

In Stoke-on-Trent where the tragedy - and travesty - of Keith Brown was played out, the BNP now has nine councillors, perhaps the strongest single party in the city. On May 1, Labour polled 14,000 votes in 20 seats, the BNP polled almost 8,000, standing in just ten seats.

A minority Labour administration struggles on with the support of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats (both smaller than the BNP) and independents. But senior local politicians believe the BNP could be running the Town Hall within three years.

To put that deeply disturbing prospect into perspective, just 12 years ago, Labour won all 60 seats on this new unitary authority.

Around 8 per cent of Stoke's 240,000 population is from the Asian and black community, but some believe the city's white working class has become an underclass.

The statistics are alarming. Officially, of course, unemployment has fallen, but more residents claim incapacity and disability benefits which has resulted in Stoke having one of the lowest proportions of people in work in England and Wales.

This is the economic background to the rise of the BNP in the city.

Michael Tappin, the former Labour group leader and ex-Stoke MEP, was one of those who lost his council seat a few weeks ago.

'The men and women of the BNP look like your neighbours,' he says. 'They are not 25st men with bodypiercings and tattoos as portrayed by anti-fascist demonstrators. They are respectable. It's hard to demonise them. The wear suits. They look tidy. They pick up old ladies when they fall over in the street, shop for the elderly and cut people's lawns.

'It's like that old saying about Mussolini - "At least he made the trains run on time." Here, it's "At least they get your grass cut.'' '

Alby Walker, the BNP group leader on the council, turns up for regular bingo sessions at a local community centre, where he helps put the tables out and take the money.

And, yes, he says he gets 'birthday cards off 80-year-old ladies'.

Mr Walker is a businessman who runs a small joinery firm and whose wife, Ellie, a school governor, has also been elected as a BNP councillor. Mr Walker wears pinstripe suits and fat ties.

One of the BNP leaflets he is most proud of features Hanley - one of the Five Towns which originally made up Stoke-on-Trent. 'Hanley 70 years ago,' it reads above nostalgic photographs of the church tower and smiling housewives.

Below, next to silhouettes of mosques and women with their faces shrouded in niqabs, is the question: 'Is this what you want for our city centre?'

He insists the BNP is not guilty of 'exploiting the situation,' neither in Hanley nor in the Longton South ward where Keith Brown lived and died. How, then, did a row between two neighbours become a cause celebre for the glib-tongued bigots of the BNP?

Neither of the families involved in the bitter feud were at home when the Mail called on them last night.

In fact, neighbours believe both the Browns and the Khans have now moved out of the street and are not sure if, or when, they will return. Contrary to what the BNP might want you to believe, Keith Brown and Habib Khan were not always mortal enemies.

The two, we have learned, once worked alongside each other - without any problems - for the same tiling company.

The former colleagues were reacquainted with each other in 2001 when Mr Khan expressed an interest in buying two semi-detached houses next door to Mr Brown. Mr Brown told Mr Khan to give him his details and he would pass them on to the owner.

He did so, and the transaction went through. Race never seemed to be an issue between the two men - at least not until the BNP got involved. By now, Mr Khan was a successful businessman in his own right (he ran a kebab shop) and was a Muslim elder.

Mr Brown was unemployed with a record of violence stretching back to his 20s. In 2000, the year before Mr Khan entered his life again, he was convicted of punching a man in the face.

The dispute which would eventually prove fatal started, as such rows often do, when Mr Khan applied for planning permission to carry out home improvements - in this case to convert his newly acquired properties into a single grand villa.

Mr Brown tried everything he could to stop him. During construction work, after the plans were approved, Mr Brown and his 20-year-old son Ashley took sledgehammers to the newly-built property next door.

Mr Brown was convicted of criminal damage, but appealed. When the prosecution failed to tell witnesses about the appeal hearing, a judge overturned the conviction. If he hadn't, Mr Brown might still be alive today. Instead, he went back on the offensive.

On one occasion, Mr Brown blocked the access road between their houses with vehicles and tyres. Eventually, he turned to the local authority for assistance and was introduced to Steve Batkin, then the sole BNP member on Stoke Council.

Did 'race' begin to rear its head in the dispute after this meeting?

The Khans, in statements made to the police, claimed they were called 'Pakis' by the Browns and that their windows were smashed every other day. They were also, it is alleged, subjected to death threats.

'The past four years I've been living in hell,' Mr Khan told the court.

Relations reached breaking point on July 6 last year. Mr Khan was in the kitchen when his daughter shouted to him that Mr Brown was trying to kill her brother, Azir. Mr Khan grabbed a knife and went outside to find Mr Brown holding his son in a headlock. He tapped him on the shoulder. Mr Brown, the jury was told, turned and mouthed: 'I'll kill him.'

Mr Khan said that he pressed the knife against Mr Brown's back so he could feel the blade, intending to scare him. But Mr Brown fell, pushing the blade in further.

As his neighbour struggled to his knees, Mr Khan removed the knife from his back. 'I have never seen blood like that in my life,' he said. But he insisted: 'I swear on my life had no intention of killing him.'

The jury believed him. Mr Khan was unanimously cleared of murder, but convicted of manslaughter. Sentencing has been adjourned.

Clearly Mr Khan's actions were entirely wrong and cannot be condoned for a moment. Mr Brown's killing was a shocking and criminal waste of life. Nevertheless, the BNP is now using the incident in its campaign literature with a cynicism that beggars belief.

An article posted on the official BNP website is called: Racist Murder in Britain - The Shocking Truth. 'An epidemic of anti-white racist violence and murder is being covered up by the government, the police and the media,' it claims.

The fate of Mr Brown, it alleges, was a prime example of this.

'So convinced were Mr Brown's family that the murder was racially motivated that they invited six of Stoke's BNP councillors to be pallbearers at Keith's funeral.'

No mention here of how a nonracial dispute seemed to have escalated only after Mr Brown's contact with the BNP.

But the party's Alby Walker is unrepentant. 'The system has let Keith down and justice has not been served. Justice in this country depends solely on the colour of your skin - if you are white you don't get justice.

'If Keith had killed Khan in the same circumstances I believe he would be facing years behind bars for murder and would not have got away with manslaughter. There seems a reluctance among the police to upset the Muslim community.

'They are terrified of a race riot in Stoke, but I don't think we are on the verge of that.' Despite, many feel, the best efforts of the BNP.

What was it Nick Griffin said at Keith Brown's funeral? Ah yes: 'It's a very sad day, almost unbearable' . . . but not, it might be argued, for the BNP, which so cynically turned the event into a party political broadcast.

Daily Mail

May 30, 2008

TU Certification Office investigating Solidarity

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Some time ago we were made aware that the trades union Certification Officer was at last actively investigating several complaints made against the BNP/Patrick Harrington version of the fake union, Solidarity.

The complaints were made by members of the original, official Solidarity Executive, sidelined by Harrington and Nick Griffin when the union was effectively hi-jacked last year, and more recent complaints have been made by supporters of the Unity and allied websites who were concerned that the Certification Officer might be tempted to avoid involvement, given the complexity of the case presented and the veritable viper-pit of personalities involved.

The website of the Certification Officer now carries the following notice:

On 22 May 2008 the Certification Officer appointed Gerard Walker, Assistant Certification Officer, as an Inspector to investigate the financial affairs of the trade union Solidarity. The appointment was made under Section 37B of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. The Inspector's terms of reference are to investigate the financial affairs of the trade union Solidarity between 1 November 2005 and 24 November 2007; as regards;

a. the production of receipts for expenditure,

b. the operation of the Solidarity Paypal account,

c. withdrawals from the Solidarity HSBC current account on 20 and 25 September 2007 and a transfer to the Solidarity HSBC current account from the Solidarity HSBC Money Manager Account on 20 September 2007,

d. cheques cashed from the Solidarity HSBC current account between 18 January 2007 and 4 June 2007,

e. payments made to Mr Patrick Harrington from the Solidarity HSBC current account between 1 February 2007 and 1 May 2007,

f. the freezing of the Solidarity HSBC Current Account and Business Money Manager Account in 2007,

g. the opening of a Bank of Scotland account in the name of Solidarity in 2007,

h. the appointment of Accentuate PR Company by Solidarity in 2007,

i. the appointment of the auditors of Solidarity's accounts for the years ending 31 December 2006 and 31 December 2007 and

j. any other matter, with the consent of the Certification Officer, indicating a financial irregularity within the description set out in section 37B(2) of the 1992 Act that may come to light during the investigation of (a) to (i) above.

The terms of reference exclude the Inspector from reaching any conclusion on the legal issues arising out of the unresolved dispute within Solidarity about the application of its rules to its governance, the resolution of which requires either internal agreement or judicial determination.
The final paragraph is a clear enough statement that the Certification Officer intends to make no judgement or ruling on the legality or otherwise of the Harrington takeover, and so, whatever the outcome of this investigation into the financial affairs of Solidarity, the fake union will remain in the hands of Harrington and the BNP - unless the official Executive have the wherewithal to take the matter to law.

We do not expect them to do so, but we can state that in the unlikely event of control of the union being returned to them, then the official Executive intend to liquidate Solidarity due to the taint of its association with the BNP and Harrington - though this had not previously been a concern to Solidarity's leaders.

On the rarely visited website maintained by the hi-jacked version of Solidarity, Harrington republishes the investigation schedule, adding:

We keep an open-mind as regards the motivation of the Certification Office. It is possible that they are a neutral party simply responding professionally to a series of malicious (and potentially defamatory) allegations. We caution any third party from making unfounded or premature statements regarding this matter.

It is a very strange thing indeed that the supposed General Secretary of a supposed trade union only thinks it "possible" that the Certification Office is a "neutral party", as if he had no idea what the Certification Office existed for. Note, too, the clear threat in the final sentence, obviously intended for our eyes.

Harrington ends: "Members can rest assured that we will deal with this matter in a businesslike fashion and our services will continue to be delivered as normal."

Exactly what these "services" are is open to question, since our contacts within the Harrington/BNP Solidarity have seen very little of service and very much of waffle and grandiose promise for their £5 per month.

Solidarity has clearly failed.

As we have seen in past articles, it is very far from being the "One Big Union" of Harrington's vaulting aspirations, having only 211 members (allegedly), and having stirred little interest among the BNP membership at which it aims itself. Its annual conference was a tawdry hole and corner affair hedged about with tight security, and attended by only 27 members - almost a third of those sitting on the Executive platform.

Its much-promoted May Day activities boiled down to some desultory leafleting at two distant locations by a tiny number of members (four, we believe) armed with scruffy hand-made placards.

And, of course, it has taken on only one case since its inception, that of sacked teacher Mark Walker, a BNP man advised by the useless "fighting union" to find himself a lawyer specialising in employment law.

As there really is no beginning to the successes of the Harrington/BNP Solidarity, and as we're in danger of repeating old and all too familiar news, we'll leave it there.

At this time we have no idea of the probable timescale of Gerard Walker's investigation into Solidarity's finances, or even whether Mr Walker intends either to interview the main protagonists or to accept their written submissions, but we'll bring news of the outcome as soon as we have it.

May 29, 2008

Daily Telegraph Part Deux

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This article was submitted by one of our readers, Hexapla. We welcome any contributions from our supporters (as long as those contributions conform to the law and are in reasonably good taste). Please send your articles to us via email.

BNP candidate boasts of fighting Britain and about his pro-Nazi and slave-owning family

Daily Telegraph Part Deux

Many people have been outraged by The Daily Telegraph providing the BNP’s only London Assembly member, the Mein Kampf-reading Richard Barnbrook, his own blog in their My Telegraph section.

However, Richard Barnbrook isn’t the only BNP acolyte with his very own Daily Telegraph blog. Carlos Cortiglia, a BNP member who stood as a BNP London Assembly candidate in 2004, has had his own Daily Telegraph blog for roughly a year. Proudly boasting on his Daily Telegraph blog that “I am a BNP supporter”, Carlos Cortiglia’s blog sometimes reads as an online BNP propaganda sheet crowned with the seeming legitimacy of the Daily Telegraph masterhead. And, Carlos Coriglia’s writing activities don’t stop here. Quite recently, in an article for the London website of the BNP, Carlo Coriglia told us of his attendance at a meeting of the notorious anti-Jewish Croydon branch of the BNP.

Fighting against Britain, support for the Nazis during World War 2 and slave owning

In an interview with The Nation newspaper about Argentinean immigrants to England (though he was born in Uruguay) , Carlos Cortiglia admits to volunteering to fight for the Argentinean military dictatorship against Britain during the Falklands war. We provide Carlos Cortiglia’s original Spanish interview with the English translation:

Original from here.

“Soy argentine oriental, o dicho de otro modo, uruguayo de nacimiento, y me siento muy ligado emocionalmente a la Republica Argentina. En 1982 me ofreci como voluntario par ir a las Islas Malvinas”.


"I am Argentine East, in other words, Uruguayan by birth, and I feel very emotionally linked to Argentina. In 1982 I volunteered to go to the Falkland Islands”.

So, here we have Carlos Cortiglia admitting in his own words that he fought against Britain. So, why is he in the UK as a BNP member, writer and past candidate? In 1982 Argentina was under the tight grip of a fascist-supporting military dictatorship. Desperate to shore up its nationalist credentials, the military junta invaded the British Falkland Islands, claiming them as Argentinean territory. 258 British soldiers and sailors lost their lives in the recapture of the Falkland Islands. Another 777 British soldiers and sailors were wounded, some of whom died of their injuries after the war. Yet the BNP fielded Carlos Cortiglia as a candidate for the London Assembly and to this very day permits him membership of the BNP. If it is true that Carlos Cortiglia fought against British forces, then there is the possibility that Carlos Cortiglia killed British soldiers and sailors. This aside, Carlos Cortiglia would have been involved in the illegal armed occupation of British sovereign territory.

Not only this, but Carlos Cortiglia tells us how his family in Uruguay supported the Nazis during World War 2 in their fight against Britain and that his family owned slaves! He further recounts how he met in the 1970s former Nazi officers, including SS commanders in Montevideo, Uruguay. This is one hell of a BNP member!

The mind of Carlos Cortiglia

And, we have some interesting snippets from the mind of Carlos Cortiglia as it pours out of his Daily Telegraph blog. He tells us that the attack on the Stephen Lawrence building (named after the Black teenager Stephen Lawrence, murdered in a racist attack by a pro-BNP gang) was a “prank”. Claiming to be a Catholic, he accuses the Church of England of being “a backwards organisation”. He also accuses British Hindus of “inbreeding”. Not only this, but incredibly Carlos Cortiglia argues for the racist re-colonialisation of Africa, arguing that “Africa would be much better off under European rule” (I guess this is why his family owned slaves!). He also seems to have a latent anti-American streak, peppering one of his postings with terms such as “American stupidity” and “American incompetence”. Further, many of his postings are obsessed with the British government and media being involved in some great anti-Russian conspiracy (interestingly, he questions the genetic relevance of Anglo-Saxon identity, which will no doubt get Carlos Cortiglia into a lot of trouble with his BNP mates). In another posting he complains that, given his name, people mistake him for an Italian or Spaniard, not recognising that he comes from a White Uruguayan/Argentinean background).

Join the campaign!

Anti-fascists have launched a campaign to get The Daily Telegraph to stop hosting Richard Barnbrook’s racist BNP blog. We urge that this campaign be expanded to removing Carlos Cortiglia’s BNP blog also hosted by The Daily Telegraph.

Some of us are trying to put pressure on The Daily Telegraph to reconsider. You can join that campaign by emailing your protest to, or the Letters page at joining the Facebook group and spreading the word about the Telegraph's irresponsible behaviour.

¡No Pasarán!

See also here and here.

Good cash return for the absent councillors

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Poor attendance means that some councillors are raking in more than £1,600 for every council meeting they attend. Some have only been to six meetings since last May. When that is divided by their annual £9,810 allowance, it works out at £1,635 a time.

The situation has got so bad that the council's Remuneration Panel is looking at steps to recoup part of the allowance from persistent absentees. The panel has asked officers to look at the legality of imposing a 'claw-back' system during the 2009/10 council year.

Figures obtained by the Post show that the worst non-attendee was Jamie Jarvis, BNP member for Village ward. Of 27 meetings he was required to attend he showed up for just seven - a ratio of 26 per cent, and a payout of £1,401 per meeting. Cllr Jarvis was not available for comment when the Post tried to contact him.

BNP members, Ronald Doncaster and Darren Tuffs, both Parsloes Ward, and Tracey Lansdown, Goresbrook, all attended only six meetings over the year.

Cllr Tuffs told the Post: "A lot of the reason is that I run my own business, and don't always know what I'm going to be doing during the day. I would have to apologise to my constituents. I do try and get to the meetings, but various circumstances stop me. I go to my surgeries every month; I never miss one of those. And when I get queries I sort them out."

Cllr Lansdown said she had been unable to attend meetings because of a serious illness to a close family member.

There are eight councillors who attended less than 50 per cent of their meetings. But this includes Valence Ward Labour councillor, Don Hemmett, who was hospitalised for nine weeks after suffering a severe stroke.

Sandra Doncaster, BNP for Valence, attended eight meetings, a ratio of 44 per cent; while the BNP's candidate for Mayor, Christine Knight, Mayesbrook, went to 13, a ratio of 45 per cent. Jeffrey Steed, BNP for Eastbury, attended 21 meetings, which works out at 44 per cent.

He said: "It's down to work commitments. I work on the railways, and I'm on nights at the moment. It's not stopped me from doing the work that needs to be done in the community."

Bob Little, Labour for Eastbrook and member of the Executive, attended 20 meetings, a ratio of 49 per cent. He said: "I've got a very big executive portfolio, and I'm also chairman of the Broadway Theatre. I do a minimum of three meetings a week, which do not show up on the figures."

Cllr Richard Barnbrook, leader of the BNP group, told last week's annual Assembly that he accepted responsibility for his councillors who failed to make the 50 per cent target:

"I appreciate that my own councillors don't have great attendance" he said.

Barking and Dagenham Post

'The Feeling that the Führer Was my Uncle'

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She spent 20 years as a leading member of Germany's neo-Nazi scene, but then decided to quit and changed her identity. Katja Wolf [not her real name] tells SPIEGEL ONLINE about how she grew into a world of far-right ideology, and how she now fears revenge for turning her back on it.

The woman is sitting on a bench in the park. There's hardly anyone about. She's wearing the white woollen hat and sunglasses to hide her identity. She feels like she is being pursued. "If my former comrades get hold of me my life might be in danger. My children would probably get kidnapped."

Katja Wolf spent 20 years in the uppermost echelons of Germany's neo-Nazi scene. She agreed to talk to us on condition that we don't reveal her true name or describe what she looks like. The meeting was arranged by an intermediary.

She can remember every detail about the day she escaped. It was a warm morning in early May 2005. The sky above her farm was cloudless and blue, she had sold the horses and had the pigs slaughtered a few days earlier. Now everything was quiet.

"I was getting more nervous with every passing minute," Katja recalls. "The moving truck was hours late. While my children and I waited for it, police were searching the house of my ex-husband." Katja had filed a police complaint against her former husband, the former regional chairman of the far-right Free German Workers' Party (FAP), and now time was running out. "I wondered who would arrive first at the farm," she says. "The moving van or neo-Nazis seeking revenge."

'The Feeling that the Führer Was my Uncle'

She speaks softly and exudes calm. "You could say I was born a neo-Nazi," she says. She was brought up mainly by her grandfather who had fought in the German army in World War II. "As an old veteran of the Wehrmacht he described the war to me in bright colors. He spent hours telling me why the Jews are evil and how to recognize them."

But her grandfather didn't just talk. "Sometimes I had to go on hill walks with him with a heavy rucksack. He drove me on until my feet bled." And he kept telling her about the war. "After I while I had the feeling that the Führer was my uncle."

At 13 she was wearing Doc Martens boots and a bomber jacket. The back of her head was shaved and she distributed swastika stickers in her school. And she was a member of the neo-Nazi youth group "Viking youth," which was later banned. When she was 16 she shouted at her female religion teacher in class: "You Jew, I'm not going to let you teach me!"

"An endless anger was burning in me," she remembers. "I felt I had to carry on my grandfather's fight."

After he classroom outburst Katja was expelled from the school. Her mother put her in a children's home but she ran away from it. "I climbed over the high wall of the home at dusk." Her comrades were waiting for her in a car. "As we drove off I knew there was no going back."

"I kept changing apartments every few day. People I'd never met before would put me up. Sometimes it was pensioners, sometimes it was young couples who walked around in Nazi uniforms all day long."

Plans for the Fourth Reich

She entered a secluded far-right existence removed from the outside world. On Hitler's birthday she and her comrades would celebrate by reading out passages from "Mein Kampf" and toast the Führer with sparkling wine. She married her husband, the man she fled from in 2005, on Hitler's birthday. They had several children together, and received money from their neo-Nazi group for each child they bore. They called it "litter premiums", says Katja.

Katja quickly ascended through the ranks of various organisations in the far right scene including the FAP and the National Democratic Party. She knew Holger Apfel, deputy chairman of the NPD and Udo Pastörs, head of the NPD's parliamentary group in the parliament of the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. "I would coordinate stunts with them, organize demonstrations, forge plans for the Fourth Reich," says Katja.

But the higher she rose, the more she started to have doubts. Cracks started to appear in her hermetically sealed off world. Ideology and reality started to drift ever further apart.

"On the one hand I didn't like the violence. On the other, I thought that many of my comrades weren't politically consistent enough. They would mouth off in front of the cameras and then quietly go to the office the next day." She said she never understood that approach. "I lived according to the motto: If you're bothering to do it, then do it right. Even if that sounds wrong today."

There was something else that drove Katja out of the neo-Nazi scene. The violence of her husband, who had a criminal record. "He beat me black and blue," she says. "He also injured the children. Once he even burned our daughter's skin."

Fanaticism, Violence and Schizophrenia

When he wasn't beating her or the children he would increasingly shut himself off. "He would speak to no one for weeks, not even to his comrades. He would just sit there watching films about the Third Reich and TV reports about suicide attacks."

Bernd Wagner, who helps people quit the far-right scene, says this behaviour is typical. "Many neo-Nazis realize that something's wrong about their view of the world. To get rid of this feeling they close themselves off from the rest of the world." They blank out everything that doesn't fit in with their ideology. The constant suppressions of feelings and thought often lead to "fanaticism, violence and schizophrenia," says Wagner.

He says many right-wing extremists sooner or later reach a point at which they want to quit. "But many don't do it because they're afraid of being pursued or punished." To help them overcome that fear Wagner and former neo-Nazi leader Ingo Hasselbach formed an organisation called Exit Deutschland which helps neo-Nazis get out of the scene.

They say they have helped more than 300 right-wing extremists to abandon neo-Nazism and start new lives over the last eight years. Katja Wolf is their most prominent dropout.

It was almost midday when the moving van finally arrived. "I knew I would lose everything by dropping out. Friends. Family. My ideology." She fled to a town in eastern Germany located between Dresden and Pirna, a region with an above-average proportion of neo-Nazis. "I thought my pursuers would least expect me to be living among them," she says. But the plan didn't work and she soon realized that her family was in danger. "I found out that my former comrades were looking for me," she says. "They called all kinds of government offices to try to find me."

Even though she was being hunted she held a news conference six months after she fled to explain why she had dropped out. The state-run organisation that was helping her at the time, called AussteigerhilfeRechts, criticized her move. "Frau Wolf didn't heed advice or stick to agreements," Georg Wessling, spokesman for the organisation, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "She sought publicity even though that put the measures taken to protect her at risk."

'You'll Only Die Exhausted'

Katja says the authorities weren't doing enough to hide her identity. While she argued with them, the neo-Nazis continued their hunt and eventually found out where she lived. Her ex-husband was the first to let her know she'd been found. He wrote her a letter.

Katja doesn't want to say what the letter said. But she said the contents largely match an article he published in the Internet shortly afterwards, and which SPIEGEL ONLINE has seen. In that article he indirectly refers to Katja as a "treacherous pig" who was now helping the domestic intelligence which "criminalizes, provokes, sows discord, buys and sells people, misinforms, corrupts, harasses and destroys families."

He indirectly threatened Katja in the article. He wrote that he wasn't interested in "physical attacks against his wife" because they would hit his children. But he said that he hoped the "traitors will one day be brought before a Reich court and get their deserved punishment."

Her husband's message had an effect. "People watched our house, photographed me and followed me," she says. No one ever assaulted her though. "They knew that I'm in touch with the authorities and the media." But she described the stalking as "intolerable psychological terror."

New threats kept appearing in the Internet. One read: "Don't try to run away, you'll only die exhausted."

The family moved again, and Katja again appealed to the media. "The work I did to help Nazi dropout programs and other initiatives against the far right didn't make our flight any easier," she says. "But there was no other way. It was may way of dealing with the past."

She kept on running for three years before her pursuers lost the trail. Today the family is relatively safe. "As safe as a 'treacherous pig' can ever be," she says.

Her children are gradually adjusting to normal life. "The older ones are preparing for jobs. With the smaller ones I'm happy that they can go grow up without pressure, duress or violence." They have the chance to shake off the dark past of their family.

Spiegel Online

FBI shuts down Czech neo-Nazi group web site

1 Comment (s)
Blood and Honour operated on American server

The FBI has shut down a Web site operated by a Czech neo-Nazi group for having terrorist content, Hospodářské noviny wrote on Wednesday.

Czech police had been trying for years to convince the U.S. authorities to shut down the Web site. Until now, they had had no success, due to America's liberal communications laws.

"Due to the freedom of speech laws, these Web sites are not considered to be illegal in the United States," said František Valeš who monitors the sites for the Czech Helsinki Committee.

European neo-Nazi groups often post their Web sites on servers in the United States and other countries where media laws are more liberal. In Europe, Nazi propaganda is against the law. Now, however, the Czech branch of the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour has made it onto the FBI's list of terrorist organizations, and the FBI has shut down the site.

Blood and Honour is an international neo-Nazi organization founded in the 1980s in London by Ian Stuart Donaldson, the lead singer of the skinhead band Screwdriver. Its aim, in addition to disseminating Nazi propaganda, is to make money to fund the movement through concerts and CDs.

"There were instructions on the manufacture of weapons and links to Combat 18," said the Karel Kuchařík, the head of the Czech police section on criminal communications. Combat 18 is the militant wing of the movement; the numbers refer to the initials of Adolf Hitler.

"We repeatedly asked the American police to give us information about the Web site administrators," Kuchačík said, adding that the Czechs found out the site had been blocked during routine monitoring – Americans had not bothered to inform them of the measure.

Czech police arrested the leaders of the Blood and Honour movement in 1999, and Jaroslav Brož, the head of the Plzeň branch was sentenced to four years in jail for distributing hate propaganda.

The FBI shut down the Polish Blood and Honour Web site two years ago.

The Prague Post

Jewish group condemns award to former Nazi doctor

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Germany's top Jewish organization on Tuesday condemned a medical organization's decision to bestow its top honor on a prominent physician who was once a member of the SS and the Nazi party.

Dr. Hans-Joachim Sewering, 92, was one of four physicians honored with the top award of the Professional Association of German Internists, known as the BDI, on March 30. Der Spiegel magazine publicized the tribute in this week's edition, noting that in 1933 Sewering joined the SS, a paramilitary organization loyal to Nazi ideology. He joined the Nazi party a year later.

"This is absolutely the wrong signal and it's a scandal," said Stephan Kramer, general secretary of Germany's Central Council of Jews.

He said Sewering's Nazi past was well known _ having led him in 1993 to publicly decline the presidency of the World Medical Association. The World Jewish Congress had threatened to lead a boycott of the international association.

The BDI, which has some 25,000 members, issued a statement defending its decision and saying that Sewering had been investigated by German prosecutors and was never charged.

An investigation by Munich prosecutors into Sewering, "who has never denied that he joined the SS and the NSDAP (Nazi party) as a young man ... was closed in 1993," the organization said.

In a statement, BDI President Wolfgang Wesiack said that Sewering made decades-long contributions to the "freedom of the medical profession" in Germany and the national health service. That statement made no mention of his Nazi-era past, but noted that the elderly doctor was not able to attend the award ceremony.

When the controversy surrounding his past came up in 1993 with his election as president to the World Medical Association, Sewering did not dispute his involvement with the Nazis.

But he denied a further accusation that in 1943 he had knowingly approved the transfer of a 14-year-old mentally retarded girl to a place where she was killed under the Nazis' euthanasia program.

Sewering asserted that the Nazis had stopped the killing of the mentally retarded in 1941. He said the Roman Catholic nuns at the clinic where he worked would not have agreed to the transfer if the girl was to be killed.

A year later, the United States put Sewering on their "watch-list" of possible Nazi criminals, barring the prominent doctor from entering the country. The Bavarian justice ministry, however, noted amid further accusations in 1995 that prosecutors had investigated Sewering and found no grounds for any criminal charges.

Still, Kramer said that Sewering's membership alone in the SS and Nazi party should have been reason enough for the BDI not to honor him.

"It shows a certain mentality and a certain attraction to the Nazis _ it is more than someone who just floated with the crowd," Kramer said.

Fox News

National March Against Fascism and Racism

2 Comment (s)
Stop the Fascist BNP

March and carnival parade against fascism and racism including floats with top artists performing, marching & samba bands and trade union & student union banners.

Saturday 21st June 2008
Assemble: 12 noon, Tooley Street, London SE1
(behind Greater London Assembly building, near Tower Bridge, nearest underground stn London Bridge).

March to Trafalgar Square, W1

Called by Love Music Hate Racism and Unite Against Fascism, supported by trade unions and other organisations.

In the wake of the election of the fascist British National Party's Richard Barnbrook to the London Assembly and of more BNP councillors in other parts of the country, we will show once again that anti-fascists are the majority.

On Saturday 21st June there will be a national demonstration and carnival parade against fascism and racism in London celebrating the diversity of our society and making it clear that racism and fascist organisations like the BNP will not be tolerated. There will be a march and carnival parade, with floats, marching bands, speakers and banners from every organisation opposed the BNP's racist hate.

Join this march and celebration of diversity, let's oppose the fascist BNP.

The Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) Carnival at the end of April showed the mass multicultural audience opposed to racism and fascism and now is the time for the Carnival to hit the streets and for delegations from scores of organisations opposed to the BNP's racist hate to come join in marching in unity against hate and division.

Please come along and bring your friends and family, union banners welcome.

You can download posters and leaflets for the march here.

For further information or to get involved or put on a float,
call Unite Against Fascism on 020 7833 4916
or Love Music Hate Racism on 020 7801 2781

May 28, 2008

Nine years of vision and vermin

29 Comment (s)

It's been nine long years since Nick Griffin unseated John Tyndall as BNP leader in what can fairly be described as the only relatively honest leadership election (in purely mechanical terms) the BNP ever held. And it's only ever held two.

Naturally, neither man was entirely honest in how they conducted their campaigns, and still less honest with their respective supporters as to their future intentions - but of the two only Nicholas Griffin was presented with the opportunity to demonstrate the fact, and upon winning lost very little time in giving the BNP a hefty dose of the control freakery and paranoia he had once administered to the National Front, the same which sent that organisation into terminal decline.

What is striking at this remove is John Tyndall's magnaminity in allowing the then recently arrived Griffin's 1999 challenge, to the point of permitting Griffin the full use of BNP structures and mechanisms even as the six-month campaign quickly descended into a long series of visceral dog-fights. It is, after all, John Tyndall who we see pictured in Nazi uniform, not the alleged "moderniser" Nick Griffin.

In 1999 Griffin claimed to be running an "open and honest" leadership challenge based on "positive ideas for the future", calling himself the candidate with "flair and vision". This certainly struck a chord with the BNP's newer members, and even appealed to some hardline BNP veterans all too aware of Tyndall's advancing years and of the tiredness of his leadership.

It did, however, obscure Griffin's woeful record in the National Front, where he spent much of his time engaged in factional activities, seemed to view political positions as expendable commodities, and was even then the subject of much disquiet in the matter of finance.

Griffin passed himself off as the BNP's "unity candidate", threatening that a Tyndall win would "lead inevitably to a most disastrous split" (presumably Griffin would be the leader of this putative split) - words that would earn anybody in today's Griffinite BNP instant expulsion. There were also dire warnings of purges ahead at the hands of Tyndall, while, "in happy contrast", Nick's "mature, level-headed and fundamentally decent approach" would restore unity and stability to the BNP. There would be "not one single expulsion" if Nick were to assume the leadership - "No cronysim, no favouritism, no grudges" he promised.

History tells a very different story.

One of Nick's first "positive ideas" as leader was to ensure that no challenger would ever again have the scope or freedom to campaign as he had done, and there began the first of a series of changes to the BNP constitution that should have rung loud alarm bells among those who had taken Griffin at his word

People like convinced Griffin supporters Steve and Sharron Edwards, who, within a year of Griffin's assumption of the leadership found themselves asking some searching questions about the new man's financial probity and as a result became victims of paranoic accusations that were the pretext for expelling them from the party.

They were among the first, and many legally dubious expulsions have passed under the BNP bridge since then.

That first proof that Griffin the BNP leader preserved exactly the same frame of mind as Griffin the National Front chairman (and author of the insane and infamous "Attempted Murder" pamphlet), gave wider currency to Tyndallite grumbling and opened the eyes of many early Griffin loyalists, few of whom have remained in place, due either to being cast aside as their usefulness to Griffin came to an end, were purged, or grew disillusioned.

The problem was that the only person capable of mounting a credible challenge against Griffin was John Tyndall, at the time subject to a campaign of vilification for that very reason - but Tyndall, with his Nazi past and barely reconstructed views, was anathema even to those Griffinites who had come to loath their leader.

Tyndall's death removed the biggest thorn in Griffin's side, and there has since been no other personality within the BNP who stands out even remotely as likely leadership material - not that a personality likely to present a future threat to Griffin will ever have the chance to stand out, as Jonathon Bowden discovered last summer.

Had the BNP not begun to experience its first real electoral successes as disaffection with Griffin began to rise then it quite likely that the party would have descended into vicious faction-fighting, which might have been the end of the extreme-Right for a decade or more. But election success - albeit localised - did come, and Griffin was quick to take the credit.

BNP members - more like the "sheeple" they despise than they care to believe - were happy to go along with him, and in so doing were prepared to overlook their leader's less savoury character traits and blind themselves to the stark evidence that the BNP was increasingly beginning to look like what Martin Webster christened "the Griffin Family Business".

Of course there are many reasons for the BNP's initial spurt of electoral success, none of them much at all to do with Nicholas Griffin.

It might be argued that the best election agent the BNP ever had was Blairism and its apparent (if not intentional) attempts to disconnect itself from its core electorate - an electorate unlikely, especially in the northern towns where the first BNP gains came, to find any merit in voting for the then divided and demoralised Tories, or the Liberal Democrats. We must add in to that the 2001 Oldham riots, and the fact (much as it grieves us to say it) that in certain areas of strength the BNP did have capable organisers who ran intelligent, competent local campaigns with which Nick Griffin had no connection at all.

Further gains followed, of course, and Nick identified himself with every success, to the point where many BNP members really did (and still do) believe that without the guiding hand of Griffin the BNP would have achieved nothing at all.

This is utter nonsense. If there were any truth to it at all then the BNP would have achieved comparable results to those it obtained in places like Oldham and Burnley over the remainder of the country. Save for some small pockets where the circumstances outlined above pertained, it did nothing of the kind - but Nick was never eager to take the credit for that.

The probable truth is that finding himself the leader of the most electorally successful British racist party to date came as of much as a surprise to Griffin as it did to anybody else. Even so, Griffin seemed fixed on undermining "his" achievement by continuing the ludicrous (and legally expensive) hunt for John Tyndall's scalp, the unending litany of expulsions and proscriptions, and was quite prepared to wreck the BNP in its strongest electoral areas (Burnley being the textbook case) if he smelled the least whiff of personal disloyalty.

To many, even the BNP's enemies, these seemed like the actions of a demagogue more interested in preserving his hide than those of a man possessed of "flair and vision" with "positive ideas for the future".

Tyndall died, and the BNP's then electoral high point came and went, Griffin and his leadership team reduced to promising breathroughs to come.

Last year, as we all remember, along with the BNP itself we expected the party to add to its tally of 49 sitting councillors at the 2007 local elections. Everything seemed set fair for them to do so. We gritted our teeth, the racists prepared to crow - but early into the election night results it was clear who would be doing the crowing, and it wasn't the BNP.

The next morning we wrote:

The BNP's march to power turned into a cul-de-sac of indifference yesterday, with the racist party failing to make any impression in the English local elections.

Predicting at least a doubling of their 49 councillors, a devastated BNP finds its tally (at the time of writing) remains 49. Though the BNP did pick up seats it lost the same number, making no net gains. Of the nine BNP councillors up for re-election only one successfully defended his seat.

Claiming "mixed results" in an attempt to hide an electoral calamity from its shell-shocked members, there was no real disguising of the BNP's utter failure over large swathes of the country. The party's fortunes stalled and went into reverse in areas where its hopes were high, notably Sandwell and Birmingham, where thousands of votes were lost. Votes in cities such as Coventry were barely improved over those obtained thirty years ago by the National Front. In an effort to distract attention from the Birmingham debacle, the BNP is focussing attention on the fact that it gained more votes than the renegade Sharon Ebanks and her tiny number of New Nationalist Party candidates.

Griffin did not rush to identify himself with this particular set of results, nor did he attempt to explain why, when - by its own assessment - conditions had never been better for the BNP, all that could be reported was abject failure.

Of course, Griffin had other concerns by then, the lacklustre leadership challenge of Chris Jackson assuming a new and threatening importance in the light of the appalling election results, which challenge had to be hamstrung (as it was) before any damage to Griffin's position was done.

The paranoid sequel to Jackson's challenge was well enough reported here and is fresh enough in our minds not to bear a full re-telling, save to recall Griffin's infamously insane "vermin", "thieves" and "liars" blog diatribe, backed up by an equally hysterical and inventive four page spread in the BNP's "Identity" magazine - and, naturally, the purging and proscribing quickly followed.

Post the 2007 locals, the BNP continued to fight in by-elections, where it could concentrate its resources in pursuit of the best possible showing. Their results were lamentable - though there were areas, the East Midlands and adjacent districts being salient cases, where the party could produce a good first-time vote. Unfortunately for them, where the party's performance could be measured against previous outings in the same ward, their vote invariably fell.

Seeking a crumb of comfort, the party was overjoyed to retain a seat in Loughton, making a great deal of fuss over this "achievement" - and going to great lengths to silence wiser voices which pointed out that the BNP vote had fallen by a notable 5% and that the seat had been retained by a margin of 20 votes against a candidate who did not belong to one of the major parties. To say, as some did, that this was no small cause for concern was to invite attack as a "troublemaker", a "splitter", an "anti-BNP Red" and all the usual epithets beloved of the Griffinite BNP.

All that mattered was that the seat had been retained, and to hell with any unwelcome analysis - thank you, Nick!

They were to pay for this self-deluding complacency.

Ignoring for now the damp squib of the BNP's Decembrist revolt, the BNP began mustering its electoral troops early for the 2008 locals. As was clear from their numerous blogs and their posts on their usual internet hang-outs, they had worked themselves up for a real breakthrough.

This was going to be their year - they could feel it in their bones.

We couldn't. Everything we'd seen and recorded of BNP performances over the past year told us that though some gains were likely, nothing much was going to change and the established picture of electoral stagnation and reverse would continue.

For once, the BNP leadership cultivated a healthy restraint in its predictions, even inventing the meaningless spin-phrase "quiet revolution" to explain the BNP's snail's pace growth (or lack thereof) to a potentially restive membership. And there was a distinct air of unreality in the lead up to election day.

What struck us was the idiotic claim made by BNP deputy chairman and Griffin cheerleader Simon Darby that he had made a "breakthrough" by sealing a deal with the Pensioners Party whereby that party would recommend its members and supporters to vote BNP. The only fly in the ointment was that the PP had a total of six members, was completely unknown and without influence, and its leadership seemed to be unaware of any deal with the BNP. Members of other parties might have resented this cynical attempt to con them, but, all too typically, the BNP sheeple seemed more outraged that the con had been exposed.

Unreality continued as virtually powerless parish councillors became equated in Griffinite BNP spin with district councillors, an exercise designed purely to push up the total number of BNP "councillors" gained and to prove to an all too gullible membership of how well things were progressing for the BNP - proof in itself that the BNP's leadership had no great expectations for the 2008 locals. Several non-political parish council seats fell unopposed into the hands of the BNP, each "gain" being proudly reported on the BNP website.

It was so much whistling in the dark.

The BNP gained a grand total of ten "real" councillors, and its vote in its own heartlands fell, frequently by considerable margins.

Nick Griffin did not rush to bask in the reflected glory of this particular success, and though many BNP members still regurgitate the Griffinite smoke-and-mirrors line that something remarkable happened on May 1st, it is apparent that hard reality is finally beginning to bite for some of their number.

The plain fact, which they cannot ignore, is that by its own lights electoral conditions were never better for the BNP than they were on May 1st. A long serious of immigration controversies preceded the elections, some in the same week, there was the 40th anniversary of Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech, falling together with the BBC "White Season" series, and the party frequently received completely uncritical press coverage. They themselves were reporting on ecstatic doorstep receptions for their canvassers.

And still Nick Griffin could deliver only 10 extra councillors from the 612 seats fought by the BNP.

Following the locals we had to wait 24 hours for the results of the London Mayoral race and the GLA elections - 24 hours in which Griffin must have prayed for a miracle. At all events, the BNP's spinmeisters began to play down expectations (and with good reason), uncertain whether they would gain anything at all.

Disaster seemed to beckon for what party apparatchniks were calling the BNP's finest campaign, but finally the much-hyped Richard Barnbrook scraped a GLA seat with 5.4%.

In the wake of this apparent "landmark" victory, as they touted it, the BNP seemed oblivious to the fact that 30 years ago the more honestly racist National Front averaged pretty much the same vote and better over large swathes of London. The truth is that the BNP should have achieved election on 7-8% of the vote if there was to be any credibility to their claim of "progress". They did not.

Again Nick Griffin failed to deliver.

After nine years of Nick Griffin's "vision and flair", in the most favourable circumstances imaginable, the BNP still manages a miserable grand total of 55 (real) local councillors and one elected (just) member of the GLA.

This is not a record that would wash in any political party other than the BNP.

To sum up the nine years of Nick Griffin's leadership, then, there has been, from the beginning and ever since, a long series of legally challengable expulsions of those who either cast doubt on Griffin's financial management of the party or who were deemed a threat to his position. There has been a ruthless willingness to wreck the BNP in its own areas of strength for no better reason than that members in those areas felt their loyalties to the party over-rode any presumed loyalty to a man they did not trust or in who they lacked confidence. In short, there has been continual internal strife since 1999.

If the incessant amendments to the BNP's risible constitution were not enough to make Nick feel safe, then, as some of you will be aware, the party has issued "Activist Declaration" forms - the only case we know of in British politics where ordinary members of a political party are being forced to swear something not a million miles removed from the Nazi oath of allegiance, and at the same time to give themselves as hostage to fortune to whatever constitutional changes Griffin chooses to enact.

Clearly a trap is being loaded, since: "I agree to abide by the British National Party’s Constitution and any amendments made to it under the provisions of the Constitution".

Those signing this (Barnsian?) document, especially those closely allied with Griffin's internal opponents, may as well hand the man a loaded gun and wait to be shot the moment the inevitable constitutional amendments are made.

It can have no other purpose.

Perhaps the sudden appearance of this scurrilous document can be best explained by the fact that elections for the European parliament are now a year away, and if there is one thing we know Griffin longs to do it is to bag his ticket on the Euro gravy-train.

To that end he has already deposed Chris Jackson as North-west Regional Organiser in favour of himself, and parachuted himself in as the BNP's number one candidate in the region. We also saw, when a general election seemed but weeks away last autumn, that Griffin's overarching concern was to preserve BNP finances for the Euro elections - strange behaviour for a British "national" party.

You or I might think a good general election performance would be of more lasting benefit to the BNP than Griffin's flying off to Strasbourg and the riches of an MEP on the back of a tiny vote in north-west England, but the BNP have convinced themselves that this is the way forward - failing to notice that a similar exercise has done the UKIP no good at all, and never really asking themselves exactly what a lone BNP representative in Europe is going to achieve for the party.

However that may be, with the prize now in sight the Griffin Family Business must be protected from hostile takeover, and we can't help but to think that the "Activist Declaration" form is a large and sinister part of that protection.

In perspective, then: in nine years Nick Griffin has taken the BNP from nowhere to next to nowhere. In the most favourable conditions ever to exist in which a racialist and nationalist party could expect to grow, the BNP under Griffin has remained stunted, its membership numbering well under 10,000, despite the regular repetition of the lie that hundreds join every week.

It remains electorally moribund, and where it has met with success it has done so despite the turbulent Griffin, not because of him. His record is, by any measure, lamentable, nine years of effort and eye-watering expenditure on the part of the BNP producing a paltry crop of 55 local councillors who all too often are not up to the job and all too prone to find themselves confronted with past indiscretions.

That Griffin has managed for so long to pass off his leadership as a story of unparalleled success is an achievement of sorts, we suppose, but we on our side of the fence really do thank our stars that the BNP chose to land itself with the most divisive and incompetent leader ever to grace the stage of the far-Right in Britain.

"Flair and vision"? It seems more like stuff and nonsense to us.

Mass lobby, June 10th, Amber Valley Council

3 Comment (s)
Derbyshire and Notts anti-fascists accuse Amber Valley council officials of not listening

Today, anti-fascists activists have announced their intention to lobby en masse the meeting of Amber Valley Council that is to discuss the licensing of a BNP festival to be held in Codnor/Denby later in the year. At 7pm on Tuesday 10th June a panel of councillors will decide at Ripley Town Hall whether the BNP gets a drink and music license essential to the holding of the event. Anti-fascist campaigners will be protesting in the square outside the Town Hall from 6pm onwards that evening.

Dave Matthews of Nottinghamshire Stop the BNP campaign claimed that they expect a high turnout to lobby the meeting of Amber Valley councillors meeting. Similar claims have been made by Derby Unite against Fascism.

The lobby follows representations by campaigners and numerous trade unions throughout the region. Notts Stop the BNP claim that there is anger that representations made by themselves as well as by regional and local bodies of trade unions such as UNISON and UCU were ignored by the Council. Despite having had to name members in Amber Valley who have expressed their concern about the licensing of an event known to attract violent people, campaigners say that the Council has refused to listen to those objections.

‘It appears that the Council isn’t interested in the views of union members who are local residents’ claimed Dave Matthews, ‘despite the fact that this festival, especially if licensed with drink and music, will pose a threat to public order throughout the area.’

What has also angered the anti-fascist campaigners is the report that one of the councillors, Lewis Allesbrook, who is to sit on the panel deciding when the license for the event is granted, is one of the 2 recently-elected BNP councillors on Amber Valley Council. ‘The BNP having a final say on whether a license is to be granted, whilst local residents are shut out from registering complaints, makes the whole process a joke’, Dave Matthews added.

If the BNP’s festival goes ahead, plans are already afoot to organise a mass demonstration in the area. Already the campaign initiated by the Notts anti-BNP campaign along with Derby Unite against Fascism has been backed by many trade unions and trade union councils both in the East Midlands and from as far away as London. Organisers say that the counter-demonstration may well attract thousands of protesters. The likely required police operation would be likely to cost in the order of hundreds of thousands of pounds as well as seriously impacting on transport in the area.

Local anti-fascist campaigns and trade unions have demanded that all their objections should be passed onto the panel of Amber Valley councillors considering whether the event will go ahead. They say that Amber Valley council should listen to all the concerns of local residents and not just those filtered by the council’s principal solicitor.

Stop the BNP’s Red White and Blue Festival

Barnbrook shunned by London's youth

5 Comment (s)
The British National Party's most powerful serving politician was stood up today by 100 young people he had arranged to meet at City Hall.

Last Sunday Richard Barnbrook visited Sidcup to recruit young people affected by the murder of Robert Knox. After returning from the visit he wrote on his Telegraph hosted blog that:

'I have invited all of the young people there to come down to City Hall this Tuesday for 9:30 in the morning. This knife crime has to be stopped. If I have to bring a 100 young people into Boris's office then that is what I will do.'

Yet as I stood waiting for the legions of Nazi youth to turn up, it soon became clear that nobody had taken him up on the offer. In fact from when I arrived at just before 9.00 until when I left at just after 10.00, not a single young person came to join Barnbrook and his aides outside City Hall.

Because the BNP have boasted that Barnbrook's election is the latest step of a 'quiet revolution' that will bring them to power. But as I saw Dick shuffle silently back into City Hall, it became clear that this quiet revolution had just got that little bit quieter.

The Tory Troll

Labour's lost ground

2 Comment (s)
Stoke-on-Trent used to be a Labour stronghold, but now it has nine BNP councillors. Some fear that the far-right party could be running the town hall by 2011. Patrick Barkham reports on how the left is losing the battle for white working-class votes

Up the hill, past trimmed privet hedges and rows of interwar semis is Bentilee neighbourhood centre. Opened last year, the £10m building has panoramic views of Stoke-on-Trent and sparkles in the sun. At its front is a bustling butcher, baker and small supermarket. Behind is a library, doctor's surgery, dentist, community centre, youth service and "one-stop shop" for every kind of environmental and housing inquiry. Without the Labour-led city council and its private finance initiative-funded project, the Bentilee estate would still have its shabby old shopping precinct. But this glittering building, the new nursery down the road, immaculate streets and a 39% fall in crime on the estate do not fill many residents with joy and appreciation.

"They haven't just let me down. They've broken my heart," says John Oldcroft, sitting outside the centre. "Stoke-on-Trent has been Labour for 60-odd years and they've taken everything for granted. Labour are just turning into Conservatives. We've got a local BNP lad who lives on the estate and he came and had a word."

Oldcroft voted for the BNP this month, and the far-right party now has nine representatives on Stoke-on-Trent council, including all three representatives elected from Bentilee's ward. Three gains in the May election gave the BNP their second largest council group in the country, after Barking and Dagenham's 12 councillors. Stoke City's promotion to the football Premier League has spread a feelgood factor across the city but there is also foreboding: it is not just the BNP talking up its prospects of power. Labour activists fear the BNP is now the strongest single party in Stoke. On May 1, Labour polled 14,000 votes in 20 seats; the BNP polled almost 8,000 standing in just 10 seats. A minority Labour administration struggles on; the council chamber is fragmented by independents and neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats are bigger than the BNP. Senior local politicians, commentators and residents believe this city of 250,000 could be controlled by the BNP within three years. How has Stoke got here?

Like the other large estates that have become far-right strongholds in Stoke, Bentilee residents are overwhelmingly white. Census records show just 1.9% of the population is from black and ethnic minority communities. Nearly 50% of Bentilee's residents don't work; most, like Oldcroft, are "on the sick", as locals say. He has a visibly painful back complaint, but is more concerned about housing. His 24-year-old daughter lives at home and is still waiting for a council house. Immigrants, he claims, always seem to get set up with houses. "You can't park your car and there are arguments here and arguments there. We'll soon be like Bradford. People have got to listen to our views."

Oldcroft's concerns are voiced by plenty of residents but they are not supported by the facts: in June last year, just 2.7% of council tenants on the Bentilee estate described themselves as from a black or ethnic minority background. The BNP, however, is listening keenly to these complaints. Later that day, Alby Walker, the BNP group leader on the council, turns up for his regular bingo session at the nearby Abbey Hulton community centre. "I'm not a bingo fan myself. You go along and help put the tables out and take the money. It could be described as a surgery because everyone knows we'll be there," he says.

Walker is articulate but not a demagogue, a businessman who runs a small joinery firm and a family man whose wife, Ellie, a school governor, has also been elected as a BNP councillor. Above him in the BNP's high-ceilinged room in city hall, is an election poster that reads: "People like you, voting BNP."

Apart from calling Labour councillors "scruffy" - he wears a pinstripe suit and fat tie - Walker's favourite piece of vocabulary (to the Guardian, anyway) is "community champions". The BNP's councillors "are good hardworking grassroots councillors who are real community champions", he says. Other parties are "scaremongering" about the BNP, he says. "All the old lads say to me, 'We're disgusted. How can they say that about you and Ellie? You're such lovely people.'"

Walker likes to talk about all the things he has done for local people since he was elected in 2005. "I'm getting birthday cards off 80-year-old ladies," he says. There is no BNP army - they cobbled together 40 activists for the local election campaign - and it is hard to find anyone in local politics who believes the BNP are performing constructively or effectively in Stoke's council chamber. But even their political opponents agree that the BNP councillors are busily visible in their local areas. "The BNP have gone into the communities, they've listened to what people said and they've engaged with them in ways Labour haven't for years," says Mick Temple, professor of politics and journalism at Stafford University.

"The men and women of the BNP look like your neighbours," says Michael Tappin, the former Labour group leader and ex-Stoke MEP who lost his council seat on May 1. "They are not the mythical 25st men with body-piercings and tattoos as portrayed by antifascist demonstrators. They are respectable. It's impossible to demonise them. They wear suits, they look tidy." As Tappin says, they pick up old ladies when they fall over in the street, shop for the elderly and cut people's lawns. "It's like that saying about Mussolini - 'at least he made the trains run on time.' Here, it's 'at least they get your grass cut.'"

The rise of the BNP in Stoke is also the story of Labour's catastrophic decline. Twelve years ago, Labour won all 60 seats on Stoke's new unitary council. Now it holds 15, plus the mayor. Vast swaths of the city - 13 of 20 wards - have no Labour representation: 12 of their councillors represent four wards where Stoke's ethnic minority populations are concentrated. "We've become a minority party," says Tappin.

For years this sprawling conurbation served up manual labour in PPE - pits, pots and engineering. The unions were strong and there was only ever one party to vote for. Allegiance to Labour passed through families. Three decades ago, more than 50,000 people worked in the potteries; now 6,000 do. Stoke has one of the lowest proportions of people in employment in England and Wales - fewer residents work than in the Thatcher era. Unemployment has fallen in the city since then but more people claim incapacity and disability benefits. Some say that Stoke's white working class has become an underclass.

As jobs and unions disappeared, so Labour withered, losing dynamism at its grass roots and suffering the complacency and arrogance of any one-party regime. It was a "dynastic situation", says one former local politician: fathers and sons ran the party and controlled community centres. Elsewhere, local Labour groups were modernised by polytechnic lecturers or lawyers in the 70s and 80s. In Stoke, there was no pool of talent for the party to renew itself. Labour insiders say local membership is below 300. Tappin's verdict on his local party is damning: "It's been allowed to fester and become inward-looking. It's become concerned with arcane debates about rules, not about policy. Most of the Labour party still resides in the 1930s."

Michael Wolfe realised the growing unpopularity of Labour when he began a campaign for a referendum on whether Stoke should have a directly elected mayor. The charismatic former head of the city's Citizens Advice Bureau, Wolfe gathered a 10,000-signature petition, forced Labour to agree to a poll and became the city's first elected mayor in 2002. Stoke has become a testbed for a unique form of local government with its elected mayor guided by an unelected chief executive and decisions taken by an executive board of elected councillors from different parties. The election of an openly gay independent mayor was seen as a sign Stoke was moving with the times, but Wolfe lost his post in 2005 to Labour. Wolfe says Labour has been unable to reinvent the economy of a failing manufacturing city. Tappin agrees: "Labour has not offered people a vision of how to get out of deindustrialisation, how to get its 42,000 residents on benefits back into work. It's put sticking plasters on [instead of] wholesale reform."

Ask local people what concerns them and the big issues are seldom national, although Gordon Brown gets a kicking over the 10p tax band. Most mentioned are Labour's closure of care homes in Stoke, its Building Schools for the Future project (closing old schools and constructing new ones) and the city's regeneration, which will involve the anachronistic-sounding demolition of streets of Victorian terraces. All three projects are viewed with suspicion. Labour leaders past and present defend the policies, which they argue will lead to more elderly people being properly cared for in their homes, the overhaul of Stoke's battered, underachieving schools, and a cleaner city with more shops, jobs and affordable homes.

Prejudices have also been allowed to fester, believes Wolfe. He says he suffered homophobic insults from the Labour establishment and would hear local politicians casually refer to "darkies". Some of the city's ruling elite never accepted the equality agenda, he argues: "It was always seen as too controversial to take on the equalities thinking of other councils such as Manchester." Estates such as Bentilee and Abbey Hulton were allowed to stay almost completely white as Labour councillors helped block the black and Asian people taking up council homes in the 80s and 90s, he claims. "In effect, we have racially segregated estates. Race is a very beguiling solution to economic problems but what drives people into the BNP's arms is poverty, and within poverty I include lack of education."

In other cities, Labour's failure would lead to a resurgent Conservative or Liberal Democrat regime but I did not meet anyone on Stoke's estates who votes Tory or Lib Dem. In this one-party state, the BNP has stepped into the vacuum. Its tactics are typical of those defined by its national leadership. Simon Darby, the deputy leader, is based nearby in the West Midlands and takes a close interest. "They are talking about housing and schools and are very good at opportunistically picking up an issue," says Wolfe. "They campaign in a way that none of us recognise. People arrive in pubs, lean at the bar, buy a few drinks, say they are doing some contract work in town, become very matey and then tell people these rumours." Typical tall stories include a Kosovan cashing a £5,000 cheque from the council so he can buy a car and one of Stoke's historic buildings being renovated by the council to become a mosque.

The BNP's racist campaigns seem a useful way of getting into communities. Walker talks about care homes, schools and regeneration. He also offers a pungent mix of nostalgia and conspiratorial claims about immigrants and Islam, from the the apocryphal Muslim taxi drivers who "piss in bottles and throw them out of cabs" to the council giving housing priority to immigrants. (This is untrue: lettings are assessed on need - people who are homeless, or in overcrowded accommodation - which is unrelated to ethnicity. Priority is given to new tenants with a local connection - if they have lived in Stoke for three out of the last five years or have family or employment in the city. In 2006/07, of the 81% of council lettings where ethnicity was recorded, 10.9% were made to black and ethnic minority households.)

Asked if he is racist, Walker does not directly deny the charge: "We're not tied by political correctness, we've just got to make sure what we say is within the law," he says. "Any leaflet we put out is open to legal scrutiny so there's no racist literature put out while I've been involved." He hands me one. "That was our most effective leaflet," he says, visibly proud. "Hanley 70 years ago," it reads above a montage of photos of the church tower, pottery kilns and smiling housewives. "Is this what you want for our city centre?" it says below, next to silhouettes of mosques and a picture of three women in niqab, one of whom is raising two fingers to the camera. BNP tactics in his ward, Abbey Green, were "soft" in comparison, he says, "because we've already won the people over".

Mark Meredith, Stoke's elected mayor, has excluded the BNP councillors from his cross-party executive. The BNP reckon this is a mistake, but so too do many independent observers. Temple says some disaffected residents see it as "a slight on working-class voters" and a denial of their democratic choices. Wolfe argues that the BNP's exclusion allows them to snipe from the sidelines and blame everyone else for Stoke's struggles. "It's completely playing into their hands. I want to give the BNP the opportunity to expose the vacuousness of their solutions. They haven't got any answers to how to bring more jobs to Stoke, how to regenerate Stoke, and that will only be exposed when they are included in the council."

Taken further, this argument implies that only by letting them gain power will people see them for what they are. This, argues Tappin, would be "catastrophic" for Stoke, triggering a brain drain of council officials and an exodus of investment and new businesses. "You're not going to come to a town run by the BNP," he says. Meredith maintains he is right to exclude them. "I've always recognised that the BNP councillors have been elected by constituents so I've never proposed that the BNP are excluded from the committees of council," he says. The BNP are represented on council committees in proportion to their group size. "With that power comes a real responsiblity to engage in positive politics," says the mayor. "One of their proposals is cutting funding to the Citizens Advice Bureau - an organisation that helps the most in need across Stoke-on-Trent. To date I haven't heard one policy from the BNP that will improve the lives of ordinary people."

He accepts in that self-exculpating New Labour way that the party "needs to listen to what the voters are saying" and it has not "communicated effectively to its core voters across the city". This may seem to be the usual line - nothing wrong with what we're doing, we just haven't got the spin correct. But, he argues: "The whole regeneration of Stoke is moving forward at some pace now. That's the reality but it's not always the perception on the ground."

Others argue that the ineffectiveness of Stoke's elected mayor has contributed to the rise of the BNP. Today, professor Michael Clarke, vice-principal of Birmingham University, will deliver a report calling for a radical rethink of how the city is governed. "We are dismayed at the extent to which the city's political system is damaged," he says. "There is a deep-seated malaise in the city's politics. As a consequence, the people of Stoke-on-Trent have been short-changed." The report, commissioned by John Healey, the minister for local government, urges Stoke to reduce the size of its council and to rediscover its civic pride, while telling political parties they need to re-engage at a local level. In recommending a drastic cutting of councillors and a referendum on whether Stoke should keep its mayor, there is a danger Labour will be seen to be changing the rules to stop a future BNP mayor. But Tappin believes that keeping the system will guarantee a BNP triumph. "If we get the structure wrong and there is an elected mayor, this city will become controlled by the BNP," he says. He fears the BNP could gain power in three years; Walker more modestly forecasts power within five years.

The best hope for stopping the BNP in Stoke appears to lie in reawakening the Labour party, but no one agrees how. "The tactics by a lot of people on the left are out of date," says Lawrence Shaw, a Stoke trade unionist. "Saying 'smash the fascists' doesn't work any more. If there was a serious, union-based alternative to Labour with roots in the community that would see BNP support fall away quite dramatically."

Wolfe believes the BNP would disappear if the council could help create real jobs - not call-centre and other low-paid work - in Stoke. Tappin wants the regional Labour party to intervene and begin an urgent grassroots reform of the party. If its council and mayor can't deliver real improvements for local people, Labour faces electoral oblivion in its former stronghold, warns Tappin: "We are going to go into the darkness and those who will suffer will be the people of Stoke-on-Trent."


May 27, 2008

Telegraph gives Barnbrook a platform

19 Comment (s)
This article was submitted by one of our readers, Jim Jay. We welcome any contributions from our supporters (as long as those contributions conform to the law and are in reasonably good taste). Please send your articles to us via email.

Readers of this site will have noticed that The Daily Telegraph has provided Richard Barnbrook, the BNP's top man in London, his own blog in their My Telegraph section. That's ridiculous!

He's already taken the opportunity to blame immigrants for almost everything, call for the police to be able to do anything they like, regardless of democratic control and to send in the army to sort out crime in "ethnic" areas, which is an odd way of getting guns off the streets. If there are complaints? Well, "human rights lawyers can scream all they want." Presumably in a basement somewhere, whilst Brownshirts tear out their fingernails.

He really is a twerp.

But what do the Telegraph think they are doing giving oxygen to his bonkers ideas? How can they possibly justify this? Just because people have the right to free speech does not mean it is correct for the Telegraph to give this man a platform to denounce immigrants and plot some sort of coup. I'm sure even regular Telegraph readers, and I admit I'm not one, would be appalled.

Some of us are trying to put pressure on The Telegraph to reconsider. You can join that campaign by emailing your protest to, or the Letters page at joining the Facebook group and spreading the word about the Telegraph's irresponsible behaviour.

Jim Jay

Barnbrook stokes fears after teen murder

14 Comment (s)
BNP assembly member Richard Barnbrook travelled to the scene of a teenager's murder on Sunday, to exploit racial tensions within the community.

Speaking to camera next to friends of the murdered teenager Robert Knox in Sidcup, South London, Barnbrook said that:

"This is a sickening situation and it is primarily down to people coming to this country... the majority 75% (of murders) are done by ethnic minorities and when only 33% come from ethnic minorities, the figures speak for themselves."

After his visit Barnbrook wrote on his Telegraph hosted blog:

"Well let me tell you that times are changing. This is our city and we are going to take it back. We are going to take all the weapons of (sic) the streets even if that means sending in the Army to do it... if immigrants don't like it then they know where the airport is."

At the end of a half-crazed ramble that takes in everything from therapists to the SAS, Barnbrook writes that he will be holding a meeting at City Hall of '100 young people' today at 9.30am and that 'if I have to bring (them) into Boris's office then that is what I will do."

He then gives out what is presumably his own mobile phone number and asks readers to contact him if they want to attend.

So do you want to meet Richard Barnbrook? Do you want to Watch the Wally at work? If so, you can call him any time of day or night on 07869 243129 and he will try and get back to you.

Thanks to The Tory Troll for the heads-up