July 31, 2009

The strange world of Lee John Barnes

34 Comment (s)
This article was submitted by one of our readers, Wes. 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.

Those of us who fancy a laugh in the anti-fascist movement tend to look no further than the blog of Mr Barnes, who holds a first degree in law. Here is a guy who likes to blog about conspiracy theories, some bizarre belief in a Norse God, and of course his beloved nationalist cause (he seems to have fallen out with the BNP recently – he has had his BNP email addy removed).

For some time the stuff he posts kept me amused at just how batty the guy actually was. His “logic” was so hard to follow at times it really did make you wonder if it came from a sane person or not. Recently after reading several posts I decided to check on the facts he presented. Around the time of the BNP website problems, which the party and others put down to some pinko-leftie denial of service attack Barnes blogged that he had:
“On sunday morning I contacted the Counter-Terrorism Unit, Scotland Yard and MI5 to inform them that one of the largest DOS attacks in British electronic warfare history was underway against the BNP”.
So I first emailed all concerned and waited and waited. I got replies from both stating that they couldn’t answer if that was true due to freedom of information rules. Mmmm, he wasn’t getting away that easily – so I decided to phone the press offices of those organisations. CTU wouldn’t entertain giving me any kind of answer, but I got interesting replies from both M15 and the Met/Scotland Yard (I treated Scotland Yard and the CTU separately phoning both switchboards in turn). The replies were as expected until a very nice lady in the Met mentioned that she couldn’t answer my questions unless I was phoning to support an earlier report. So I decided to do just that, support Mr Barnes concern about the BNP website being down, so she checked the computer – guess what? – computer said no – there had been no contact recorded on the subject. She assured me that it would appear on the system, and in her words “even the nuttier stuff is logged”. So armed with the new method I tried Scotland Yard who repeated the process – but this time the guy some information, “oh wait he said these are complaints 'about' the BNP, not by them”. He confirmed there were no reports, as did M15, but they took a while and asked me so many questions I think they may have started a file on me now.

A short time later Barnes alleged on his blog:
“Image - members of the same coalition as the UAF demonstrating for free speech and exercising their right of protest in order to kill a police horse and murder a policeman”.
With the following photo

So again this set my non LLB refined miss-speaking alarms off. So I first contacted Getty who confirmed that the photo was taken in London at a demo in early 2009. So I phoned the Met, who couldn’t answer the question there and then, but pointed me in the direction of the inquiry form and suggested I try that. So I did, after a while I received a request for more information from the Head of the Mets Mounted Division. After supplying the information requested the Chief Inspector replied that:
“As the Head of the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch I can confirm the following:

The leaflet '21st Century British Nationalism' dated 9th June 2009 shows a picture of a police officers and horses at a demonstration. In the picture it is Metropolitan Police officers and horses; the photograph was taken at a demonstration in London very early in 2009. The leaflet reports an officer and police horse were killed; neither horse or officer were killed. The report that both were fatally injured is completely inaccurate”.
The Chief Inspector used the term leaflet because the screen shot I had sent did appear to be a leaflet in hindsight – I have also supplied him with the URL since for his info – at his request.

So to be fair I gave Barnes the chance to reply, I asked him where he got the info from, I had several posts in threads comments section asking him to reply – but he never did – I wonder why?

Now I have only checked on two subjects from the Barnes blog to date – but both of them have proved to be false – is he just miss-speaking, to borrow Hilary Clinton's excuse or is a symptom of something more? For that I will leave you to decide.

Burnley BNP councillor tried to defraud insurance company

27 Comment (s)
A serving Burnley councillor could face criminal charges after a civil court judge ruled he tried to defraud an insurance company.

Coun. Derek Dawson, the British National Party councillor for Gannow, made a claim against Zurich Insurance which would have initially been worth up to £30,000. The claim related to an accident in 2003 at Zurich customer Mr Stephen Hargreaves' house in Whalley, where it was alleged Coun. Dawson's severely fractured ankle was caused by a ladder being knocked onto his leg by a car driven by Mr Hargreaves.

As it was a civil trial no punishment was handed down by the court, but Zurich was granted permission to pursue Dawson and Hargreaves for Contempt of Court proceedings through the Attorney General. If successful, this will attract a criminal penalty.

But Burnley's BNP leader Coun. Sharon Wilkinson defended Coun. Dawson, calling him "an excellent councillor" and even questioned whether the judge was influenced by Dawson's "political persuasion".

During the case, which began last year before starting again this month, Deputy Circuit Judge John Morgan heard evidence at Burnley County Court, which proved the fracture was caused by Dawson falling off a ladder rather than Hargreaves' car knocking the ladder onto him.

Coun. Wilkinson said: "At the start of the case, the judge was made aware Derek was a BNP councillor. He then chose to believe the evidence of Zurich's expert engineer and not Derek's expert engineer as to how his injuries were caused. Whether the judge was influenced by Derek's political persuasion we can only speculate. Derek is an excellent councillor and I don't think this will affect his position."

But Burnley Council leader, Coun. Gordon Birtwistle called for Coun. Dawson's resignation saying: "Any councillor that attempts to commit fraud is not a fit and proper person to be a councillor."

Mr Stephen Langton, representing Hargreaves, appealed against the judge's decision, which was not granted. Mr Langton and Mr James Hurd, representing Dawson, also appealed against the imposition of court costs, but again the judge found in favour of Zurich. The costs, which are expected to run into tens of thousands of pounds, will be decided later.

Mr Simon McCann, representing Zurich, argued: "Dawson and Hargreaves colluded together to defraud Zurich. Fraudsters should not benefit."

Mr Scott Clayton, claims fraud and investigations manager for Zurich, said: "Fraud is something we take very seriously as this case shows. Unfortunately, some people will go to great lengths to secure financial gain. We challenge fraud because the costs in challenging these cases are spiralling at the expense of the honest customer."

Burnley Express

Electoral Commission to fine BNP - again

31 Comment (s)
From the Electoral Commission website, July 29th:

Regulatory Action

The British National Party and the party’s Regional Accounting Unit were both granted an extension to the deadline for submitting their statements of accounts. Both have failed to deliver their accounts within the extended deadline so the party will be fined a minimum of £500 and the accounting unit will be fined a minimum £100, this figure will increase if the accounts are more than three months late.

Peter Wardle Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission said: “Political parties play a crucial part in our democracy. But, now more than ever, voters need to be confident that party funding is transparent and that parties will comply with the law.

“While we are disappointed that the British National Party and its accounting unit have failed to submit their accounts on time, I’m glad to see that the majority of the large parties and accounting units have understood the need to ensure their accounts are submitted to us by the deadline set. Transparency about party finances is one of the key factors that can help public confidence in politics.”

In May, the Commission published the financial accounts of 281 political parties and 483 accounting units whose gross income and total expenditure were each £250,000 or less. Accounting units with income and expenditure that are both £25,000 or under are not required to submit their accounts.

The Commission has published a comparison of the parties’ gross annual income and total expenditure from 2003 to 2008. This is available on our website.

The Commission is currently reviewing all the accounts submitted. Where this review suggests that there may have been any breaches of the law we will raise this with the parties and where necessary use our regulatory powers.

Electoral Commission

July 30, 2009

Cameron's revolting neo-Nazi connection

15 Comment (s)
David Cameron has evidently forged some unfortunate connections with Europe’s neo-fascists through his Conservative MEPs. In this week’s New Statesman, out tomorrow, the excellent James Macintyre blows the lid on the Tory MEPs’ careless connection with the disgusting, neo-Nazi National Revival of Poland party (NOP) and its former big-wig, Michal Kaminski.

I have early sight of Macintyre’s piece and it’s worth quoting his second para to give you a taste of this nexus that the Conservatives have with Europe’s neo-Nazis, which they had better sever pretty sharpish:
“The new chair of the Conservatives and Reformists group, which includes the 24 Tory MEPs, is Michal Kaminski. He belongs to Poland’s Law and Justice party, one of whose MPs, Artur Górski, described the election of Barack Obama in the US as “a disaster” and “the end of the civilisation of the white man”. Kaminski is a former member of the neo-Nazi National Revival of Poland party (NOP), which, in a direct quotation from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, says in its manifesto that “Jews will be removed from Poland, and their possessions will be confiscated”. In 2001, he condemned his own president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, for apologising over the Polish massacre of hundreds of Jews in Jedwabne in July 1941.”
This kind of lazily-constructed relationship is the kind of thing that an aspiring governing party in the UK has to police extremely carefully. It’s a truly shocking connection, because these anti-semitic monsters in Poland are truly, deeply shocking.

Cameron’s shadow chancellor, George Osborne, drifted stupidly into a connection with dodgy Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Cameron should pay attention to who his MPs and MEPs are taking ale with. And this is an odious European flank that could cause him any amount of trouble in the months ahead. He needs to deal with it today, or tomorrow may not belong to him.


July 29, 2009

BNP mother-of-three admits assault

10 Comment (s)
BNP neighbour from hell, Helen Forster
A mother-of-three who has previously claimed to be a member of the British National Party (BNP) has pleaded guilty to common assault and perverting the course of justice. Helen Forster (see here and here for more info), of Park Place, Gravesend, admitted the charges at Maidstone Crown Court on July 27.

The 32-year-old, who has previously stated she has produced leaflets for the party, has been remanded in custody and will be sentenced on September 7.

The two charges relate to an incident in Fort Gardens, Gravesend, on May 23. In May, Forster was given a 10-month suspended sentence at Maidstone Crown Court after being convicted of intimidation. In this case, the court had heard she had encouraged a group of children to throw eggs and fire an airgun at the home of her neighbour Meherjan Miah, who lives there with her young children.

News Shopper

Tensions Mount in Neo-Nazi Hotel Case

4 Comment (s)
Neo Nazi training ground? If the squatters are allowed to stay,
this hotel could become a hub for right-wing extremists.

Despite efforts to have them evicted, right-wing extremists in Germany continue to occupy a hotel building they plan to turn into a training center. And now police fear a violent clash between local left-wingers and their new neo-Nazi neighbors.

Bullets have been fired and weapons confiscated. But as tensions between left and right wing groups mount, a court has rejected an application to evict a group of neo-Nazis from a disused hotel in the village of Fassberg, in the northern German state of Lower Saxony.

The Hotel Gerhus went into receivership just one day before Jürgen Rieger, deputy leader of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), signed a 10-year lease on the property. That has sparked controversy about whether the neo-Nazis are there legally or whether they are squatting.

The receiver himself, Jens Wilhelm, had hoped to be granted a court order this week to force the neo-Nazis off the property. But he was unsuccessful and will now have to wait for a court hearing at the end of the month. Reacting to the decision, Wilhelm told Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper: "What could be more urgent than vacating an illegally occupied hotel?"

And as Wilhelm's frustrations grow, so too do those of left-wing groups outraged by reported plans to convert the hotel into a neo-Nazi youth camp and training center. After shots were fired in the area over the weekend -- nobody was injured -- police seized pepper spray from two left-wingers and a baton from a group of right-wingers. Local police are also stepping up their presence because of fears of a violent clash between left and right. Local police spokesman Christian Riebandt said: "We have squad cars patrolling the area around the hotel around the clock."

The right of the neo-Nazis to remain in the 80-room hotel will be depend on whether a court deems their current lease -- signed off by the debt-ridden owners just one day before they went into receivership -- legal and valid.

Spiegel Online

Nazi Strength Through Joy leisure programme to get museum in German far-Right proposals

1 Comment (s)
The NPD - friends of the BNP and not even a little bit nazi
Germany's far-right NPD Party is on a collision course with the government over plans to build a museum celebrating the Third Reich's "Strength Through Joy" movement, which organised leisure activities for the masses.

Jürgen Rieger, the vice-president of the party that seeks to ban all immigration and sever all ties with the EU, has submitted plans to authorities in Wolfsburg - home to car giant Volkswagen - for the museum intended to "show the people what this organisation did and what it meant". But critics have accused Mr Rieger of using the museum as a way to spread pro-Nazi propaganda.

Strength Through Joy, at one time the largest tour operator in the world, was created to promote "a National Socialist people's community and the perfection and refinement of the German people" through its tightly structured recreational programmes. Battalions of Strength Through Joy workers built the massive holiday complex of Prora on the Baltic Sea intended to be used by 20,000 holidaying Nazi loyalists at one time. the organisation also controlled a fleet of cruise ships that allowed pre-war Germans to travel to far away destinations at rock bottom prices. And it also financed the production of the "people's car" by VW, which later became the classic Beetle of the post-war years.

By the time war broke out, it was virtually redundant, but had accomplished its task: binding the people to Hitler and controlling leisure the way every other activity was controlled under the regime.

Mr Rieger's plans to turn an old furniture warehouse into a museum have met with stiff opposition. Ralf Schmidt, a spokesman for the city, said: "We will use every legal means at our disposal to stop this from becoming a reality." Because Mr Rieger has made his application to have the museum as a "commercial enterprise", the initiative, which critics say "glorifies Naziism"will be more difficult to stop than if it were merely being opened as a political showcase for the NPD viewpoint.

Mr Rieger has already assembled a fleet of Nazi-era cars, propaganda posters, documents, flags and uniforms of the movement ready to go on display.

Local officials fear that the museum will become nothing more than a shrine to the far-right, who continue to indulge in violent racist attacks while attracting more vulnerable young people during the economic downturn. In June, Mr Rieger founded an association to promote the museum. A barbecue and music evening at the intended site turned bloody when NPD members with shaved heads attacked journalists who turned up to report on the event with clubs and beer bottles. Later the same night, a black man was beaten up at the main train station.


July 28, 2009

BNP leader extends sick pledge to capsize refugee boats

33 Comment (s)
Griffin talking crap again - and looking even more pig-like than usual
When I came face to face with BNP leader Nick Griffin on his first day at the European Parliament in Strasbourg I thought he might find urgent business elsewhere in the building.

After all, this was a rare occasion when he didn't have burly minders at his side to intimidate interviewers who dare ask awkward questions. And he would have been only too well aware of the Mirror's anti-BNP Hope not Hate campaign in the run-up to the European elections. But, in fairness to Griffin, he was only too happy to air his views on, for example, global warming ("a man-made myth").

I gave him an opportunity to back down on his comment that Europe should sink boats transporting illegal immigrants from the coast of North Africa.

"Do you regret making that statement?" I asked.

True to form Griffin replied that he only had one regret: that he did not extend his murderous scheme to vessels transporting refugees to those in the Adriatic and Atlantic. It was exactly the kind of nakedly racist response that makes it impossible to take seriously the BNP's claims to being proper politicial contenders.

I would bet that Griffin would not have considered Save The Children's recent report into the condition of youngsters trying to get from Libya into Italy. Had he done so he would notice that most of the children on the barely seaworthy boats being turned back from Europe have fled war in countries like Somalia and Eritrea.

As Fosca Nomis, spokesperson for Save the Children, said: "Many of the children on the boats from Libya had been forced to travel thousands of miles, often alone, to escape conflict and poverty in countries such as Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria. In ten months we received over 2,000 children entitled to receive protection in Italy. They were often exhausted, hungry, severely dehydrated and terrified after the journey. Many children have recounted harrowing stories, of rape and of having to see dead family members thrown out of the boat.

"Many of the child migrants had been locked up in adult detention centres before boarding the boats for Italy, and we are afraid they may be returned there when they arrive in Libya. Conditions are notoriously bad. Human rights organisations have persistently reported allegations of torture and ill-treatment at the centres in a country which has not signed the Geneva Refugee Convention."

This is the kind of inconvenient truth that gets in the way of Griffin's deliberately controversial - but totally hollow - soundbites.


Combating the BNP - 1

14 Comment (s)
By Edmund Standing, Researcher, Centre for Social Cohesion

Recently, the Centre for Social Cohesion, a non-partisan independent think-tank, published a report which I authored, entitled 'The BNP and the Online Fascist Network'. The purpose of that report was simple.

The British National Party, under Nick Griffin, has worked very hard to create a wholly false image of itself as a mainstream, 'patriotic' nationalist party, that has left behind its links with neo-Nazism. That deception has met with considerable success. The truth is very different.

In the report, I demonstrated, through looking at BNP supporting blogs, forums, and YouTube accounts, as well as official party literature and material sold via its website, that the BNP has not changed in substance at all. Rather, it is a racist party, founded by neo-Nazis, with a racial ideology that continues to share much in common with neo-Nazism.

However, it is also a party that now has a number of elected councillors and two MEPs. A few years ago, no-one would have thought it possible that the BNP could ever enter the political mainstream. In this article I shall discuss how and why this has happened, and what needs to be done to combat it.

In 2000, BNP leader (and now MEP) Nick Griffin stood before an audience of American 'white nationalists' and proposed that while he had no intention of 'selling out' the BNP's principles, he now wanted to 'sell' the party. So, he stated, the BNP would now use 'salable' words such as 'freedom' and 'democracy', and replace discourse about 'racial purity' with talk of 'identity'. In recent years, particularly following the 7/7 terrorist atrocities, the BNP has sought to align itself with what is loosely termed the 'anti-jihad movement' and to shift its focus from attacking Jews and black people to opposing 'Islamification'.

This focus on Islam has been combined with an even more intense campaign against asylum seekers and the encouragement of white self-pity. Then, of course, there is the very real problem that many voters, especially from old Labour heartlands, are feeling increasingly alienated from the political process, which is seen to be the domain of an arrogant and self-serving liberal intelligensia wholly disconnected from the concerns of ordinary working people. So, for its European election campaign this year, a key BNP slogan was 'Punish the Pigs', with the party presenting itself as a bulwark against the arrogant and greedy politicians of the mainstream parties.

Griffin is a man who has rightly been described as a 'political chameleon' and under his guiding hand, the BNP has been developing in a similar manner. Looking at the kind of statements it gives to the media and its huge shift away from neo-Nazi racial discourse and towards nationalist populism and a 'little Englander' approach, the BNP appears, superficially, to have changed dramatically. Elsewhere, I have argued that this is entirely to be expected and that it actually illustrates something very positive about modern Britain: the BNP has had to change its rhetoric because the majority of white Britons are not racists and would be instantly turned off by a party attempting to 'sell' ideological racism and a policy of mass repatriation of all non-white citizens.

There are a number of factors involved in the rise of the BNP as an electoral force, and I do not think that a sudden conversion of large numbers of white Britons to hardline racist sentiment is one of them. The question of Islam is one factor. Recently, I have been accused by the usual suspects of not bothering to properly examine the BNP's anti-Islamic rhetoric because I don't take anti-Muslim bigotry seriously enough or don't really care about it. At worst, it has been implied that I am an anti-Muslim bigot myself or, to use the catchphrase, an 'Islamophobe'.

This approach indicates a complete failure in understanding of the true nature of the BNP's anti-Islam campaign, and the fact that writers who are supposedly anti-fascist should choose to attack a report aimed at exposing racism is disappointing to say the least. The reality is that Griffin and co don't really care about Islam. Griffin may be an odious figure, but he's not a complete idiot, and he knows very well that Britain is not on the verge of turning into an Islamic State.

Following his strategy for making the BNP electable, Griffin has tried to steer the party towards populist issues, picking up on fears and resentment among the electorate in an attempt to use such issues as a Trojan horse for his underlying racist agenda. The truth is that the BNP hates Muslims because they are predominantly brown skinned. In 'white nationalist' ideology, everything ultimately boils down to an obsession with race.

When it comes to Islam, the BNP hasn't exactly had to work hard to whip up anti-Muslim bigotry and paranoia about 'Islamification'. Looking at the scare stories on its website's news section, a large number of them are drawn straight from mainstream media sources, and the party is being greatly assisted by the grossly disproportionate coverage given in newspapers to the outrageous statements and provocations of Anjem Choudary and his motley crew of social misfits who go under a variety of names but are essentially Al-Muhajiroun. In hysterical report after report, a tiny minority of bin Ladenist fanatics and fantasists have been presented as a serious threat to our society.

The fact is, of course, that while Al-Muhajiroun is a dangerous group with many links to terrorism, it represents only the tiniest handful of Muslims in Britain, not that you would know that given the amount of time Choudary gets in the media. So, when the BNP claimed in its European election material that it would 'ensure that British troops are not abused on the streets of our cities by Muslims', it was in particular cynically appealing to the concerns of those who get the majority of their understanding of the world from reading simplistic and hyped up tabloid stories.

Likewise, when the British media regularly feature quotes from Choudary saying the 'Islamic flag' is going to fly above 10 Downing Street, the BNP's response that 'we aren’t prepared to stand back and watch as Britain drifts into being an Islamic republic' sounds perfectly reasonable.

It's not just a case of media scare stories, however. Another important factor that is undoubtedly greatly assisting the BNP in its promotion of anti-Muslim sentiment is the problem of largely self-appointed Muslim 'community leaders' and organisations and their very vocal and, to the majority of Britons, unreasonable lists of demands of how British society should change to accommodate what is presented as Islam and the 'rights' of Muslims.

In the final part of this two part series, Edmund explores how best the political establishment and society should combat BNP and show them up for exactly the racist, bigoted party it is.

eGov Monitor

July 27, 2009

Pictures of public figures posted on neo-Nazi website

13 Comment (s)
Redwatch: run by police informer and glue-sniffer Kevin Watmough
The PSNI has been urged to investigate a neo-Nazi website with links to Combat 18 after it posted pictures of high profile politicians, journalists and trade unionists with a sinister plea for information on them.

The police were asked to look at the vile far-right racist site Redwatch after Belfast councillor Niall Kelly discovered several pictures of himself along with dozens of images of members of the public attending rallies in Belfast city centre. A caption above the SDLP man’s picture, taken at last month’s anti-racism rally in support of the Romanian families who were intimidated out of south Belfast, read: “Fenian reds, causing trouble in South Belfast attempting to win support for Gypsy parasites turning the Protestant Village area into a slum.”

In England, a number of MPs and Mersyside trade union leader Alec McFadden received death threats from right wing violent extremists after their details appeared on Redwatch. It is now feared that some people in Northern Ireland could now be targeted.

Pictures of Health Minister Michael McGimpsey, former Belfast Lord Mayor Tom Ekin, north Belfast SDLP councillor Pat Convery and prominent UDA figure Jackie McDonald attending various rallies, including anti-racism and anti-war protests, also appear on the sickening site. It is understood some of the photographs were lifted from Mr Kelly’s Flickr site.

“Obviously I am concerned to see pictures of myself and party colleagues appear on this sinister website,” Mr Kelly told the Belfast Telegraph.

“Since this matter has been brought to my attention I have alerted the police who have informed me that they have been monitoring this website for a while now as this organisation appears to be engaged in hi-tech fascism. However, neither I nor my party will be deterred from standing for the rights of others. The SDLP has faced down threats before and we will continue to do what is right as we strive to fight against racism, sectarianism and bigotry.”

Redwatch was originally published in paper form by the far right racist group Combat 18 in March 1992. Among the Redwatch targets are journalist Eamonn McCann, Irish Trade Union Congress leader Claire Moore and Patrick Yu, executive director of Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities whose contact details including telephone number and address have been posted alongside his picture.

Crowd shots showing members of the public attending at rallies in Belfast dating back as far as 2004 are also posted and in a worrying development appeal for information on those in the picture.

A caption read: “Send us details of your local red scumbags — we want their names, addresses, phone numbers, photographs, work details — anything and everything about them to publish here in the same way as they are doing to our people. We are going to give them exactly the same treatment as they are. Fight back. Any further info on the freaks below will be gratefully received.”

However journalist Eamon McCann said he would not be intimidated.

“I am not in the least bit intimidated. I would be almost insulted if these people had been making a list of their enemies in Northern Ireland and I was not on it.”

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: “We do not comment on the security of individuals. The police service does not monitor internet sites on a day-to-day basis. However it will take appropriate action when complaints are received of criminal offences that occur within its jurisdiction.”

Belfast Telegraph

How should I behave when introduced to the BNP MEPs?

6 Comment (s)
People keep asking me how I will act when I first come face to face with the two BNP Euro-MPs, Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons. Without giving the matter much thought, I had been planning to treat them in the same way as I treat Labour, LibDem or UKIP MEPs: civilly and correctly. Heaven knows I disagree with their far-Left party. BNP activists, if their comments on my blog are anything to go by, combine an extraordinary rudeness about everyone else with an utter inability to accept the slightest criticism of their own behaviour. None the less, democracy is democracy, and I have little time for politicians who try to flaunt their niceness by refusing to deal with people who, whatever their opinions, have been duly elected.

So what’s the correct form? What do you do if you find yourself sharing a lift with Brons or a car with Griffin? I spent this afternoon tramping around Kew Gardens with my dear friend Tom and our families. Tom hasn’t expressed a strong political opinion in the 30 years I’ve known him. What did he reckon was the proper etiquette? “Why don’t you do this?” said Tom, clicking his heels together and covering his upper lip with his forefinger while raising the other arm.

I now can’t get the wretched picture out of my head. Like Basil Fawlty and “don’t mention the war”, the more I try to dismiss the idea, the more it consumes me. Help me, here, guys. What is the proper way to behave?

Daniel Hannan's Telegraph blog.

You can provide Daniel with some choice suggestions by clicking the link above.

July 26, 2009

BNP shuts door on white van man

12 Comment (s)
Gipsy-bashing bosses of the British National Party have had to ban the mobile homes and caravans of their OWN supporters from their summer festival.

They had hoped to encourage scores of far-right campers to attend next month’s Red, White and Blue jamboree in the Derbyshire village of Denby. But their plans have been scuppered by local fears about traffic, noise and disruption. So BNP chiefs have had to warn off travelling fans. And that could hit attendance at the event as the party has been ­particularly keen to bring in ­supporters from all over Europe.

A spokesman for Amber Valley Council said: “The council’s chief executive is responding to complaints from residents after last year’s event. They were about the number of caravans on the site giving rise to traffic and noise issues. He is asking the council to apply for an injunction to prevent caravans entering the site because of concerns that planning and caravan legislation will be breached.”

Last year, revellers clashed with anti-fascists protesting at the event. Riot police with shields and visors used batons and police dogs to control the mayhem as residents in the quiet village cowered in their homes.

BNP leader Nick Griffin, 50, has described regular travelling people as “anti-social and criminal” – although it has been revealed that he is descended from gipsies himself.


Big news from Norwich - ideas win elections

8 Comment (s)
One should not over-elaborate the analysis of elections. The central question is always the same. Who won? This is certainly true of the Norwich North by-election, where Chloe Smith turned Dr Ian Gibson's Labour majority of 5,459 in 2005's General Election into a Conservative majority of 7,348.

Allowing for all the special circumstances, that is probably a good enough result to produce a Conservative victory next year, both nationally and in Norwich North. That is what matters; it is natural for the Conservatives to be delighted with last Thursday's result as well as relieved. Miss Smith is more than entitled to enjoy her triumph.

There are, however, some interesting undercurrents revealed in the Norwich North results. First, there is one piece of excellent news, which I had not totally expected. After its relatively successful result in the European Elections, the British National Party (BNP) thought it a good idea to put up a candidate in Norwich North. It was mistaken. The BNP was beaten into seventh place with just 941 votes.

That does not mean the BNP may not become a future threat, but it does show it has limited appeal outside a few deprived areas. Seventh place in a by-election is a joke position for a group claiming to be a national party.

The result put the Conservatives in first place, Labour second, the Liberal Democrats third, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) fourth and the Greens fifth.

The result is disastrously bad for Labour. Undoubtedly, Labour voters resented the brutal dismissal of Dr Gibson, a popular and independent-minded local MP. The Labour vote fell by 70 per cent from 21,097 in 2005 to 6,243 in 2009. The opinion polls have been reporting that Labour support in the country has fallen from 36 per cent at the last General Election to a figure in the mid-20s now. Norwich has confirmed the opinion polls reflect reality.

The Conservatives won the seat largely because Labour has become so unpopular. In 2005, the Tories came second in the Norwich seat with 15,638 votes; in last week's by-election they came comfortably first with 13,591. The Tories would have been able to win the seat simply by retaining the support of their past voters, though they did well to increase their share of the votes.

The Lib Dems also had a lower vote in 2009 than they had had in 2005. At the by-election they came third, but they had only 4,803 votes to the 7,616 they had won in 2005. Although Labour did by far the worst, all three traditional parties won fewer votes than they had won at the last General Election.

The three leading parties, taken together, saw their vote fall from 44,300 in 2005 to 26,700 in 2009. Resentment over parliamentary expenses may have partly caused the decline, but an analysis of the vote for the new parties suggests there is more to it than that.

Two of the new parties came just below the three traditional parties in the ranking order. Both had performed reasonably well in the European Elections. UKIP increased its 2005 vote from 1,122 to 4,068 at the by-election. That put it in fourth place. Indeed, UKIP was fewer than 1,000 votes behind the Lib Dems. The Greens increased their General Election vote of 1,252 to 3,350.

Both parties are perceived by the public as single-issue parties. Nevertheless, both were able to increase their votes at a by-election in which the three major parties were unable to do so. Labour's vote was catastrophically lower. Obviously, the European and Green issues are important to voters.

Last week, Labour lost some 15,000 votes, votes that Dr Gibson had won in 2005. No doubt many of these voters simply abstained, but the two new parties gained 5,000 voters.

If Britain had adopted electoral reform, which is the long-standing policy of the Lib Dems, these new parties, including the BNP, would have an opportunity to grow to the point at which they would become natural coalition partners. The parties that are the biggest threat to the established parties would also make the most attractive coalition parties.

The Lib Dems would be attractive coalition partners for Labour, as they have been in Scotland; UKIP might be a potential coalition partner for the Tories, though that would be resisted. The Greens are a threat to the Lib Dems, but could also be their partners. As we do not have proportional representation, this change-your-partners dance will not take place - yet.

Nevertheless, British politics will increasingly be influenced by the single-issue parties. It is no longer reasonable to think UKIP or the Greens are merely crankish parties, bound to fade away. The opinion polls suggest both are in the interesting situation of being single-issue parties whose issues have strong public appeal. Most voters are certainly more conscious of Green issues than they used to be a generation ago; most voters have also become increasingly critical of the European Union and the Lisbon Treaty.

The Lib Dems in the House of Lords voted with the Government against the Lisbon referendum, which the country had been promised. Obviously, Eurosceptics will hesitate before they vote Lib Dem. Support for Green issues crosses the boundaries of other parties - the Tories can claim to have been a Green party for a long time in that they were always the countryside party.

I would not particularly welcome coalitions of conflicting ideas - which electoral reform has created in Scotland - into Westminster. But I do welcome the mixture of ideas which is fermenting in our politics. The Norwich North result supports the forecast that Labour is on the way out and the Tories are on the way in.

Yet it also supports the view that the politics of ideas, which we knew in the Forties, may be coming back. It was the ideas-based parties, UKIP and the Greens, which were the only ones to increase their votes in the Norwich North by-election.

Mail Online

July 25, 2009

Probe into assault on BNP leader

19 Comment (s)
The British National Party leader Nick Griffin has made an assault claim to police after a man threw a pint of beer over him outside a pub.

The MEP was at The Falcon Inn in Painswick, Gloucestershire, on 11 July when there was an alleged confrontation involving a customer. The BNP leader said a man "came at me with a pint glass" as he left the pub.

A Gloucestershire police spokesman said officers were investigating the complaint.

Mr Griffin told BBC News Online: "Someone is entitled to say 'I don't agree with you', but no one is entitled to throw a pint of beer at you. I don't necessarily expect them to lock him up and throw away the key. He just needs to learn to keep his ideas to within the law."

The confrontation had been taken up by constituency Labour MP David Drew, who claimed in the House of Commons the "totally upstanding" man was given "one hell of a hiding" after the incident. Mr Griffin said it was Mr Drew's intervention which prompted him to make the formal police complaint.

He said: "I was prepared to leave it at that, because it seemed a waste of police time. But when we get Labour MPs standing up in the House of Commons spouting downright lies I felt I had no choice."

A police spokesman said: "Yesterday afternoon we received a call from a 50-year-old male regarding an incident outside the Falcon Inn public house at which he had a drink thrown at him. Officers are investigating the incident."


July 24, 2009

Woeful West Walloped

15 Comment (s)
Norwich North voters gave a two fingered salute to the BNP and its bogus vicar in yesterday's hard fought by-election, rewarding the racist party with a deposit-losing 2.7% of the vote - putting the "reverend" Robert West in seventh place, behind Craig Murray, the "Honest Man" candidate.

The full result from the Press Association:

Chloe Smith (C) 13,591 (39.54%, +6.29%)
Chris Ostrowski (Lab) 6,243 (18.16%, -26.70%)
April Pond (LD) 4,803 (13.97%, -2.22%)
Glenn Tingle (UKIP) 4,068 (11.83%, +9.45%)
Rupert Read (Green) 3,350 (9.74%, +7.08%)
Craig Murray (Honest) 953 (2.77%)
Robert West (BNP) 941 (2.74%)
Bill Holden (Ind) 166 (0.48%, -0.17%)
Howling Laud (Loony) 144 (0.42%)
Anne Fryatt (NOTA) 59 (0.17%)
Thomas Burridge (Libertarian) 36 (0.10%)
Peter Baggs (Ind) 23 (0.07%)

C maj 7,348 (21.37%)
16.49% swing Lab to C
Electorate 75,124; Turnout 34,377 (45.76%, -15.33%)

2005: Lab maj 5,459 (11.61%) - Turnout 47,033 (61.09%)
Gibson (Lab) 21,097 (44.86%); Tumbridge (C) 15,638 (33.25%); Whitmore (LD) 7,616 (16.19%); Holmes (Green) 1,252 (2.66%); Youles (UKIP) 1,122 (2.39%); Holden (Ind) 308 (0.65%)

The BNP realised that it was in for a drubbing in Norwich North some time ago, and though it announced its intention to stand the dodgy West in a blaze of hype that saw excitable BNP members predict their first MP, it quickly became obvious the party's campaign was firmly stuck in some very deep mud.

The party attempted to stir disharmony in the constituency by falsely claiming that African immigrants were being housed ahead of locals in Norwich, and West became a figure of ridicule as doubts about his status as a "reverend" surfaced and dogged him throughout the campaign.

Realising the party was on a hiding to nothing the BNP stopped mentioning the by-election, and national support for West was not forthcoming. Planned visits to Norwich by BNP Euro MEPs Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons were shelved so as not to taint the pair with the impending disaster, and the puny Norfolk BNP organisation was left to sink or swim on its own.

It sank - and how!

The BNP's dismal Norwich North result falls into a clear pattern that has emerged since the heat of the Parliamentary expenses scandal has abated. In three significant local by-elections the racist party has seen its share of the vote tumble.

Last week in Nuneaton Arbury and Stockingford (Warwickshire County Council) - a division the BNP thought it could win - their vote share crashed by 11% as two thirds of those who had voted for the racist party in June deserted them.

Yesterday, in Reddish North (Stockport), the BNP vote share fell by 6.6% as more than half their votes evaporated - bad news for Nick Griffin, as Stockport falls within his North West Euro-region constituency. And in Dormanstown (Redcar-Cleveland) the BNP again managed to lose more than half its votes, its share again down by 6%.

As we saw in June, despite Nick Griffin's claim that the expenses scandal and disquiet at the scale of immigration amounted to a "perfect storm" for the BNP, the party managed to increase its vote by only 1.6%, and only disgusted stay-at-home Labour voters allowed him and Andrew Brons to win their Euro seats.

Griffin's lucky success was the only thing disguising what was a disastrous election for the BNP given the circumstances in which it took place. In fact it's pretty obvious that had the expenses scandal not broken when it did then the BNP vote would have fallen, with the happy result that Griffin's alleged electoral Midas Touch would have been exposed for the self-serving fiction it always was, and that with nothing to show for all the money, time and effort expended by the BNP in June the party would now be looking at its all too fallible leader in a very different light.

The Norwich North result shows that the BNP will never achieve power in the only place that matters - Westminster - and their disastrous vote losses in recent local by-elections give a true picture of the situation viz-a-viz the electorate and the BNP. Whichever way the BNP wants to look at it that picture is one of utter electoral failure.

Finally, we should like to mention the tireless anti-fascist campaigners of HOPE not hate and other organisations, and thank them for their unstinting efforts in getting out the truth of Robert West and the BNP in Norwich North. And to our list of people to thank we'd like to add Nick Griffin MEP, for providing us with the sitting duck candidate that was the ropey "reverend" Robert West. We couldn't have chosen better ourselves.

Report by Atreus (in his living room) and Denise Garside (by email from Berchtesgaden!)

Thanks to Atreus + Denise from Norfolk Unity

Leeds police worker sacked over 'BNP links'

26 Comment (s)
A West Yorkshire Police employee has been arrested and sacked over his alleged association with the British National Party and for using work time to compile right-wing CDs and DVDs.

Gary Marsden I'Anson, a controversial right wing singer-songwriter who has worked for the police for 23 years, is claiming unfair dismissal and racial discrimination against West Yorkshire Police. He was arrested at his Morley home on suspicion of possession of written material with intent to incite racial hatred – which he vigorously denied. No charges were brought. After being suspended on full pay he was eventually sacked in February, after a two-year investigation.

West Yorkshire Police told the YEP in a statement that Mr I'Anson was dismissed for the "excessive amount of working time he used to compile music CDs and DVDs and for his association with and contribution to BNP funds which is incompatible with values of West Yorkshire Police."

Mr I'Anson, 48, a police imaging officer, said he was not a member of the far-right British National Party. He insisted: "There were no grounds for my arrest", adding: "The last two years have been devastating for myself, my partner, family and friends."

When his home was raided in 2007 he said more than 500 items were seized , including:
  • Union Jack flags;
  • a local BNP leaflet poster;
  • a picture by his 11 -year-old's daughter of his band with the Union Jack;
  • two laptops;
  • hundreds of CDs;
  • audio visual equipment.
Mr I'Anson uploads his controversial songs to the internet under the name Anglo Saxon. His self - penned songs include This Is England which refers to the dead of two world wars, those who "crossed the skies for 30 pieces of silver", and a "time for Britannia to close the door". There are pictures on his website of the Tavistock Square London bombing, British soldiers tending wounded comrades, police in riot gear combating petrol bombs, pictures of both Queen Elizabeths, Queen Victoria, Henry VIII, Winston Churchill, Shakespeare and Keats.

Mr I'Anson said he believed he was the first British songwriter to be the subject of a criminal inquiry over his published lyrics.

"I was in custody for nine hours, questioned for four hours and bailed. On answering bail I was in custody for seven hours and was questioned extensively again and released on bail to August 24 2007 when I was re-bailed to October 19 2007."

On October 18 2007 he said he was told the investigation was at an end with no further action and he could collect his property the next day.

Defending his lyrics, he said: "The lyrics of This is England are not remotely racist, there is no mention of race. The only thing I could be accused of is touching on some uncomfortable truths. This is the most outrageous attack on freedom of speech, artistic expression and an abuse of the criminal law for the purposes of political correctness and internal discipline."

West Yorkshire Police said they will contest his claim for unfair dismissal.

Yorkshire Evening Post

Note from LU: Whether l'Anson is a member of the BNP or not is beside the point. He certainly has sympathy with the far-right party and played at the party's annual piss-up, the Red, White and Blue 'festival' in 2007 - the recording is still available through the BNP's tat-arm, Excalibur.

The image below shows the graphic links from a page on which he has posted (Action in England).

Action in England has this telling statement in its introduction:
'This website sets out to inform its readers about the truth of the failed experiment of multiculturalism and the real and present danger to our culture and our people by the huge influx of foreigners into our country...'
Seems pretty clear to us where his sympathies lie.

'Record rise' in UK anti-Semitism

0 Comment (s)
Anti-Semitic attacks in the UK doubled in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2008, according to new figures.

The Jewish Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism, says it recorded 609 incidents between January and June - up from 276 last year. Most incidents were abusive behaviour, but there were also 77 violent acts.

The trust said the rise had been driven by anger over Israel's military campaign against Hamas in Gaza. That conflict, between December 2008 and January 2009, was followed by an almost immediate rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK.

According to the CST, the total number of incidents for the first six months of this year was worse than the previous record of 598 incidents for the whole of 2006. Some 286 incidents occurred in January alone - but the security body said that a disproportionately higher monthly number of attacks and abuse continued into the spring. The attacks recorded so far include 77 acts of physical violence and two life-threatening assaults, one of which was an attempt to run somebody over with a car.

The CST says there have also been 400 incidents of general abuse, including hate mail to synagogues, along with 62 attacks on property that can be clearly defined as having a religious role. The CST uses definitions of violence which are broadly in line with the way police record incidents elsewhere in society. It stresses that it has also discounted more than 200 reports where it could not work out if the incident was anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.

Mark Gardner, of the CST, said: "British Jews are facing ever higher levels of racist attack and intimidation that threaten the wellbeing of our otherwise happy and successful Jewish community. There is no excuse for anti-Semitism, racism and bias, and it is totally unacceptable that overseas conflicts should be impacting here in this way."

Earlier this year, Muslim leaders issued a joint statement denouncing anti-Semitism, amid fears that violent elements from within their own communities were responsible for the increase in attacks.

Cohesion minister Shahid Malik, one of two Muslims in government, said: "This rise in anti-Semitism is not just concerning for the British Jewish communities but for all those who see themselves as decent human beings. The fight against anti-Semitism is a fight that should engage us all. This country will not tolerate those who seek to direct hatred towards any part of our community. It may be legitimate for individuals to criticise or be angry at the actions of the Israel government but we must never allow this anger to be used to justify anti-Semitism."


July 23, 2009

Police warning to land-owner over BNP rally

26 Comment (s)
Whoops, here comes trouble - the BNP's Red, White and Blue is back
Members of the British National Party bringing caravans to the controversial Red, White and Blue festival in Denby in August could face arrest.

Amber Valley Borough Council has written to organiser Alan Warner, who has hosted the event on his land for the past two years, warning him that he risks police intervention by allowing too many caravanners to park on his land during the festival without a licence. Land-owners need a caravan site licence to use their land as a temporary or permanent park for the vehicles and the council says that the excessive number of caravans at last year's festival exceeded the amount allowed without permission.

In a letter to Mr Warner sent earlier this month Amber Valley solicitor Paul Benski said: "Land may not be used as a caravan site, either permanently or temporarily, unless a site licence is held. To do otherwise would constitute a criminal offence. I must ask you to state in clear terms that anyone entering your land with a caravan is a trespasser who does so without your permission. Anyone who then does so is liable to arrest for public order offences."

Alan Warner, whose home was targeted by vandals spraying graffiti again last week, said: "I have told our party to break off all communication with the council. I think it is absolutely ridiculous - talking about coming on site and arresting people in caravans for trespassing. This is clearly victimisation. Other events in the area like the steam rally have many caravans on site with no problems. It looks to me like they have been scouring the legal books looking for something to get us on and this is all they have found. I will simply not allow them on site to do this."

A spokesman for Amber Valley Borough Council said: "Chief Executive Peter Carney is responding to representations from the Chief Constable and complaints after last year's event from residents about the number of caravans on the site giving rise to traffic and noise issues. He is asking the council to make an order prohibiting a trespassory assembly on the land for the event, following a request from the Chief Constable. This is aimed at preventing large numbers of protesters attending the event, and follows the order that was made last year.

"He is also asking the council to apply for an injunction to prevent caravans entering the site because of concerns that planning and caravan legislation will be breached. This is in the event that the landowners do not give an undertaking to comply with this legislation. This is not aimed at stopping the rally itself."

The proposals were to be discussed by the full council yesterday.

Derbyshire Times

Racist BNP teenager pushed girl, 14, to the brink of suicide

16 Comment (s)
The BNP: racist, violent thugs, as always
A teenage BNP supporter who drove a classmate to the brink of suicide has been convicted of racial harassment in a landmark legal case

The youth, 15, subjected his female victim to months of racist abuse, on one occasion telling her: 'Go back to your own country, you don't belong here.'

A court heard the 14-year-old girl - who had already moved schools once to avoid racist abuse - was also called 'wog, coon, nigger, gorilla and golliwog' by her tormentor. He taunted her with chants of 'white, white, white is right, kick them out, fight, fight, fight' - taken from a film about football hooliganism.

But the girl feared reporting the abuse would make him become violent and instead suffered in silence, the court was told. The victim, who has mixed white English and black African heritage, endured the abuse for four months before she attempted suicide in January this year.

A source close to the case said the teenager, who, like his victim, cannot be named for legal reasons, was a BNP supporter who had actively tried to enlist other youths. Raymond Wildsmith, prosecuting, told Lincoln Youth Court the insults happened 'again and again and again' - anything up to four times a week. But the girl only revealed her torment after she tried to kill herself. She took a mixture of stress pills and painkillers in January before writing a note telling her family that she did not want a 'sad funeral'.

Giving evidence by video link, the girl told a police officer the abuse made her 'want to die'. She added: 'I wanted to die because of everything that was happening at school. I thought, "Do I want to do this?" And then I thought, "Yes, I don't want to be here".

Last night, her mother described her daughter's tormentor as 'evil'. She said: 'He seemed to mimic everything his father did and became a ringleader of a violent set of boys at the school.' She told how her daughter left a suicide note requesting that nobody wore black at her funeral. She said: 'My world fell apart. I had no idea that there was anything wrong with her. At home she put on a brave face and seemed totally normal.'

The teenager was hospitalised and then sectioned in a psychiatric hospital for several weeks. She has been out of school virtually ever since but is due to start at a new school in a different part of the country in September. The mother reported the girl's ordeal to the school and police, but said she had a 'long hard fight to get justice for my daughter'.

She added: 'When I first informed the school, they as good as called me a liar. I then had a long battle convincing the police to take this seriously. They were desperately slow and interviewed 25 people before they seemed to appreciate the seriousness of it.' The court was told that the girl had only been in the Lincoln area for a year before the abuse started.

Her 15-year-old tormentor, who denied the charge, was convicted of racially aggravated harassment. He will be sentenced on August 13. A second 15-year-old was cleared of the same charge.

The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed it was the first successful prosecution of a schoolchild for racial abuse in the UK. Jaswant Narwal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Lincolnshire said: 'We would like to thank the victim for her courage in coming forward and strongly encourage other young people in the same situation to report to the police when they have been targets of campaign of racial bullying.'

Mail Online

Binmen's BNP flyer warning

0 Comment (s)
Council chiefs have pledged to tighten inspections after a BNP flyer was seen on a bin lorry. Formal warnings have now been issued to the people responsible for displaying the leaflet.

The lorry was doing its rounds in Worsley, Salford, when a resident caught the flyer on camera. Salford council bosses have now warned staff that promoting political parties is against the rules.

Union bosses say they hope lessons have been learned. Coun Joe Murphy said: "I have explained to staff that some people may find such material offensive. And I reminded them that the council has strict rules on promoting political parties in this way."

Manchester Evening News

Who do you think you are kidding...?

0 Comment (s)
On the trail of the BNP as it makes its first, shambolic appearance at the European Parliament in Strasbourg

It is a humid July day in Strasbourg, and inside the Louise Weiss Building it feels like the start of school term. Journalists and politicians, assembled for the opening session of the European Parliament, are greeting each other like old friends outside the main debating chamber, known in a typical piece of EU jargon as the Hemicycle. Here, in the glass and pine atrium of this imposing cylindrical edifice - Britain's signature contribution to which is a garish floral carpet in the staff bar that bears more than a hint of cross-Channel ferry - you might spot Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the ex-revolutionary French Green and the closest thing the EU has to a pop star, strolling around with his entourage of admirers. Or Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip), as he lambasts the rise of "the European military superpower" in front of assembled TV cameras. The atmosphere here, compared to Westminster, is open and collegiate.

Hidden away, however, at the end of a winding corridor on the top floor of an adjoining administrative block, a strange meeting is taking place. Convened by Andreas Mölzer of Austria's immigrant-hating Freedom Party, it is a meeting of the non-inscrits, the "non-attached" MEPs, from parties that have failed to make it into one of the mainstream coalitions. Aside from a few mavericks, such as Diane Dodds of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, this means the far right - including two of Britain's new crop of MEPs: Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons of the British National Party. Although the BNP is not a traditional fascist party or Nazi organisation, its constitution commits it to "restoring . . . the overwhelmingly white make-up of the British population that existed in Britain prior to 1948".

Earlier in the day, having travelled across France by car, Brons and Griffin had ­commanded the attention of the British press corps when they made their first, tentative appearance at the Hemicycle. Now they are due at a more furtive gathering. I remove my bright yellow press badge, slip it into my pocket, and watch an international assembly of bigots file into the conference room: Krisztina Morvai of Jobbik, the gypsy-hating Hungarian party with its own private, uniformed militia; the French Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen of the Front National, along with his daughter Marine; assorted podgy members of Belgium's Flemish Interest and the Netherlands' Party for Freedom, both of which are anti-Islam.

Then, ambling down the corridor, come Griffin and Brons, accompanied by Simon Darby, the BNP's press officer, Jackie Griffin (wife of Nick) and a large minder in an ill-fitting suit. Outside the conference chamber stand a few men and women wearing tourist passes and speaking in French. One of them, barely out of his teens, clutches copies of a magazine titled Identitaires. This is the in-house magazine of the French sect Bloc Identitaire, which runs a Europe-wide "news" agency called Novopress that distributes far-right propaganda. Griffin walks up and shakes his hand. "We've met before, haven't we?" he says. They make slightly awkward conversation, the young man explaining that his group has "a good relationship" with the Front National. Griffin makes a vague offer to help get the magazine translated into English - "for those of us who are interested in identity", he says, sighing. They then follow the remaining members into the conference room.

The collection of oddballs on the other side of the door is the dirty secret of the European Parliament. In the family of nations that the parliament supposedly represents, the far right has long been the foul-mouthed elderly relative. In a way, Britain has simply caught up with the rest of Europe, which has grudgingly accepted the presence of a few extremists as part of the proportional representation electoral system.

But it is also part of a more disturbing narrative. Lívia Járóka, a Hungarian MEP of Roma origin, is particularly concerned at the support gained by Jobbik, which came third in her country's elections. "[Jobbik's success] has a lot to do with the current economic crisis. People feel very unsafe, so they are ready to accept answers with no real base in fact." She feels the best way to challenge their arguments is to confront them directly. "Rather than ignore the far right, we should try to show that what they are claiming is complete empty propaganda."

Little more than a month since the BNP was elected, its victory looks decidedly hollow. Its negotiations with other far-right parties, conducted at the parliament's other base in Brussels over the past month, have failed to round up enough allies to form an official coalition of MEPs. As a result, they have been denied any extra funding beyond the standard salary (a generous £63,000) and staffing allowance, nor will they have access to any influential positions, such as committee chair or vice-president of the parliament. At most, they will be able to obtain seats on parliamentary committees and use them as a platform to make grandstanding statements - assuming anyone is still listening in six months' time. Griffin, who believes climate change is "bollocks", has already got a seat on the environment committee.

While the BNP and its closest allies remain isolated, however, there has been a wider shift to the right since their electoral successes in June, and some ultranationalist elements have managed to insinuate themselves into the mainstream. This is largely thanks to the actions of two British parties - the Conservatives and Ukip.

Under the direction of David Cameron, the Tories quit the centre-right European People's Party to form a new, Eurosceptic coalition, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). Their main partner is Poland's socially conservative Law and Justice party, which has a well-documented record of anti-gay rhetoric. Its leader in the European Parliament, Michal Kaminski, was a member of the far-right, anti-Semitic National Revival of Poland in the late 1980s. In 2001, the US-based Anti-Defamation League accused him of having attempted to
stop the commemoration of a wartime pogrom against Jewish people in the Polish town of Jedwabne. Despite this, the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan this month described Kaminski on his blog for the Daily Telegraph as "a Thatcherite: a sturdy Polish patriot who is nonetheless, in outlook, almost a British Tory".

Not all of Hannan's colleagues share this view. Edward McMillan-Scott, a committed pro-European Tory MEP of 25 years, respected across the political divide, was expelled from the Tory group on 15 July when he stood against Kaminski in an election for vice-president of the parliament, and won. Kaminski was the ECR's official candidate for one of the EU's 12 vice-presidential posts, which are divided between the coalitions in what parliamentary insiders cheerfully refer to as a "stitch-up". EU etiquette frowns on MEPs who rock the boat by opposing members of their own coalitions.

Describing himself to me as a "loyal Tory", who spent the 1980s working in Poland with reformist groups, McMillan-Scott regrets going against the wishes of his party, but says he was compelled to do so by what he calls "the rise of respectable fascism" in Europe. He sees the alliance as a grave setback for Cameron's attempts to decontaminate the Conservative brand. "This is where the modern Conservative Party has to tread very carefully," McMillan-Scott tells me. "David Cameron has done a remarkable job in repositioning the party on most things. Its attitude to gays, or the environment, for example, has fundamentally changed. There's just the question of these links [to right-wing extremists in Europe] and one can't close one's mind to it."

To the Labour MEP Michael Cashman, this shows a lack of leadership on Cameron's part. "It suggests that Cameron is unable to control his MEPs and has shifted them where they want to go, which is further to the right."

Ukip's new friends are even more unsavoury. The party's major partner in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, formed at the beginning of this month, is Italy's Lega Nord, which, despite being part of Silvio Berlusconi's governing coalition at home, wants autonomy for northern Italy and has a track record of xenophobic and anti-gay statements. Other members of the group - described by Searchlight's Europe correspondent Graeme Atkinson as a "far-right-lite" coalition - include Greek and Slovak extreme nationalists. Nikki Sinclaire, Ukip's first openly lesbian MEP, concedes to having "reservations" about her new allies. "All the parties [of Freedom and Democracy] have signed up to a statement saying they oppose all forms of discrimination. But it is difficult. I think this is going to evolve over the next couple of months."

The Freedom and Democracy coalition is in part a shrewd move to block the more extreme far-right parties, such as the BNP, from forming
a coalition - Lega Nord was initially touted as a possible partner for the BNP. However, it creates a potentially more toxic alternative. Most of the British MEPs are now in alliances with extreme conservatives, with whom they will be seeking a common position on a range of issues, from equality legislation to the Convention on Human Rights.

Labour, meanwhile, faces severe problems. The party has only 13 MEPs left in the parliament - level with Ukip. The corresponding drop in funding (which is allocated according to the number of MEPs elected) has led to redundancies among auxiliary staff. Yet, despite the BNP's electoral success being largely down to a collapse in the Labour vote - even if most core Labour voters wouldn't dream of supporting the BNP, they helped it by staying away from the polls - none of the Labour MEPs I spoke to was willing to look beyond short-term causes. I suggested to Cashman, a former EastEnders actor who now represents the West Midlands, that Labour had lost the support of its working-class base. "Bullshit. The ascent of the BNP, along with the ascent of Ukip, can be traced directly to the timing of the Westminster expenses scandal," he said.

Richard Corbett, who lost his seat in Yorkshire and the Humber, where the BNP's Brons was elected, narrows it down even more. "The final nail in the coffin was Hazel Blears resigning [from the cabinet] the day before the election. It was a kick in the teeth to thousands of volunteers in the party and caused maximum damage - in our case, the difference was only a few thousand votes, so she really made that difference."

The damage now extends beyond the Labour Party. Griffin, Brons and their European allies may have failed to form an official grouping, but they share a strategy of trying to play down the overtly racist rhetoric and to influence mainstream debate. "We are treated like pariahs," Marine Le Pen tells me when I ask her what the Front National has in common with the BNP. "The traditional parties try to give us a completely warped image."

I eventually meet Griffin an hour or so after the majority of Britain's 72 MEPs have gathered for a drinks reception hosted by Glenys Kinnock, Britain's Europe minister. Griffin and Brons were pointedly not invited. The snub evidently hurt: throughout the opening week of parliament, journalists were treated to Griffin's witty riposte: "I would not want to share a drink with Glenys Kinnock. She is a political prostitute, simple as that."

Despite fears that the BNP would try to gatecrash the party, Griffin and Brons stayed away. Instead, they returned for a few hours to their "reasonably priced" hotel on the edge of the city, a low-budget dormitory surrounded by decrepit industrial buildings, where Jobbik's Krisztina Morvai also stayed.

When we meet in a busy lobby back at the parliament, the pair come across as rather shambolic. Brons, a retired teacher who used to be in the National Front, burbles along in conversation, quoting de Tocqueville and Voltaire. Griffin has a gift for the soundbite but in longer conversations tends to stare at the floor and rant circuitously. I get lost for a while during a passionate discourse on the genetic similarities of human beings to chimpanzees - and why this means we're all bound to kill each other one day unless we maintain ethnic purity. What is interesting about his language is the way in which he manipulates the fears of a declining 21st-century industrial society. He talks of shadowy "global businesspeople" (as opposed to a global financial system), presents human cultures as endangered species (rather than as products of our collective activities), and refers to the apocalyptic threat of peak oil (but not, as we know, climate change).

The suggestion that Britain has benefited from immigration is dismissed as "self-hating racism", but to avoid accusations of racism on his own part, Griffin takes cultural relativism to an extreme. He deplores the "Islamification of Britain", but says Muslims are free to behave as they like "in their own countries. We don't have a right to interfere". Indeed, in his maiden speech, given during a parliamentary debate on Iran, Griffin appeared to defend President Ahmadinejad's regime, describing the pro-democracy protests as a cover for "a third illegal and counterproductive attack by the west on the Muslim world".

Although the BNP's view of society makes no class distinctions, Griffin appeals to "working-class Britons" when it suits him. One word that crops up repeatedly in his analyses is "elite" - as in "the EU is an elite project which has no connection with reality". The other place I notice the use of the word that day is in an email to members of the BNP's mailing list, purporting to come from a "Chairman Nick Griffin MEP". It offers readers a chance to make a donation and become a "Gold member". "Gold members are the 'elite' of the Party," the email says. "They go that extra mile and quite rightly display their Gold membership badge with pride at Party meetings and events." The badge "also makes a superb addition to any type of clothing, whether a suit or casual".

Despite his party's commitment to British withdrawal from the EU, Griffin tries to strike a conciliatory tone. "We're going to engage here, because although we believe Britain should be withdrawn, you can't have this many people together and not come up sometimes with something that is actually a good idea."

I had had an insight the previous day into the far right's idea of what it means to "engage" at the meeting of non-inscrits, the aim of which was to nominate one group member who could speak on behalf of the others at official engagements. Waiting outside the meeting, I listened as the murmured voices became louder and more strained. Then a row erupted. It went on and on. A posh English voice filled the corridor, followed by the smoker's rasp of Marine Le Pen, and then that of her father, shouting in French. Le Pen Sr yelled at the chair of the meeting: "You are a civil servant! I am an elected representative!" The chair replied: "Monsieur, if you carry on like this then I will have to close the session."

Soon after that, the voices stopped. A group of interpreters exited from a side door, laughing. As they passed, I heard one say to the others, mockingly, "And they say dictatorship would be a bad idea . . .".

New Statesman

July 22, 2009

A realistic sense of super-scale

12 Comment (s)
The wonderful village of Britain
Yesterday's Independent carried an interesting item about how we view statistical information such as the fact that this month's estimate of global population is 6,790,062,216 - a number so staggeringly huge that it's almost meaningless.

Traditionally, statisticians convert such numbers into something more familiar to allow us to get a grip on the figure. Thus we end up with the global population being scaled down to 75,445 Wembleys or 2,341 Wales'. Any better? No, I didn't think so.

The genius of the article lay in the super-scaling: in fact, converting Britain's population of 61 million to a single community of 100 people. Britain, the village. And some of the figures have a direct bearing on the lies that the BNP perpetually attempts to pass off as fact.

Britain is overcrowded

Britain is, in fact, far from overcrowded. If Britain were a village of 100 people, and its land mass were scaled down by the same proportion as its population, the village would cover an area the size of 99 football pitches. Agricultural land would occupy 20 football pitches (run by a single farmer), while London would cover just over half a football pitch. All built-up areas and gardens would occupy the equivalent of six football pitches.

This occupied land rounds out at just 26 football pitches, leaving a phenomenal 73 going spare - presumably as woodland, moorland and land in private ownership (by people like Nick Griffin).

The two BNP MEPs were democratically elected

If Britain were a village of 100 people, there would be 74 voters but only 26 of those voters would have gone to the polls at this year's European elections. Far from the mandate from the British public that Griffin would like us to believe he got.

Britain is overrun by other cultures

Not so. Ninety-two of our villagers would be white. Two would be black, two Indian, one Pakistani, one of mixed race and two would be of other races (which presumably could be pretty much any colour from a well-tanned Robert Kilroy-Silk to a pale Lenny Henry).

Muslims/Jews/whatever are taking over the country

Again, untrue. Seventy-two people would identify themselves as Christian (although only 10 people in the village would go to church regularly). Fifteen people would say that they were not religious, while there would be two Muslims, one Hindu and 10 people who practised other religions (including the BNP's favourite lunacy Odinism, and paganism). Whatever bizarre cult the BNP's fake vicar Robert West belongs to, wouldn't even get a look in.

The BNP is growing fast

Not according to Tina Wingfield, the BNP's membership secretary, who claimed back in June that the party had achieved 10,000 members, a drop from the 12,724 that appeared on the released membership list. If my maths are correct (and they're probably not) that should see the BNP membership of our village standing at about a six-hundredth of a normal person, which sounds about right.

While these figures are outrageously simplified, they do help to put the BNP's droning about the state of the nation into perspective.

We are neither overrun nor overcrowded, though clearly more homes are definitely needed and it handily appears that we have plenty of spare land on which to build them. In fact I can think of a decent plot of land in a reasonable location that might be going spare fairly soon (if the rumours we've been hearing of late are true). It's in Wales, down in a place called Welshpool...

July 21, 2009

Peter Tierney faces court date for assaulting anti-fascists

23 Comment (s)
In April, I reported on an attack perpetrated by Merseyside BNP activists Steve Greenhalgh and Peter Tierney [left], which took place in Liverpool City Centre on St George's Day. Greenhalgh and Tierney used an upended table and a folded camera tripod respectively as weapons against anti-fascists who had routed their leafleting with counter-leafleting in and around their location.

Despite Tierney's lies, which got one anti-fascist arrested for "assaulting" him, he was ultimately taken into custody and released on bail. The arrested anti-fascist was also bailed, but only after being held in the same station as Tierney and subsequently followed home by a car full of BNP activists threatening "we know where you live, we’re going to fucking kill you."

On Monday, Tierney answered his police bail at St Anne's Street police station. The bail conditions for both Tierney and the victim he claimed to be his assailant included a ban on entering the City Centre, and those conditions were reasserted. Tierney is set to face trial at the Liverpool Magistrates Court on the 5th of August and, as the Merseyside BNP blog reports, BNP activists "will be holding a 2nd Demo outside of the Magistrates Court as he attends." Their intent is to show that they "will not be intimidated and bullied by the state" who have "set a dangerous precedent that decent members of the public CAN NOT defend themselves against attackers." They are in fact demonstrating that their party stands in defence of savage violence by those who grap weapons when faced with non-violent opposition.

As of yet, no counter-demonstration has been arranged to face the fascist contingent outside the courthouse. Even if, as in countless prior Liverpool demonstrations, their numbers barely scrape fifty, they need to be opposed. Merseyside anti-fascists need to show that we will not accept fascist violence under the transparent pretext of "self-defence" against the non-violent, and Tierney needs to learn that the opposition and dissent he so hates will not simply fade away because he picks up a weapon.

Truth, Reason and Liberty

Updated: Tricky Dicky throws a sickie

35 Comment (s)
BNP's Richard Barnbrook fails to appear at misconduct hearing

Meeting to consider whether Richard Barnbrook brought his office into disrepute is cancelled after he phones panel to tell them he has been signed off work for stress

A meeting to consider whether Richard Barnbrook, one of the most senior elected members of the British National party, had brought his office into disrepute was cut short today after he failed to turn up on stress grounds.

Barnbrook, who is both a London assembly member and sits on Barking and Dagenham council, could be suspended amid charges that he brought his office into disrepute by falsely claiming three murders had taken place over a three-week period in the Barking and Dagenham area.

But the meeting was cut short after Barnbrook telephoned just before his hearing was due to begin to say that he had been signed off for stress for two weeks by his GP. Barnbrook's failure to submit written evidence to the hearing resulted in the panel ruling it would be unfair to continue in his absence.

Today's meeting will be reconvened on either 12 August or 4 September...


Barnbrook off for two weeks because of "stress"

Here is an interesting insight into the modus operandi of the BNP. For those of you who are aware of the BNP’s politics and their use of rumours and falsifications, this story should be of use to you.

Richard Barnbrook, the BNP’s London Assembly member, is off work for two weeks due to stress. Barnbrook was due to face a joint Barking and Dagenham Council and Greater London Authority disciplinary panel and risked a possible suspension because he stands accused of bringing his office into disrepute.

The Guardian reported this morning: “A joint investigation for the Greater London authority and Barking and Dagenham council concluded in May that Barnbrook brought his office and the respective authorities into disrepute after falsely claiming in an interview that three murders had taken place over a three week period in the Barking and Dagenham area.”

The panel was going to announce its decision today.

However, it is said that after consulting with his legal advisor, Lee Barnes, who is also legal director for the BNP, Barnbrook decided not to attend this morning’s hearing, which was due to start at 10.30am. Barnes, according to sources from Barking and Dagenham Council, told Barnbrook that the “make-up” of the panel would not guarantee him a fair hearing.

But before the panel could decide as to whether they should go ahead and make a decision on the case, news came in that Barnbrook was given sick leave due to “stress”. The panel believed that they did not want to add to his medical state and have set aside two dates, August 14th and September 4th 2009, and will announce when they will hold the next panel meeting in due course.

It is not the first time that the BNP have been accused of making up stories to fit their political agenda. In 2001, the BNP came under fire in the BBC documentary “Under the Skin”for Panorama. As a part of the documentary, the BBC investigated an “important part of the British National Party's "community politics" strategy … FAIR - Families Against Immigrant Racism.” (Now disbanded)

The group advertised itself as assisting “white victims of racist violence and harassment and offered legal and counselling advice.”

Dave Hill, the BNP's former East London organiser, was FAIR’s co-ordinator for the capital. To the BBC he said, "There is no mystery, there is no controversy to FAIR, it's just a white rights organisation. We're targeting race hate that is not targeted by other victim support groups."

However, after an undercover investigation it became clear that Hill was encouraging “victims” to exaggerate and lie to the police about “attacks” and “racism”. He also encouraged people to lie to doctors. Hill is caught saying: "This is very important, ...go to your doctor and tell your doctor that you're suffering extreme stress... What he'll do, he'll put you on anti-depressants. You don't have to take them, you can wash them down the toilet. But once you're on medication and you're also suffering racial abuse at your address then you're a priority case..."

Barnbrook’s fabricated tale only proves how despite the cosmetic enhancements to the BNP’s image, what lies beneath is a very ugly and discredited rabble of amateurs dressed up as politicians.

There is nothing British about the BNP