BNP’s Accounts To Be Investigated By Watchdog

(Independent) – THE BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY’S CAMPAIGN suffered a fresh blow last night after the electoral watchdog announced an investigation into its accounts.

The BNP has already been fined £1,000 by the Electoral Commission for filing its 2008 financial records nearly six months late and been told to provide more information about its income. After beginning a case review into the accounts three months ago, the commission has now moved on to the next stage, which is a formal investigation.

The independent auditor of the far-right party’s accounts for 2008 said the records did not provide “a true and fair view” of its finances.

The commission said yesterday: “It is important to note – particularly during an election period – that no conclusion has been reached and therefore no assumption should be made as to whether a breach of the rules has occurred.”

The accounts showed the BNP lost more than £80,000 in 2008, despite a leap in its income from donations to more than £660,000. Spending soared from £662,000 over the year to £1.1m.

The BNP’s preparations for next month’s general election have been chequered. Nick Griffin, the party leader, called a meeting of senior officials after it emerged that the BNP’s publicity director had been arrested on suspicion of threatening to kill him. Mark Collett has been accused by party chiefs of planning a “palace coup” against the leader.

The BNP says it has selected more than 330 general election candidates.

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BNP Votes in Favour Of Non-Whites

Nick Griffin

(Independent) – THE BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY (BNP) is to open its doors to black and Asian members after voting to scrap its whites-only rules.

The move was forced on the anti-immigration party by legal action that could have crippled its finances. Nick Griffin, its leader, urged members to approve changes to its constitution after a court instructed it to comply with anti-discrimination legislation.

He told them there was no alternative if the BNP was to take part in this year’s general election, but he reassured hard-line members that it would never become a “multi-racial” party.

The decision to ditch the rule that restricted membership to “indigenous Caucasians” was announced after an extraordinary general meeting of the BNP in Hornchurch, east London.

The party is now set to sign up its first ethnic minority member: Rajinder Singh, a 78-year-old Sikh from Northamptonshire, who is a bitter critic of Islam. Mr Griffin said: “I will be absolutely delighted to shake his hand and give him his membership card.”

The BNP leader said he expected a “trickle, rather than a flood” of applications from ethnic minority Britons. He said: “We are happy to accept anyone as a member, providing they agree with us that this country should remain fundamentally British.”

Yesterday’s meeting was called after the Central London County Court told the BNP to amend its constitution or face legal action by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The BNP is due to return to court next month to argue that its constitution now complies with race relations laws.

In a message to members, Mr Griffin had warned his party that they faced “legal financial meltdown”, and would be unable to contest elections, if it challenged the court ruling. He added: “As for the BNP becoming a ‘multi-racial’ organisation, this will never happen.”

The party denounced the action as politically motivated, describing the EHRC as a “government quango using the judicial process to try to nobble a political opponent”. One member said after yesterday’s meeting: “It was a necessity rather than something we wanted to do from the heart.”

The party’s revised constitution, which says it welcomes members from all backgrounds but still represents the interests of the “indigenous British”, will be sent to the EHRC within days.

A spokeswoman for the commission said: “We haven’t yet seen what the changes are, but hope the BNP’s revised membership policy is no longer discriminatory … When we have received this we will consider our position ahead of the next court hearing on March 9.”

The EHRC first wrote to the BNP in June, to raise concerns that it believed the BNP’s rules “discriminate against potential or actual members on racial grounds”, despite a pledge from the party to clarify the word “white” on its website.

A spokesman for anti-fascist group Searchlight said: “This is a meaningless gesture by the BNP. No one seriously believes that thousands of black and Asian Britons will now be queuing up to join Nick Griffin’s party. The BNP are as racist and extremist as ever.”

The BNP had its most successful electoral year in 2009, winning two seats in the European Parliament and its first three places on county councils. The European breakthrough led to the BBC One’s controversial invitation to Mr Griffin to appear on Question Time.

The party’s main election hopes rest on the seat of Barking, east London, where Mr Griffin is trying to oust Margaret Hodge, Labour’s Culture Minister.

After the BNP voted to allow non-whites to join the party yesterday, the first to sign up is likely to be Rajinder Singh, a 78-year-old Sikh. Mr Singh, a retired teacher, has been sympathetic towards the BNP since hearing Nick Griffin on television in 2001. He has since written for the party’s newspaper, Freedom, appeared on its internet TV channel, BNPTV, and voted for them.

In 2005 he provided a character reference for Mr Griffin at his trial for inciting racial hatred. Mr Singh came to the UK from India in 1967. He blames Muslims for the death of his father during the Partition of India in 1947. He said: “I got in touch with the BNP on certain core policies that appeal to me. I also admire them since they are on their own patch, and do not wish to let anyone else oust them from the land of their ancestors.”

Martin Wingfield, the BNP’s communications and campaigns officer, has recently told members: “I say adapt and survive and give the brave and loyal Rajinder Singh the honour of becoming the first ethnic minority member of the BNP.”

… (Jon Slattery, 14/02/2010) – BNP throws Times journalist out of meeting

BBC Tightens Security For Griffin

(Reuters) – BBC BOSSES ARE BRACED for chaos and possible scenes of violence today after inviting right-wing nationalist politician Nick Griffin to appear on its flagship current affairs panel show, Question Time.

Security has been stepped up inside and outside the BBC’s West London studios, where hundreds of anti-fascist demonstrators are expected to take on the likes of the local British National Party (BNP), of which Griffin is national chairman, when the show goes on air tonight.

A last-ditch effort to take control of the situation by the BBC Trust, which met late last night to discuss rescinding the invitation, ended in impasse. The trust, the governing body of the broadcaster, said it could not take such action before the programme airs.

‘We have decided it would be wrong for the trust to intervene in a programme not yet broadcast — even one as plainly controversial as this,’ BBC trustee Richard Tait said.

‘To do so would undermine the editorial independence of the BBC — something we are strongly committed to preserve. Until it is broadcast, the content of Thursday’s Question Time is entirely a matter for the director-general.’

The decision to allow the head of the far-right BNP a berth on one of the U.K.’s highest-profile current affairs programmes has drawn fury from some political quarters who say the BBC is giving the party undue publicity.

It also has been attacked by anti-BNP campaigners who have threatened to demonstrate outside the BBC’s headquarters and attempt to disrupt the broadcast.

Griffin, who has questioned whether the Holocaust took place and attacked the U.K.’s tolerance towards immigrants, leads a political party that aims to repatriate immigrants and discriminate against blacks, Asians and other non-white groups. He has said that appearing on the BBC show will significantly boost his party’s profile.

‘This could be the key moment that propels the BNP into the big time,’ Griffin said. ‘Never before have we had the chance to present our patriotic, common-sense solutions to Britain’s nightmare situation to the public at large in such a prominent fashion.’

The BBC has defended its decision to invite Griffin, saying that because the party won seats in the recent European Parliament elections, it has a right to be represented.

… (Reuters, 22/10/2009) – UK far-right leader’s TV slot sparks protests

… (Reuters, 24/10/2009) – BNP leader gets mixed reviews in London stronghold

Ex-Generals Warn-Off BNP

(Reuters) – A GROUP OF FORMER BRITSH ARMY GENERALS accused far right-wing parties today of hijacking Britain’s military history for their own ‘dubious ends.’

The ex-generals said in a letter that the reputation of Britain’s armed forces was being tarnished by political extremists who use military symbols in their publicity material.

The British National Party (BNP), which calls for a halt to immigration, voluntary repatriation of immigrants and Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, has used photographs of World War Two leader Winston Churchill in its previous campaign material.

Party leader Nick Griffin is currently at the centre of another controversy surrounding his planned appearance on the BBC’s current affairs panel show Question Time on Thursday.

The letter, which has been reported in the Times and Sun, is part of a campaign by military figures to prevent right-wing organisations from masquerading as veterans’ charities.

‘The reputation of Britain’s Armed Services is being tarnished by political extremists attempting to appropriate it for their own dubious ends,’ the letter said.

‘We deplore this trend. The values of these extremists — many of whom are essentially racist — are fundamentally at odds with the values of the modern British military such as tolerance and fairness.’

The letter is signed by the former heads of the army Mike Jackson and Richard Dannatt, as well as the former chief of defence of staff Charles Guthrie and a commander in the first Gulf War Patrick Cordingley.

It goes on to say that Commonwealth soldiers make up about 10% of the armed forces, representing an ‘invaluable contribution to the success of Britain’s military.’

Without naming the BNP, it goes on to say: ‘The reputation of our Armed Forces was won over centuries of service in some of the most difficult areas of the world.

‘Political extremists should claim no right to share in this proud heritage.

‘We call on all those who seek to hijack the good name of Britain’s military for their own advantage to cease and desist.’

Former soldiers and politicians have also placed videos on the Internet, complaining at the use of military material and images by such parties.

Critics, including a government minister, have also complained about Griffin’s planned appearance on Question Time, the first time the party’s leader will have appeared on one of the BBC’s current affairs television shows, describing it as ‘irrational and unlawful.’

Mainstream parties have previously refused to share a public platform with the BNP to avoid giving it credibility.

The BNP has no seats in the national parliament but its popularity has grown in recent years and it now has a number of local councillors and in June won two seats to the European Parliament.

Hain Warns BBC Of Legal Action Over BNP Invite

(Reuters) – WELSH SECRETARY PETER HAIN warned the BBC today it could face legal action over its invitation to the leader of the British National Party to appear for the first time on one of its current affairs shows.

Hain, a leading anti-apartheid campaigner before joining parliament, said in a letter to the corporation that its action was ‘unreasonable, irrational and unlawful.’

The BBC announced last month that BNP leader Nick Griffin would be one of the guests on Question Time, a panel show where politicians and commentators discuss issues of the day in front of a studio audience.

The invitation for this Thursday’s programme has caused a political storm. Mainstream parties have previously refused to share a public platform with the BNP to avoid giving it credibility.

The BNP campaigns for a halt to immigration, voluntary repatriation of immigrants, and Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

It has no MPs at Westminster; but it does have a number of local councillors and in June won two seats to the European Parliament.

A BBC spokesman said the corporation had invited the BNP to appear in accordance with its public broadcast obligation to offer all political parties ‘due impartiality.’

‘Our assessment was that following the European elections [the BNP] had established a level of electoral support which meant it was appropriate to invite a representative on to an edition of Question Time,’ he added.

Hain, 59, who was born in Kenya and raised in South Africa during the apartheid years, said that as a result of a court agreement last week the BNP had accepted it was an ‘unlawfully constituted party.’

He urged BBC Director General Mark Thompson to suspend the BNP invitation until after a final court hearing in January.

‘If you do not review the decision, you may run the very serious risk of legal challenge, in addition to the moral objections that I make,’ Hain wrote.

The BNP agreed on October 15 to ask its members to amend its constitution to allow non-whites to join, in a bid to fend off court action from equality campaigners.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission had launched legal action against the BNP, arguing the party’s exclusion of potential members on ethnic grounds broke the Race Relations Act.

BNP deputy leader Simon Darby said Hain had been misinformed about the case and was writing ‘nonsense.’

‘At no time did we agree we were an illegal organisation,’ he told Reuters.

He said Hain was desperate to prevent the BNP appearing on Question Time, which regularly attracts an audience of 3 million viewers.

‘We are entitled to put our case to the public,’ said Darby. ‘Hain is denying the right of millions of people to listen to an alternative point of view.’

Protest group Unite Against Fascism said it would hold an all day demonstration against the BNP appearance outside the BBC’s west London studios on Thursday where the programme will be recorded shortly before its evening broadcast.

Poll Violence Feared With Rise In UK Far-Right

(Reuters) – A RESURGENCE OF FAR-RIGHT GROUPS is likely to fuel abuse, violence, and even riots in the run-up to Britain’s next parliamentary elections, community relations experts warn.

In the last few months, Britain has seen disturbances in London and in Birmingham, with police coming under attack after far right protesters clashed with Muslims and anti-fascist groups.

So far the trouble has been minor, with few serious injuries or major damage. But mainstream politicians are worried.

Following trouble outside a mosque in north London, Communities Secretary John Denham warned that far right extremists were using the same tactics as fascist groups before World War Two to provoke British Muslims.

Denham likened the disorder at the mosque to that employed by the black-shirted supporters of the British Union of Fascists who generated fear and violence when they marched though Jewish areas of London’s east end in the 1930s.

Community relations experts fear the situation could deteriorate as Britain heads towards an election due by next June, even raising fears of a repeat of race riots that engulfed towns across northern England in 2001.

‘We have got a much bigger and more determined far right than in 2001, which has been emboldened by recent successes,’ said Professor Ted Cantle, who led the government review into the 2001 riots, Britain’s worst disturbances in recent times.

‘Clearly any community can be provoked and the far right is taking more action, and some of its provocation is nastier and more sophisticated.

‘The provocation is serious and it could lead to some forms of disorder,’ Cantle, Executive Chairman of the Institute of Community Cohesion, set up by the government following the London bombings in 2005, told Reuters.

The far right is certainly more popular and high profile than it has been for decades. This summer saw the British National Party (BNP) enjoy its greatest success at the ballot box, winning two seats for the European Parliament.

Although the BNP remains at the fringes of British politics, other extreme groups, such as The English Defence League (EDL) and Casuals United have sprung-up promising more direct action.

They emerged after a small group of Muslim militants staged a protest in Luton in March against soldiers returning from Iraq.

While the government sees building better relations with the Muslim community as essential following the 2005 London suicide attacks by four British Islamists, the right-wing groups accuse ministers of pandering to militants.

‘The government and police need to decide whether they want to carry on turning a blind eye to killers in our midst, a small minority, or whether they want to listen to the concerns of the ignored majority, and deal with the Jihadists before widespread disorder breaks out,’ the Casuals Utd website says.

Critics dismiss the groups as being a small number of racist, former soccer hooligans. But Muhammad Abul Kalam, spokesman for the police advisory body the Muslim Safety Forum (MSF), said there was great concern at the groups’ impact.

‘There is a genuine fear that their message is becoming more acceptable to mainstream British indigenous people because of various reasons, including the economic downturn,’ he said.

He agreed the rise of the far right combined with tensions generated by the elections could be an explosive combination, leading to serious public disorder.

‘It happened in London in Harrow,’ he told Reuters, saying Muslims were being incited to react both by the far right and anti-fascist organisations.

‘There are certain hot-headed Muslims out there looking to protect their community in a criminal way who want to engage in street fights and demonstrations, and hurl bottles and bricks, and we want to contain that.’

The next flashpoint is expected on October 10 in Manchester, when the EDL holds a march and the Unite Against Fascists organisation stages a counter protest.

… (Reuters, 10/10/2009) – Police arrest 30 as far right, opponents clash

BNP Welcomes Future ‘Question Time’ Invitation

(Press Gazette) – THE BBC HAS CONFIRMED that it may invite British National Party leader Nick Griffin to appear on an edition of Question Time in the near future.

Talks are being held with other political parties, many of which have previously refused to share a platform with the BNP because of its policies on race.

No BNP representatives have yet appeared on the BBC’s flagship panel show.

A spokesman for the corporation said the BBC was bound by broadcasting rules to treat all political parties with ‘due impartiality.’

The BBC has been forced to review its position on the BNP after the far-right party succeeded in having two of its candidates elected as MEPs in last June’s European elections, including Griffin.

A spokesman for the broadcaster said: ‘The BBC is obliged to treat all political parties registered with the Electoral Commission and operating within the law with due impartiality.

‘Due impartiality is achieved both by ensuring appropriate scrutiny for each party and by the appearances of a range of politicians across a series of programmes.

‘Our audiences, and the electorate, will make up their own minds about the different policies offered by elected politicians.’

Although yet to be given a formal invitation, the BNP welcomed the move; however it has caused outcry amongst anti-fascist groups with some fearing it could add legitimacy to the BNP cause.

The Labour Party said the BBC decision had forced it to review its position of never sharing a platform with the BNP, while the Conservatives said they would treat the BNP’s appearance like ‘any other programme’ and would make sure a Tory party member was present to counter its arguments.