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.

BNP Row Reignites Over Reply To Party Leaders’ TV Debates

(Independent) – THE MAJOR BROADCASTERS face anger after deciding to invite Nick Griffin, the British National Party leader, to reply to the televised Prime Ministerial debates during the general election campaign.

The BBC, ITV and Sky this week reached agreement on the format of the three encounters between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

They have also agreed to give three other parties with substantial electoral support – the Green Party, the UK Independence Party and the BNP – the opportunity to respond.

The decision threatens a rerun of the protests faced by BBC after Mr Griffin appeared on BBC1’s Question Time last October.

Tonight the corporation confirmed it would give him a fresh platform immediately after the end of the BBC-hosted debate between the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem leaders.

He will be invited, along with Caroline Lucas of the Greens and Nigel Farage of UKIP, to give interviews on BBC1’s News at Ten and BBC2’s Newsnight, as well as on Radio 4’s Today programme the following morning.

ITV said it would also give a platform to the BNP leader, and Sky looks certain to follow suit.

A spokesman for BBC News said the decision was aimed at ensuring that “due impartiality is achieved in line with its election guidelines”.

The BBC argues it is legally required to give airtime to the far-Right party because of the electoral support it attracted during the European elections, when it won two seats in the European Parliament.

ITV said: “We will be ensuring that we include an appropriately wide range of views throughout our election coverage.”

But a spokesman for Searchlight, the anti-fascist organisation, said: “The BNP are being allowed to hijack the election debates.”

The BNP will also be entitled to at least one party political broadcast on each channel because of the large number of candidates it is fielding.

Mr Griffin’s appearance on Question Time attracted 7.9 million viewers, almost three times its usual audience.

Police mounted a major security operation outside Television Centre while Mr Griffin was inside, but failed to prevent demonstrators briefly getting into the building.

Both UKIP and the Green Party said yesterday they were unhappy at not being invited to participate in the main debates between the leaders.

Mr Farage said: “We think the way it has been set up is unfair. We came second across the UK in the European elections last year.”

A spokesman for the Green Party said: “We would have thought the broadcasters would recognise the Green Party has a strong claim to being part of the main debate.”

The BBC is to hold separate party leader election debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it has also confirmed.

But in a joint statement the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cmyru yesterday denounced the “unfair treatment of Welsh and Scottish licence fee payers who are being denied the opportunity by the public broadcaster to hear from their respective national parties in these set-piece leaders’ debates.”

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

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.

BNP To Consider Admitting Non-Whites

Nick Griffin

Nick Griffin

(Reuters) – THE FAR RIGHT BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY (BNP) agreed today 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 launched legal action against the BNP earlier this year, arguing the party’s exclusion of potential members on ethnic grounds broke the Race Relations Act.

BNP leader Nick Griffin had warned the party faced potentially crippling legal bills if it fought the case, and the commission said he had now accepted its demands to change the party’s stance on membership.

Under an order issued at Central London Court, the BNP agreed ‘to use all reasonable endeavours to revise its constitution so that it does not discriminate… on any “protected characteristic” — for example on the grounds of race, ethnic or religious status.’

‘We are pleased that the party has conceded this case and agreed to all of the commission’s requirements,’ said John Wadham, the commission’s legal director.

‘Political parties, like any other organisation, are obliged to respect the law and not discriminate against people.’

The BNP, which campaigns for a halt to immigration, voluntary repatriation of immigrants and Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, has no seats at Westminster.

However its popularity has grown in recent years and it now boasts a number of local councillors and in June enjoyed its greatest electoral success when it won two seats to the European Parliament.

‘We have got to comply if we want to stay in the game,’ a BNP spokesman told the BBC.

‘Of course it’s not right,’ he said of the court case. ‘It’s an infringement of our rights.’

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.