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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

BNP election process gerrymandered to exclude challenger

The British National Party has announced rules that will make it near impossible for Eddy Butler to challenge Nick Griffin for the party leadership.

The party’s “elections department”, otherwise known as Clive Jefferson, the rapidly promoted North West regional organiser and part-time member of Griffin’s European constituency staff, has outlined “leadership contest regulations”, which it claims are based on the party’s constitution.

Claiming that the party and individual candidates must be “protected from any attempt to use dishonesty and faction-building to advance one candidate at the expense of another”, the statement continues: “There is a clear dividing line between passionately held opinion and legitimate criticism on the one hand, and character assassination and dishonesty on the other. For the sake of the party, and the ability of the members to make a properly informed choice, everyone must stay on the right side of that line – and understand that a free and fair election can be secured only if anyone who crosses the line thereby loses his or her right to be involved.”

Where the line lies and who is to determine what comments fall on the wrong side of it are not explained, leaving an open door for Jefferson, at the bidding of Griffin and his consigliere Jim Dowson, to exclude Butler.
Turning to the nomination process, the statement, as widely expected, outlaws the use of the unofficial forms on which Butler is collecting signatures. Instead official, individually numbered forms will be sent by post to “all members eligible to nominate and vote in a leadership election”.

Members wishing to nominate anyone must sign the form and have their signature witnessed. This is a transparent attempt to make the process a bit harder for members who might be isolated from other members and might not want to tell potential witnesses among their friends, neighbours and relations that they are members of the racist party.

Those forms must be returned to the party’s so far unnamed “official scrutineer” to be received in the short period from 20 July to 10 August. Ridiculously, a member has to post the form personally “except in the event of sickness or infirmity”, in which case “they may ask their witness to post it for them”.

How the “official scrutineer” will know who posted the form is unclear, leaving yet another means for Jefferson to exclude nominations. And of course any attempt by Butler’s supporters to collect up forms and bring them to the official opening of envelopes, to ensure they are not somehow lost by the BNP’s “scrutineer”, is not permitted.

Although the BNP constitution does not provide for it, because in the event of there being no valid nominations for another candidate the incumbent automatically carries on, the form will also include a box for members to indicate that they wish Griffin to continue as leader. No doubt Griffin will ensure that there are more forms with that box ticked than nominations for Butler.

As widely expected after the closure of the two main anti-Butler attack blogs over the weekend, the regulations deny candidates the right to campaign other than by limited officially sanctioned methods. “Candidates and their supporters shall not produce, maintain, advertise or otherwise utilise, whether for promotion, criticism or report, any official or unofficial campaigning website or social networking facility (Face book, Twitter, etc).”

Candidates are also not allowed to give media interviews or raise money for their campaign.

The rules apply “with immediate effect”. The announcement was posted on the BNP website at 12.26 on 14 July. At the time of writing just over two hours later, Butler’s blog and website, both of which appeal for donations, were still in place, making it possible for Griffin immediately to institute disciplinary action against Butler and to exclude him from the nomination process.

The announcement declares that the basic guideline for the election under version 12.2 of the party constitution is: “A free, fully democratic election process which is fair to all potential candidates, from start to finish, and which protects the British National Party from attempt [sic] to abuse the process”.

The sentence appears in quotes in the announcement, giving the impression that it is taken from the constitution, but in fact it appears nowhere in that document. The rules for the nomination process and the ban on unofficial campaigning are likewise not sanctioned by the constitution, leaving the party open to legal action by Butler if he is thereby prevented from standing against Griffin.

Hope Not Hate