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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

BNP Leader Nick Griffin threatens to ‘punish’ party opponents (UK)

Nick Griffin has threatened to “punish” British National Party members who criticise his leadership of the racist party.

Writing on Twitter, Griffin said: “If people want a leadership campaign that’s fine, but it’s got to be honest and fair to all candidates. The liars must be asked for evidence by all involved. And no one should be surprised when liars who can’t back up their character assassinations are punished.”

Griffin’s comment is obviously directed at Eddy Butler, who has challenged him to a leadership election and criticised his financial and administrative stewardship of the party. Butler and his supporters particularly condemn Griffin’s close relationship with Jim Dowson, the convicted criminal who effectively owns the BNP, and Patrick Harrington, a political colleague of Griffin since the 1970s who now runs the rival Third Way party. Butler also claims Griffin has made the BNP insolvent because he has “deliberately, avoidably and recklessly” involved the party in unnecessary legal action.

In reality, most of the lies have been about Butler and come from Griffin himself and his supporters, in particular Clive Jefferson, the party’s national elections officer, and Paul Golding, its communications officer, who appears to forget that it was Butler who masterminded his council by-election victory in Swanley, Kent. For Griffin to call for a campaign that is “honest and fair to all candidates” is hypocritical in the extreme.

Perhaps because Griffin has realised that the lies from his camp are counter-productive, or perhaps because of a risk of legal action if the leadership campaign is not run fairly and in accordance with the party’s constitution, two blogs set up to attack Butler were suspended over the weekend.

One carried a notice that it had been “deactivated due to the initiation of the official BNP leadership campaign period”. There is no provision in the BNP constitution for an official leadership campaign period starting on 10 July, the date the notice was posted. Nominations for the leadership open on 20 July and close on 10 August, but this is only the period in which a candidate has to submit nomination forms containing the signatures of at least 20% of the 4,200 party members with two years’ continuous membership and 20% of the 278 elite “voting members”.

Campaigning proper only starts in September after the challenger has surmounted the further hurdle of obtaining the vote of at least 10% of members of the “Founders’ Association” at a meeting held between 11 and 31 August. The Founders’ Association, a separate body in which all party assets are vested, is not defined in the constitution but it is apparently people who were paid-up members before the constitution was adopted in February and have remained members since.

Obtaining the requisite 20% support is of course no easy task, which is why Butler is keen to broaden his appeal among the various party factions from nazis to the more reformist elements. He has attracted the support of a number of influential party activists including Nick Cass in Yorkshire, Richard Edmonds, who helped found the party, Valerie Tyndall – the wife of the BNP’s first leader who still carries a certain amount of clout – and Lawrence Rustem in London.

His most recent coup is to secure the support of Michael Barnbrook, the self-styled BNP “sleazebuster”, who dines out on his failure to win a council by-election in Bexley, southeast London, by just nine votes.

Barnbrook, no relation to the BNP’s London Assembly member Richard Barnbrook, claims to have started the Parliamentary expenses scandal and to be personally responsible for ending the careers of several MPs, but complains that “hardly anybody in the public domain is aware” of this because the party has barely publicised his role.

As well being aggrieved at this perceived personal slight, Barnbrook is concerned about the nasty campaign to stop Butler getting nominations. The attack blog and rumours that members have been refused entry to meetings because they support Butler’s challenge are “blatant intimidation”, writes Barnbrook in a statement on Butler’s blog. “It appears that we can fight for freedom of speech and freedom of expression, so long as it doesn’t extend to a leadership challenge in the British National Party.”

If the BNP has failed to publicise Barnbrook’s “sleazebusting” role to his satisfaction, it can only be because Griffin does not like anyone else to claim more of the limelight than himself. Searchlight, however, is more interested in Barnbrook’s links with Ellis Hammond, a former Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), who last year pleaded guilty to five specimen charges of downloading and possessing a total of 58 indecent images of children, ranging from level 1 to level 5 (the most serious).

Hammond was a member of Bexley BNP branch alongside Barnbrook, a retired police inspector. The police found the images after removing Hammond’s computer while executing a warrant to search his home in Welling for weapons, where they found an arsenal including a CS gas canister, a knuckle duster and eight combat knives, as well as hate material and his BNP membership card. He had lied on his PCSO application form, claiming not to be a member of a proscribed organisation, namely the BNP.

Hammond was sentenced to a three-year community order and his name was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for five years. He was also banned for life from working with people aged under 18.

Another Bexley BNP colleague of Barnbrook who lied to become a PCSO is David Vanner, who in November 2008 posted on the BNP members’ forum: “Although unfortunately I am unable to leaflet or attend meetings due to my line of work (Michael Barnbrook will sympathise), however I would be more than willing to make a donation to the Bexley branch as I understand it is fairly short of funds.” He lost his job after his BNP membership was revealed.

If Butler does win the leadership, it seems unlikely that his BNP will be any more respectable than the party is now.

Hope Not Hate