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Friday, 16 July 2010

Labour blasted over BNP invite

WIGAN’S Labour council has been blasted by anti-racists – for inviting BNP leader Nick Griffin to town.

The boss of the far-right party, accompanied by six minders, was among guests who turned up at St James’s Church, Orrell, last Sunday morning for new Mayor Coun Mike Winstanley’s traditional civic service.

The British National Party has been routinely lambasted by politicians of varying hues in the Wigan council chamber to the point of passing motions condemning its electoral campaigns and successes.
But invitations were sent out from the town hall to all North West MPs and MEPs – and Mr Griffin numbers among the latter since the last Euro elections.

The authority would not be drawn today as to whether his inclusion was deliberate or an oversight.

But pressure group Wigan Against Racism today said the BNP boss should have been snubbed – and in not doing so, the local authority was helping to “normalise” his politics.

The organisation’s spokeswoman, Fran McCaul, said: “What on earth is going on? This is highly distasteful.
“Wigan Council makes pronouncements about being anti-racist and then goes and completely contradicts itself.

“You can’t treat Nick Griffin like anyone else. His party is not like any other party. Saying he is automatically on the guest list is a weak response.

“There are exceptions to every rule and there should be a discussion about who gets invited.

“Nick Griffin being welcomed to events like this undermines the anti-racist movement and helps to normalise his type of politics.”

But Wigan Council’s executive director of business support services, David Smith, said: “We would like to reiterate the council’s pledge on anti-racism.

“The council is committed to respect for all ethnic groups and will encourage others to do the same.

“We are totally committed to an anti-racist future and we will support all those who suffer racism by doing everything in our power to tackle it

“We can confirm that our invitation list for the mayor’s Civic Sunday includes local constituency MPs and all North West MEPs.

“It was on this basis alone that Mr Griffin received an invitation.”

Charles Mather, Wigan and Leigh BNP group organiser, said: “I am not surprised Mr Griffin accepted the invitation as he is a hands-on MEP and takes his duties to his constituency seriously and would always endeavour to attend constituency functions if possible in spite of his busy schedule.

“I compliment Wigan Metro on this sudden concern for the democratic process in contrast to their previous use of council premises to attack our progress.

“Mr Griffin – as an elected MEP with over 7,000 votes in our area – has every right to receive and accept invitations to events such as this.

“We have a right to have our views represented and for our MEP to be invited to functions in our area.

“I take issue with the unelected Wigan Against Racism group’s definition of us as racist when our only aim is to protect and preserve the community and culture our forefathers worked and died to bequeath us.”

Mr Griffin also received support from a member of the St James’s congregation.

Local man Shaun Campbell was there with his young family when he saw Mr Griffin sitting near the front.

He said: “At first I thought it was someone who looked like him, but after mass we saw Mr Griffin’s bodyguards standing at the gates with the road blocked off by the police.

“Then I knew it had to be him so I waited for him to leave. Being a member of the BNP, I was chuffed to see him here in our village. He’s the last person I would have expected to see here.

“I had a little chat with him and he is a really nice bloke, had plenty of time to speak to us and even stopped for a picture. He and his bodyguards even took an interest in my baby son.”

Conservative Coun Winstanley, who did not draw up the guest list and who says he is trying to remain politically neutral during his year in office, declined to comment.

Wigan Today