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Sunday, 19 September 2010

Stop The War blasts BNP for hijacking ‘troops out’ campaign

The British National Party has been accused of trying to hijack the anti-war movement as it launched a nationwide campaign yesterday calling for British troops to be bought home from Afghanistan.

Teams of far-right activists hit towns across Britain on Saturday for the launch of the BNP’s Bring Our Boys Home campaign.

The BNP believes it can establish itself as the voice of British military veterans. In Scotland, the party claims most of its Scottish leadership and a quarter of its supporters are ex-servicemen.

The Royal British Legion has described the BNP move as horrifying and insisted none of its members supported the far-right party.

Anti-war groups accused the BNP of opportunism and said it was trying to hijack a peaceful campaign.

BNP members will spend the next three weekends canvassing support in Scotland. Activists began yesterday with groups targeting Edinburgh, Falkirk, Livingston, Elgin and Dundee. There was also brief protest in Glasgow.

In a letter to party members, leader Nick Griffin wrote: “This campaign will help establish the BNP as the only political party that is opposed to the bloody, unwinnable, futile and illegal war in Afghanistan. This war has only produced a constant stream of British deaths and has nothing whatsoever to do with Britain.”

Letters purportedly written by Falkland veterans have also been distributed online, but Neil Griffiths, spokesman for the Royal British Legion Scotland, said few veterans if any would be swayed by the extremist party.

“Our members would be horrified by this,” he said. “I can’t think of one of our 46,000 Scottish members who would ever take the BNP seriously. I have never heard of anyone supporting the BNP or advocating it.”

He said the party’s claim that its boasted support among soldiers was “clap-trap”.

He added: “During the election, Nick Griffin was followed everywhere by a guy wearing desert fatigues who had never been in the army … They have also tried to make donations to ex-service charities in England which have always been rebuffed. If they tried to do that in Scotland, the same would happen.”

As well as the BNP, the English and Scottish Defence Leagues have also tried to court the armed forces with planned marches on the cenotaph in Glasgow.

The leader of Britain’s largest anti-war movement said he had never seen the BNP previously involved in any protest against the Afghanistan or Iraq wars.

Chris Nineham, founder of Stop The War, said: “Some 70% of the British population want an end to the war in Afghanistan – there is a huge groundswell of anti-war opinion. The idea the BNP represents that is an utter joke.”

He added: “We have seen probably every political party except the BNP on protests.”

Gary Raikes, the BNP’s Scottish leader, hopes targeting veterans will help bolster the party north of the border, where its support is slight.

He said: “We want to tell the public we are the only party still standing on bringing the troops home. We have been against it from the start. Servicemen are not daft, they have seen the world and see through all the lies about us and know we have changed as a party.”

Raikes admitted that the party had used anti-war petitions to gather names and addresses for future political campaigning.

Herald Scotland