From The Times:
The British National Party is poised to give up its whites-only membership policy after a legal challenge accusing it of racial discrimination.
Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right party, indicated yesterday that the BNP would accept members of different ethnicities for the first time, blaming Britain’s “undemocratic Orwellian equality laws”.
In a statement published on the BNP’s website, Mr Griffin said that the party would have to adapt or die, even though amending its constitution would “stick in the craw of all dedicated nationalists”. The party is considering the change in light of an injunction being sought by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which claims that the BNP’s membership rules breach the Race Relations Act.
Any alteration to policy would mark a significant moment for the party, which since it was founded in 1982 has only accepted white members.
Mr Griffin, elected as a North West MEP in June, has a criminal conviction for distributing material likely to incite racial hatred.
His push to open up membership is likely to cause factional rows within the BNP, with the party’s most conservative elements resisting such change.
The BNP currently restricts its membership to “indigenous Caucasians”, which it defines broadly as Celts and Anglo-Saxons. The commission says that this is in breach of the Act as it discriminates on the basis of ethnicity. It issued proceedings against the party last month, seeking an injunction to ban such criteria.
The case was due to begin at Central London County Court on Wednesday but was adjourned after the BNP changed solicitors at the last minute.
In his statement, Mr Griffin said that to continue fighting the commission would bleed the party dry. He claimed that it would cost more than £1million to appeal and said would strip the party of the ability to fight the next general election. He appeared resigned to losing the case, saying that it was a matter of “evolving and living to fight another day or going down in a blaze of glory”.
He wrote: “I have no doubt that it is possible to redraft our constitution so as to ensure we comply with the new law while at the same time holding true to our core principles and most importantly of all, to our purpose — which is to secure a future for the true children of our islands.”
He implied that contesting the case would be pointless, adding that the Government’s forthcoming Equality Bill expected to be passed by Parliament in coming months, would ban any party from discriminating on grounds of ethnicity.
On right-wing blogs yesterday, some members said that they would “prefer the blaze of glory”. Another wrote on the party’s website: “I don’t see a problem with being able to invite members from all ethnic groups. I mean, how many would want to join the BNP anyway?”
A spokesman for Searchlight, the anti-fascist organisation, said: “The fact that Griffin has been forced into this cosmetic change will fool no one. The BNP remains a viciously racist organisation. We do not expect to see legions of members of Britain’s black and Asian community queuing to join Nick Griffin and his agenda of hate.”
The party will hold a series of debates over the coming weeks to discuss the matter. Members will then vote at a meeting that will require a two-thirds majority to rewrite the constitution.
A spokesman for the commission said that it had received no formal indication from the BNP that it intended to comply with its requirements. Until it did, the commission would pursue the court case.
A hearing is scheduled for October 15.
by Fiona Hamilton