Sunday, 15 November 2009

Griffin bravado for the BNP conference

From the Times:

It has, on the face of it, been a dire few weeks for the British National Party, which holds its annual conference in a “facility” near Wigan this weekend — to thwart protesters the venue was still secret yesterday.

The BNP lost its deposit in the Glasgow North East by-election on Thursday. Nick Griffin, its leader, was savaged by his fellow panellists, the audience and David Dimbleby in his ground-breaking appearance on BBC’s Question Time.

The recently elected MEP for the North West was barred from visiting the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in his own constituency, his party has been compelled to drop its membership ban on anyone not an “indigenous Caucasian”, and Preston Crown Court acquitted an Asian man accused of calling Mr Griffin a “white bastard”.

That is just the start. Mr Griffin has been denounced by General Sir Mike Jackson and other military bigwigs for associating the BNP with Britain’s Armed Forces, by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who expressed horror that a “squalid racist” was trying to hijack Christianity, and even — allegedly — by the Queen. She was “appalled” by his suggestion that Sir Winston Churchill would have backed the BNP, a courtier told the News of the World.

Mr Griffin’s mother-in-law, Muriel Cook, evidently has no compunction about hitting a man when he is down. She told the Sunday Mirror that her daughter’s husband was a work-shy racist who hadn’t “done an honest day’s work in his life”.

Mr Griffin is a man dismayed but he does not show it. As he prepared for a black-tie BNP dinner last night he said that the party was “very buoyant” and that morale was “extremely high”. He rejected reports that he faced internal dissent. “The membership knows we have made huge strides and they’re very happy with the party as it is,” he said.

The BNP achieved a huge breakthrough in June by winning two seats in the European Parliament. Nationally it secured 943,000 votes and 6.2 per cent of the ballot, enough to startle the mainstream parties. That led directly to Mr Griffin’s appearance on Question Time last month, where his feeble performance was offset by a widespread sense that he was unfairly treated.

He claims that the programme, watched by eight million viewers, generated 4,000 membership applications and was “the biggest single advance in terms of public recognition and sympathy we’ve ever had”. In a poll by YouGov, 22 per cent of respondents said they would consider voting BNP.

In the past few days Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, have delivered speeches on immigration. Mr Griffin told The Times: “On anything connected to immigration, political correctness and Islam we are now the pole around which the rest of British politics revolves.”

Even the Glasgow by-election, won by Labour, contained “positives”. The BNP beat the Liberal Democrats, were just 62 votes behind the Conservatives and won 4.92 per cent of the ballot — its best performance in a Scottish election.

On the BNP website, he says: “We are now in with a really serious chance of taking several seats.” He identified Barking, Dagenham, Stoke-on-Trent and Burnley as prime targets.

For the BNP to win a Westminster seat would be extremely hard in a first-past-the-post system. William Hill shortened its odds yesterday to 3-1 against.

Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham, said that it was just possible if the mainstream parties split a constituency’s vote.

Tony Travers, a local government expert at the London School of Economics, said the biggest risk was of the party winning outright control of a council such as Barking and Dagenham. That would cause a “convulsion in the political system”.

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