Debts, lawsuits and internal feuding cast doubt on future of BNP Nick Griffin's leadership threatened by crisis in far-right politics
28 August 2010
The British National Party faces a financial and political crisis with crippling debts and an internal rebellion which could spell the end of the far-right group as a significant electoral force. The party has a deficit of at least £500,000 and could face up to 12 claims of unfair dismissal from workers who lost their jobs following the BNP's disastrous showing in the May elections.
A pledge by party leader Nick Griffin to step down in 2013 has failed to quell a growing revolt in the anti-immigrant party which has been hit by a series of high-profile resignations, including its legal officer and its sole representative on the London Assembly. A permanent schism in the far right has been made more likely by the formation of a BNP splinter faction where the founding of a new party has been openly discussed. This month the party leadership sent letters to a group of 20 BNP members, including its former national elections officer, Eddy Butler, banning them from a post-election rally with Nick Griffin to discuss its future.
Lee Barnes, the party's senior legal adviser until he resigned this month, yesterday described the BNP as a "dead brand" and claimed it was "technically insolvent". The Electoral Commission confirmed the BNP's latest annual accounts, due last month, have not been submitted and it is still investigating the previous year's records after auditors refused to sign them off.
The spiralling fortunes of the party come as its extremist rivals, the anti-Islamic English Defence League, plans a show of strength today in Bradford, home to one of Britain's largest Muslim communities. West Yorkshire Police are putting extra officers on the city's streets amid warnings that several thousand people could attend the protest and a counter-demonstration by Unite Against Fascism.
Anti-extremist campaigners said the combination of financial difficulties and schism within the far right were proving a toxic combination for Mr Griffin, who earlier this month survived an attempt to force a leadership ballot. Sonia Gable, of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, said: "The BNP is in deep financial trouble, with debts it can never pay, and in the throes of its most serious internal political crisis since Nick Griffin became leader. Although most of his critics are aware of the strength of the BNP brand name and still hope to reform the party from within, the absence of any means of doing so in the face of Griffin's powers could yet result in the party's destruction as an electoral force."
The Independent understands that the BNP, which predicted a "political earthquake" at the general election but suffered a comprehensive reversal by losing all but two of its 28 sitting councillors, is mired in outstanding debts to a succession of suppliers, including the Royal Mail, and allegedly owes money to settle an employment tribunal case brought by its former chief administrator. One senior BNP figure claimed the scale of the deficit is closer to £600,000 and said the party cannot find a bank willing to re-finance its debt, which is also being increased by the cost of fighting legal actions against Unilever, after the BNP used an image of a Marmite jar in an election broadcast, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over the party's alleged failure to change its constitution to allow non-white members.
The source said: "We will fight this but the pressures are mounting. There is a sound of rats abandoning the ship and it does not look good for us to be doing our dirty washing in public. The next two months will decide whether we survive as a serious presence."
Mr Griffin, whose attempt to unseat Margaret Hodge as MP for Barking in east London ended with a dismal third place some 18,000 votes behind the former Labour minister, denied that the BNP was close to collapse and insisted the deficit represented only a quarter of the party's £2m annual income. But he confirmed the depth of the crisis facing the party last week in a plea to its 4,200 members for donations of £150,000 "to ensure our survival". Without urgent funds, he said, the BNP would "go back to being a 'fringe party'".
The BNP leader, an MEP for North West England who was widely ridiculed for his performance on BBC1's Question Time last year and was last month banned by Buckingham Palace from attending the Queen's garden party, is dogged by an increasingly bitter civil war fuelled by a spate of resignations from the BNP's upper echelons over its management and political direction.
Much of the criticism has focused on a call centre set up in Belfast by Jim Dowson, a former Orangeman and a key lieutenant of Mr Griffin who has co-ordinated the party's fundraising operation, and attempts to set up a new BNP administration centre in Gloucestershire. Michaela MacKenzie, a long-standing activist appointed to run the centre, won an employment tribunal case against the BNP for unfair dismissal in June but claims Mr Griffin reneged on an agreement to pay damages by last month.
Speculation that the party is on the verge of unravelling has been heightened by Mr Griffin's decision to dismiss or suspend about 30 members or BNP workers in the aftermath of the May election, which saw the party's high-profile campaign to take control of the London borough of Barking and Dagenham, where it had been the second-largest party, end ignominiously in the loss of all its councillors.
Nationally, the BNP increased its vote by 1.2 per cent to 564,331 but it failed to secure any Westminster seats. The Independent has been told that up to 12 former party employees are taking legal advice after losing their jobs in recent weeks. A stampede of departures began on the eve of the general election when Simon Bennett, the party's webmaster, resigned and took down the BNP website, Facebook and Twitter pages before polling day, and then issuing a diatribe against Mr Griffin, describing him as "pathetic, desperate and incompetent". Earlier this month Richard Barnbrook, the BNP's sole representative on the London Assembly, resigned the party whip citing unspecified serious allegations circulating within the party, although he remains a member.
Simon Darby, the deputy leader, resigned in July but said Mr Griffin retained his support. Opponents of Mr Griffin, led by Mr Butler, have set up a breakaway movement, the BNP Reform Group, where members are openly discussing moves to set up a new anti-immigrant party.
Mr Barnes said yesterday: "The BNP brand is a 'dead brand' in that it no longer has any support among the masses that could act as a basis for a rebrand. The association with Griffin, the ammunition provided to its critics by Griffin and the history of the party are such that it can survive, but it can never take power. It is a total waste of time being involved in the BNP."
Mr Griffin and the BNP declined to comment when contacted by The Independent.
BNP expels Richard Barnbrook as bitter feud threatens to tear apart party Senior figure's membership of far-right group ended after failed attempt to unseat leader Nick Griffin
Richard Barnbrook has been expelled from the BNP in an increasingly bitter feud with Nick Griffin
Richard Barnbrook, one of the British National party's most senior figures, has been expelled as part of an increasingly bitter feud threatening to engulf the far-right organisation.
The London Assembly member, who was one of a group of rebels who tried to wrest control of the BNP from party leader Nick Griffin last month, was informed via an internal memo this week that he was no longer a party member.
"Sadly we have concluded that we are left with no alternative but to expel Richard Barnbrook from membership of the British National party," it reads. "I have written to him informing him that I have taken that action today and he is no longer a member of our party."
Barnbrook, who was the party's sole representative on the London Assembly, is one of the BNP's most high-profile officials and his expulsion comes as the party faces a growing political and financial crisis.
Since its poor showing in May's general and council elections, several senior figures have come out against Griffin, at least three local councillors have resigned the party whip and many key activists have been suspended.
The prospect of a permanent split has been heightened by the party's dire financial plight and the formation of a new faction – the BNP reform group – which is openly discussing forming a new party.
"Even by its own vicious standards this has been a bloody episode for the BNP," said Nick Lowles from anti-racist organisation Searchlight. "The relentless infighting has done serious damage to Griffin and the party's organisational ability."
Griffin's opponents have rallied around another leadership challenger, Eddie Butler, who has run the BNP's election machine in recent years. Their anger is focused on Griffin's leadership style and concern about the party's debts.
"You may think I should have little reason to have sympathy for Richard Barnbrook's plight," Butler wrote on his blog this week. "But I can see that they used and abused him … watch and observe. This is the way Nick Griffin's British National party treats its members."
Concern about the BNP's finances has been exacerbated by news that the Electoral Commission is investigating the party's 2008 accounts and that its 2009 accounts are already late. The BNP faces further legal action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission over allegations that it has failed to remove potentially racist clauses from its constitution. Lawyers say the case, due to go before the courts again in November, could see Griffin landed with a fine or even imprisonment for contempt of court.
The BNP refused to comment on reports that the party is more than £500,000 in debt or to confirm how many members had been suspended or had resigned. But Griffin has sent members increasingly desperate appeals for donations to "keep the wolves at bay and to ensure our survival". In one email he admitted that the party was "cash-struck" and needed money to fight the case being brought by the EHRC. "Be clear on this, if you don't give, we can't fight … and if we don't fight we will be shut down and killed off."
Griffin's position has been under attack since the party's poor showing in May's general election when it saw a small increase in its vote but failed to make its promised breakthrough. It also performed badly in the council elections where all but two of its 28 sitting councillors standing for re-election were beaten and it was wiped out in its east London stronghold of Barking and Dagenham. However, last month he managed to see off a leadership challenge when Barnbrook and Eddie Butler both failed to secure enough support to trigger a leadership ballot.
Barnbrook, who lost his Barking and Dagenham council seat earlier this year, resigned the party whip last month calling for an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by party officials, although he remained a member of the party.
The memo from Clive Jefferson, the BNP's national organiser, said Barnbrook had had time to understand that his actions were "disloyal and unacceptable".
Barnbrook said yesterday that he would launch an appeal against his expulsion and that he would remain an assembly member as an independent.
THE BNP is on the brink of insolvency. But instead of its usual tactic of threatening blacks, Jews and Asians, it is threatening its creditors instead in a letter from its money man, Jim Dowson, to its “highly valued suppliers and creditors” with a record of “commitment to the British National Party.”
His letter tells them that it does not value them enough to pay them what it owes. A grave financial crisis was forcing the party to close offices and lay off staff, he says. It was unlikely to “pay its outstanding bills in anything like a normal timescale - if indeed at all.”
‘Good money after bad’
Dowson then tells creditors that “lawyers who have reviewed the underlying contracts to most of the outstanding invoices have advised that most are not enforceable. Many creditors who have supplied good [sic] and services and which were used in connection with the activities of the British National Party may never be paid.”
And it is no use suppliers hiring lawyers, Dowson warns. Legal action against the party would be throwing “good money after bad in the shape of futile lawyers’ costs”. Creditors must accept 20p in the pound or risk getting nothing.
Sex and Marmite: the secrets of their downfall
Dowson blames the deficit – estimated at £500,000 – on the recession and “hugely expensive politically motivated High Court actions by the Commission for Equalities [sic] and Human Rights” to force the party to change its racist constitution. He is too modest.
The party is paralysed by internal disputes. Naïve critics have been shocked to discover that its fuehrer Nick Griffin behaves like, well, a dictator. Meanwhile busty “glamour model” Shelley Rose, who stood as a candidate in Luton, has posted a video on YouTube claiming Dowson made unwanted Ugandan advances to her at a hotel near Euston. “I thought it was safe to stay with him because he was a religious and family man,” the innocent 22-year old says. Alas, this turned out not to be the case, and she says Dowson accused her of being “frigid” when she rejected him.
Dowson does not mention one preposterous reason for the BNP’s indebtedness. In the general election campaign, Griffin ripped off Marmite’s “Love it or Hate it” campaign by putting out a picture of a Marmite jar with the slogan “Love Britain, Vote BNP”. He scoffed when Unilever, Marmite’s owner, protested; but the firm’s lawyers then hit him with a breach of copyright action, which cost the party between £100,000 and £170,000.
Yeast and desist
The BNP operates behind various front companies to place orders without arousing suspicion – the most prominent being Dowson’s adlorries.com. As a limited company adlorries could be sued, which may be why Dowson is offering 20p in the pound on contracts he claims are unenforceable. As a political party, the BNP is an unincorporated association, which cannot technically be declared bankrupt. However, creditors could hold Griffin as its leader and party members who entered into the contracts personally liable for debts.
If senior BNP figures are taken to the cleaners, they will earn a unique place in the history of European fascism: the first neo-Nazi party to have been destroyed by the makers of a yeast-extract sandwich spread.
Antifascists force BNP leader Nick Griffin to abandon speech
13 January 2011
Attempts by British National Party leader Nick Griffin to get a platform for his poisonous fascist ideas failed miserably tonight when he ran away from an antifascist protest. Griffin had been invited to speak at a film screening of More4 documentary The Battle for Barking, about the BNP’s campaign at the last elections, at the Frontline Club for journalists. The documentary’s director, Laura Fairrie, and Darren Rodwell, organiser of the Labour Party election campaign, were also invited to the London event, which was due to be “moderated” by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor.
No platform for fascists
Antiracists and antifascists had urged the club not to give a platform to Nazi Griffin, a convicted Holocaust denier, but refused to withdraw his invitation. UAF believes that fascists like Griffin, who would smash democracy if they came to power, should not be given a platform to spread their fascist and racist ideas, gain publicity and organise. Around 30 people turned out for a flash protest against Griffin at the Frontline Club, called by UAF on the evening of Thursday 13 January.
Some interesting pics there... I wonder how much he paid for that protection that couldn't even deal with a few students without having to actually run away?
Blackburn BNP candidate's vile racist slurs
4th May 2011
A BRITISH National Party election candidate has provoked fury after making vile racist slurs on her Facebook page. Nancy Shaw-Farmer, who is bidding to become a councillor in Roe Lee in Blackburn, has been described as ‘an absolute disgrace...living in the dark ages’ whose remarks ‘were bad, even by BNP standards’.
The 45-year-old former Clitheroe Grammar School pupil defended her comments, insisting people who found them offensive ‘didn’t have a sense of humour’ and refused to apologise. But the BNP said it took the matter ‘very seriously’ and was investigating her remarks.
Posts by Ms Shaw-Farmer, who works as an Avon Sales leader and lives in Bastwell, on the social networking site included:
• 4 P***s in a car near where I work asked for directions to a junior school. Sent them in the wrong direction.
• the current government don’t want cannabis legalised as it would put too many P***s out of work. ha ha ha.
• Bungee jumping! £25 per person. Muslims and P***s free. No strings attached and free transport. ha ha ha.
• When Pakistan had its floods I said if I was out of England for whatever reason, I’d get back there pronto to help my country, no f****** P***s went back to help did they!
Meanwhile, another candidate, Robin Evans, who is standing in Shadsworth with Whitebirk, used Facebook to write a tribute to Adolf Hitler and praise former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is accused of war crimes.
Local elections take place across East Lancashire tomorrow. The BNP is putting forward three candidates in Blackburn with Darwen, but none in Hyndburn or Ribble Valley.
Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “This is bad, even by the BNP’s standards. "I hope the decent people in Shadsworth and Whitebirk, and Roe Lee, will now think 20 times before voting for them.” Blackburn with Darwen’s Liberal Democrat leader, councillor David Foster, said: “I am absolutely appalled that somebody who is standing for office is putting such appalling things in the public domain. We had a good demonstration the other week against the EDL’s demonstration that showed Blackburn rejected racism.”
Coun Michael Lee, Blackburn with Darwen’s Conservative leader, said: “You cannot believe the quality of people that this party will put forward as candidates. They are an absolute disgrace. Are they living in the dark ages? I despair. Hopefully the electorate will teach them the lesson they deserve and they will get no votes, and no seats like they did last time.”
Simon Cressy, of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight which uncovered some of the postings, said: "The people of Blackburn deserve better." Salim Mulla, chair of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said the comments left him furious. He said: “It makes me very, very angry that there are people of this nature who want to spread their hatred within the community. I think people like this shouldn't be even allowed to stand for any party, whether it is the BNP or another. I think they are a bunch of troublemakers and hooligans who want to cause friction in the community. I would appeal to all members of the community not to support them and not to work with them.”
Ms Shaw-Farmer, is pictured on Facebook with BNP leader and North West MEP Nick Griffin, who she describes as her ‘hero’. She said Islam was ‘evil’ but insisted: “I am not an extremist, anyone who knows me would say I have a lot of Muslim friends. I really don’t mind the people that are here that have integrated in our society. "I can’t stand the violent extremists who burn our poppies and have no respect for our country.”
Asked whether Asian people would find her remarks offensive, she said: “If they have not got a sense of humour, then possibly.” She added: “I am not apologising for anything on my personal page,” and later insisted: “My views are not necessarily those of the party.”
Mr Evans is the BNP’s Blackburn with Darwen organiser, and was formerly East Lancashire co-ordinator for the party. He said: “Facebook is not my political battleground. It’s more like my own, private comments. "It’s not the BNP’s forum. It’s my forum if I want to wish Colonel Gaddafi or Adolf Hitler a happy birthday. People can read what they want into it.” He added: “Everything I put on Facebook, of course I stand by it.”
BNP spokesman John Walker said: “The British National Party takes allegations of this nature very seriously. The party will be fully investigating this matter and until the outcome of that investigation it would be inappropriate to make further comment.”
BNP suffers election meltdown Extreme rightwing party has so far lost seven of 11 council seats it was defending and has been wiped out in key target areas
6 May 2011
The British National party appears to be heading for meltdown at the polls after being wiped out in its key target city of Stoke-on-Trent and securing only one seat on councils to have declared so far.
The extreme rightwing party has been hit by internecine strife over the last year, with a string of senior figures defecting amid growing concern over the state of its finances. It only managed to field around 250 candidates in Thursday's local elections – compared with approximately 700 in the equivalent polls in 2007 – and its only victory so far has come in Queensbury, West Yorkshire.
The BNP has so far lost seven of the 11 council seats it was defending, with three still to declare. In Stoke-on-Trent, it lost all five of its sitting councillors. It also appeared to have failed in Wales, where it had predicted a breakthrough in the runup to the vote.
The BNP spokesman, Simon Darby, refused to comment on the results, saying "there was no point". Anti-racist campaigners said the results were disastrous for the party. "[BNP leader] Nick Griffin is now in a really parlous position," said Nick Lowles from Hope not Hate, which has mobilised thousands of anti-racist campaigners in the past few weeks. "The British National party as a political force now appears to be finished ... it has such huge debts that even the rebels who are openly opposed to Griffin have realised it is not worth taking over."
The BNP reached a high water mark in 2009 when Griffin and Andrew Brons were elected to the European parliament but, in the past 18 months, its support has imploded. Dozens of prominent figures have either been suspended or have resigned, and in recent weeks it emerged that around 15 former members had defected and were planning to stand for the rival English Democrats.
Insiders say they predict further walkouts and defections in the coming days.
Bailiffs seize BNP boss Nick Griffin's car
BNP leader Nick Griffin’s car has been seized by bailiffs trying to claw back his party’s £600,000 debts. High Court enforcement officers turned up at the far-right party chief’s home in Welshpool, Powys, with a lorry and orders to take his Skoda on Friday morning.
Eddy Butler, one of Griffin’s former lieutenants, said the MEP claimed he had recently sold the car to a colleague who leased it back to him. But after Griffin failed to provide proof the bailiffs took it away.
The BNP has racked up huge debts with small businesses and is engaged in legal battles with former employees and organisations. A family-owned Belfast printing firm shut last week, blaming an unpaid BNP bill £50,000 for its closure.
Senior officials are personally liable for party debts because of the unusual way the BNP is organised. The BNP refused to comment yesterday.
That Belfast printing firm was run by a complete arsehole - I'm glad it's out of business, but I'd imagine the guy's just restarted under a different name.
Panorama - BNP, The Fraud Exposed
Nick Griffin's British National Party, already under investigation for breaches of electoral law, is facing fresh allegations of corruption. Panorama uncovers new evidence of financial documents being falsified and fabricated in order to deceive the Electoral Commission. The programme also has evidence of the BNP's failure to declare major donations to the party.
As Darragh MacIntyre reports, the BNP, which is better known for its controversial views on race, is in debt and according to its own published accounts appears to be technically insolvent.
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