Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

BNP at the crossroads

Below is a letter from Peter Strudwick, BNP Reform's legal officer, to Mr Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, which was sent to him by post, care of the party's Welshpool PO Box, on 29 October 2010.

In his letter Peter reviews the events of the last fifteen months which have led him to the conclusion that Mr Griffin should relinquish the position of national chairman and party leader. At the same time Peter acknowledges the "...major contribution to British Nationalism..." made by Mr Griffin and implies that if he were to stand down now, rather than be forced out later, his "...reputation can remain substantially intact".

To date, Peter has received no reply to his letter from Mr Griffin.

The letter now follows.

Dear Nick

I write about the prevailing sad condition of the BNP, with its huge debts, loss of political momentum, arbitrary expulsions and suspensions and widespread discontent manifest amongst a fair proportion of the membership.

This depressing and fast-deteriorating situation is in marked contrast to the elation which greeted yours and Andrew Brons's election as MEPs - magnificent and thoroughly well-deserved victories which seemed to mark a point of transition in the party's fortunes and move us one step nearer our cherished ambition of contesting for political power.

As I see it, you deserve a great deal of credit for what you have done in the eleven years of your leadership; but there has been a rather rapid turnabout in our fortunes in the past 15 months or so. Four issues seem to stand out:

Your appearance on Question Time;

The revelations concerning the huge indebtedness, which has not been helped by the totally inexplicable failure of the party to produce accounts which satisfy the Electoral Commission;

The perception, albeit not wholly justified, of poor local and national election results, inducing much pessimism;

The (in my opinion) unwise intervention on your part over the Queen's Garden Party invitation.

All these things, coupled with a catalogue of heavy-handed suspensions and expulsions (many of which breach the basic rules of natural justice insofar as they give no reasons for the action taken) have brought about disappointment and, more than that, disillusionment.

I will dwell a bit on these matters.

Certainly you were treated unfairly at Question Time by Dimbleby and the participants but I felt you didn't sufficiently defend the party's programme. Your reasons for having changed your mind about the systematic murder of Jews came over as laboured. This clearly alienated many potential supporters.

As regards the party's debts, there is little to say other than the patently obvious: namely that there has been very poor management of the BNP's finances, despite the availability in the party of a number of accountants whose expertise you have been unwilling to utilize for some reason. The consequences being £580,000 of indebtedness and yet again a failure to produce accounts to the satisfaction of the Electoral Commission, making the BNP unique in this regard [not quite unique: Sinn Fein and the Christian Party also failed to submit their accounts on time, AE] - hardly something to be proud of.

As a result of the failure to pay the party's creditors, IDENTITY can't be published. I spoke with John Bean the other day. This was to be his last issue as editor. Am I one of the few people who have thanked him for his outstanding efforts? Moreover, members can feel aggrieved because their membership subscriptions are supposed to guarantee receipt of IDENTITY.

I am not in a position to know precisely what is the true cause of the party's financial crisis. I make just two observations. I have never personally believed allegations of improper financial dealings on your part but at the same time you cannot escape responsibility for the self-evident mismanagement of the party's money on a huge scale as Party Chairman, whatever claims you may make that it has been Dowson's fault.

Until quite recently I have never read the 12th constitution. I have now done so. It is, as I told you at the Dagenham meeting, an abomination of a document which I understand cost the party a substantial amount of money - £25,000? What a huge waste of money. It is 92 pages of very complicated, poorly written material, full of typographical errors and poor proof reading. I cannot believe you can have sanctioned such a monstrosity.

What the party needs is a concise, accurate, well-written document of, I suggest, 12-15 pages - no more, which everyone can understand, not the current incomprehensible apology for a constitution.

I have offered myself to produce such a suitable document which I believe would meet the party's requirements.

As regards the local and national election results, my own view is that the parliamentary results were reasonably good and something to build upon. Certainly the local results were disappointing but you are quite right in your assessment that it is easier to win seats than it is to hold them. And certainly local election fortune is always cyclical. There is no reason why we cannot win back our lost seats.

On the issue of the Queen's Garden Party, here I have to express total amazement. Andrew Brons and his daughter were photographed smiling in their finery and created a very favourable impression. Here, likewise was an opportunity for you. You, Jackie and your children would have come over very well. The uncommitted would have had to reflect on the normality of it all. Yet that became impossible because for some inexplicable reason you chose to go public and invited the membership to communicate with you so that you could tell the Queen of their concerns! Why should she want a private occasion to become a political forum? The Palace cannot be blamed for the action it took. I suggest that this is a very widely-held view within the party. I think this episode is a terrible misjudgement on your part which has given us harmful publicity and made us appear ridiculous.

The BNP is at the crossroads. It can go forward if it can surmount its current crises but, respectfully, I do not believe that can happen under your continued leadership. Most party leaders have a finite period of effectiveness. For Thatcher it was eleven years, for Blair nine years; for yourself, as events have turned out, it has also been eleven years.

You have lost your edge. You have made a major contribution to British Nationalism which only a charlatan would gainsay. You still retain your well-earned position as an MEP and you still have your individual contribution to make as a party member, particularly in your writing and speaking skills. Your reputation can remain substantially intact.

There is an overwhelming need for change. The party needs peaceful develpment, internal harmony, a new constitution and a realization that we cannot move to the next stage of our development unless we enter into a period of consolidation.

In conclusion, it goes without saying I wish you well at the court hearing on 8 November where, again, I feel the party should never have been involved, simply on the grounds of crippling costs.

Best wishes

Yours sincerely



Peter Strudwick is a retired solicitor and university law lecturer.

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