Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Rise and Fall of Burnley BNP

Steve Smith: a brilliant politician, driven out of the British National Party by Griffin's insane jealousy
With Burnley currently being in the minds of British National Party members, because of the recent council by-election there, I thought it would be an opportune moment to re-publish an extract from the illuminating tract by Steve Smith, entitled "How It Was Done - The rise
of Burnley BNP: the inside story" (2004, Burnley: Cliviger Press).

Steve's account of Griffin's prima donna jealousy of anyone who achieved what he was incapable of doing himself should be a wake-up call to anyone still under the spell of the Griffin personality cult. Griffin is still the same profoundly unpleasant and untrustworthy egoist he always was. A griffin does not change its spots.

Steve was eventually lost to the BNP as a direct consequence of Griffin's malevolence, and is now believed to be a member of the National Front.

Steve Smith, the originator of Burnley BNP as well as the election campaign that won the BNP its first council seats outside London, now takes up the story, on page forty. It should be mentioned in passing that the Simon Bennett to whom Steve refers is a different individual to Simon Bennett the party's former webmaster.

All, of course, was never going to be sweetness and light; we were,after all, going to have to begin living in a completely different nationalist world to the one I was happiest with: a world where rules now had to be observed, permission sought for various initiatives and caps doffed before money could be recovered for expenses, etc. The public spotlight was upon us as it had never been before, and, remembering what I had said to Chris Jackson four years previously about needing to have the freedom to do things the way I wanted to do them, I mused that perhaps my time had come to an end. Perhaps my particular contribution to the BNP had completed its natural life-cycle and that perhaps it was genuinely time for me to back off. I didn't know the answer. Four years on and eight councillors later, however, nobody had reason to be complaining!

Compounding this dilemma was the fact that in the twelve-month period leading up to the elections of 2003 I gained a fuller appreciation of just how little the leadership of our party cared about Burnley and what we had achieved - which we found to be more than surprising, especially considering that, as a report in an October 2003 edition of The Guardian had put it, we had effectively catapulted the British National Party from nowhere to somewhere in no time at all. This doesn't make any sense, I kept telling myself. Why isn't the leadership helping us? Even if they didn't like us on a personal level, surely they could see that we deserved to be given all the assistance we neededin order to carry our good works forward. Just as the best salesmen in a business would expect, and deserve, to be acknowledged and rewarded for their efforts, so should Burnley BNP be given all the proverbial ammunition it would need to complete its task of prizing open the iron grip which the Labour Party had on our town. Would the salesmen quit their jobs and join another company? Or would they stay loyal and have their morale destroyed and become pale shadows of their former selves?

At the time I write this manuscript in March 2004 there does seem a danger that the latter could occur. Venom had been spat at us from all quarters. Even the editor of the party's Freedom newspaper, Martin Wingfield, said at a leadership meeting not many weeks after we had our first three councillors elected that Burnley BNP was 'insular'. This apparently was a reaction from one of many whom Simon Bennett had attacked in a critical report which he had sent down to them for, as he saw it, using the success of Burnley as a vehicle to promote their own self-aggrandisement. Whilst on the surface this comment of Martin Wingfield's with regard to the insularity of Burnley BNP might have appeared to be a criticism, and he may very well have intended it to be taken as such, he was actually simply stating the truth of what is effectively a micro-representation of our wider nationalist mindset. In that case, I thought, we were all open to the accusation of being insular, a charge which we in Burnley were more than happy to admit.

To Simon Bennett and me, it was quite simply unbelievable. By now the leadership had neutered Burnley BNP's ability to control its own funds. Monies raised at our regular monthly meetings were now being ringfenced and had to be banked. This was, I am afraid to say, the last we saw of it. This meant that we could not now, among other things, service our database of supporters, which consequently had a devastating impact upon our capacity to function in the way that I knew was necessary if we were to continue making progress. As I mentioned in what was to be my final e-mail message to National Treasurer John Brayshaw, perhaps their treatment of us was rooted in envy, which incidentally is one of the cardinal sins; perhaps it was because we had become too successful, and that we were an embarrassment to them, especially as they had, to a man, played absolutely no part in our success; perhaps they hadn't helped us because, so often, the untalented hate talent; perhaps it was because they didn't want anyone from Burnley challenging them for their positions in the limelight. Whatever their reasons and motivation, they had left Burnley out to dry and denied us their help when we needed it the most.

John Brayshaw's pretentious justification for not giving Burnley BNP the help we had requested was that the leadership could not be seen giving preferential treatment to any branch, no matter how successful. I couldn't believe my ears. So I responded: "How can you possibly deny a branch such as ours the help that it needed to survive, when it had directly, as a consequence of its success, generated tens of thousands of pounds of revenue and caused the party to grow considerably in the space of just two years?" For reasons best known to themselves they couldn't or wouldn't give us the real reasons for what I considered to be this blatant dereliction of duty in refusing to help the party's star branch to continue to prosper, and that is why perhaps the reasons that they did offer up came across as so lame and incomprehensible.

In evaluating this question, I think it appropriate to see things in terms of military analogies. Field Marshal Lord Montgomery famously said that in wartime it is always a sound policy to enforce success and not to enforce failure. Where a particular unit, for whatever reason, has achieved a major breakthrough which could decisively influence the outcome of the entire campaign, it is prudent to pour resources into providing a back-up for that breakthrough so as to exploit it to the full, rather than wasting resources elsewhere where the same gains cannot be expected. The question of 'equal' treatment of units or battle-sectors simply does not come into it. What matters is the effective prosecution of the war.

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