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New Millennium New Leader: Nick Griffin and the Modernisation of the British National Party

Nigel Copsey

This is Chapter 5 of Nigel Copsey’s excellent book Contemporary British Fascism: The British National Party and the Quest for Legitimacy (Palgrave 2004) which is highly recommended, particularly now it is available in a paperback edition.

TOWARDS the end of September 1999, the result of the British National Party’s first ever leadership election was announced. On the basis of an 80 per cent turnout, Nick Griffin had succeeded in winning 1,082 of the votes cast in a postal ballot of the party’s membership. With the incumbent, John Tyndall, having received only 411 votes or just 30 per cent of the total membership, Griffin had easily got the better his opponent.1 In their hour of decision, amongst a clear majority of the party members, Griffin had obviously hit the right note. Where previously he had been Tyndall’s second-in-command, now he could finally take charge. In having obtained such a decisive vote, Griffin also possessed a clear mandate "to stamp his own style and vision on the party", as an internal bulletin declared to its members.2

However, it need hardly be added that all through his right-extremist career, there had been notable variations in Griffin’s political style. If more recently, as we have seen, he had become "a man committed to respectable politics and electioneering", in other words, an out-and-out "moderniser", erstwhile comrades in the International Third Position remember Griffin in a variety of former guises, be that as "a conservative, a revolutionary nationalist, a radical National Socialist, a Third Positionist" or "a friend of ‘boot boys’ and the skinhead scene".3 What all this ideological inconsistency might point towards over the long term is of course open to debate. But for the moment at least, Griffin’s objective was to transform the internal culture of the British National Party – to "modernise" it and "normalise" it as a legitimate political party.

Shortly after declaring his intention to contest Tyndall for leadership of the party, Griffin laid out his blueprint for the future direction the BNP in the spring of 1999. His mouthpiece was Tony Lecomber’s magazine, Patriot. An opportunity would soon present itself for radical nationalists in Britain, Griffin forecast, when the material and psychological gains of the postwar consumer society are thrown into reverse and the onward march of "globalisation" – defined by Griffin in terms of growing ethnic and racial diversity, increasing European integration and the harmful effects of global capitalism. Looking ahead, Griffin prophesised that during the next few years the "dark horsemen of the globalist apocalypse will visit more and more of this land", extending their reach beyond those run-down "sink" estates that are already haunted by "poverty", "malnutrition", "insecurity" and "despair". In Griffin’s thoughts, the BNP could become a beacon of hope not only for the dispossessed white working class, but also a potential saviour for those in the traditional middle class, of so-called "Middle England", who would become increasingly disoriented and frustrated by the process of globalisation. Thus, the future of the party lay in bringing together town – the voters of the old "left", neglected by New Labour – with country – those of the old "right", disillusioned by the decline of the Conservative Party.

Yet there is no point in the British National Party idly waiting in the wings for this crisis of globalisation to occur, Griffin warned. In the first place, the masses may not perceive it as such and, besides, "even if a sudden lurch into a full-scale Slump does prompt a popular rejection of the existing order", it is by no means "inevitable that the British National Party would automatically become the political beneficiary". To take full advantage of this impending crisis, it must therefore concentrate on transforming itself from its current status as a political pariah into a respectable mainstream party with both "mass movement potential" and "electability". This called for a far-reaching programme of party "modernisation" through which the BNP should adapt itself to present conditions, adopt modern methods and a modern vocabulary. And two basic principles should govern this modernisation programme, Griffin thought – "responsibility" and "professionalism".4

On "responsibility", Griffin now spoke with a different voice. The days of attacking the quest for "respectability" as "a hunt for fool’s gold" had gone.5 In their place, Griffin spent his time weighing into the culture of "careless extremism" within the party. "If we seriously want to be elected", Griffin said, "the very first step is to look at the things we do, or condone, which make us unelectable".6 Hence, when contesting elections, notwithstanding scrutinising the past records of the party’s prospective candidates for potential embarrassments, the party’s message should be kept simple and presented in a non-threatening form – "in the least controversial way possible". Yet Griffin quickly reassured his readers that this exercise would be purely cosmetic – merely a case of remarketing the same product. Thus the party would not sell-out on its ultimate revolutionary objectives; in other words there would be no surrendering of core ideology. The point that needs to be made is that for Griffin, it all boils down to political expediency and short-term tactics:

"Politics is always the art of the possible, so we must judge every policy by one simple criterion: Is it realistically possible that a decisive proportion of the British people will support it? if not, then to scale down our short-term ambitions to a point at which the answer becomes ‘yes’ is not a sell-out, but the only possible step closer to our eventual goal."7

It is therefore hard to escape the conclusion that, as far as Griffin was concerned, fascism would always remain the party’s ultimate objective: "Of course, we must teach the truth to the hardcore", but "when it comes to influencing the public, forget about racial differences, genetics, Zionism, historical revisionism and so on", Griffin insisted.8 Instead of presenting the party as a revolutionary alternative to the system, "we must at all times present them (the electorate) with an image of moderate reasonableness". 9

On this point, Griffin merely followed another’s lead. Mark Deavin, in a Spearhead article the previous year, had already called on the British National Party to adopt a "flexible communication strategy", which in form was pretty much indistinguishable to that of the National Front in France. One reason why the FN had cultivated a "moderate and less abrasive image", Deavin explained, was through its use of non-threatening political discourse that "produces the least amount of resistance in ordinary French people".10 By implementing this strategy, first pioneered by the theoreticians of the French Nouvelle Droite in the 1970s11 and eagerly pursued by Le Pen’s past deputy and former chief strategist, Bruno Mégret, the FN had carefully avoided using racist language and had instead taken on terms such as "racism", more often than not used to stigmatise the far right, turned them on their head – "anti-white racism" – and used them against their opponents.12 Therefore, in its struggle for political acceptability, Deavin recommended that the British National Party should take a leaf out of the FN’s book and restyle its political language accordingly. This meant t hat the discourse of the old BNP should henceforth be dropped: "In everything we say and do, through our total image", Deavin concluded, "we must present ourselves nationally as the party of Democracy against Plutocracy, of Freedom against Euro-tyranny, of Security against Fear, and of Identity against Multi-culturalism".13

A year later, Griffin simply reproduced what Deavin (who by this stage had severed his links with the BNP) had to say. The party, Griffin urged, should moderate its language and communicate its propaganda through these very same words: freedom (which covers opposition to the European Union and petty bureaucracy); democracy ("whereby the wishes of the majority of the people prevail on issues such as immigration and capital punishment"); security (from crime and from the "chronic insecurity produced by globalism"); and identity (a term that "raises all the issues connected with mass immigration" but not "the negative Pavlovian conditioning which decades of brainwashing have associated with the word ‘race’"). All four of these terms – he took the credit for identifying them in 1998 – Griffin described as "idealistic, unobjectionable, motherhood and apple pie concepts".14 What Griffin therefore urged was a rejection of the verbal extremism of the past (recall in the previous chapter the boast by Richard Edmonds that the BNP was 100 per cent racist) and a remodelling of the BNP’s political style (if not its core ideology) on national populism. Hence, the claim to represent the mass of ordinary people, the opposition to bureaucracy, the demand for law and order, hostility to immigration and the call for the nation’s cultural inheritance to be protected – all staple features of the style of contemporary national-populist parties.15

What is more, as Deavin had earlier advised, Griffin insisted that the party should challenge the terminology that all too often is used against it. "It’s time to use the weight of ‘democracy’s’ own myths and expectations against it by side-stepping and using verbal judo techniques", Griffin declared.16 Hence in May 1999, the back page of Spearhead affirmed that the BNP "is not a racist party" and called on its readers to organise "a political response to anti-white racism".17 As for fascism, Griffin’s response was to use this term against those who "hold the multi-racial state in such exalted worship", particularly those who seek to destroy the BNP’s freedom of speech: "the people who deny us the right-to-reply and to broadcasting time", those "who organise frenzied mobs to try to: attack our election candidates, close down our meetings, and march on our premises with the stated intention of tearing them down brick-by-brick", those "who order their political police to tap our phones, steal our computers and use agents provocateurs to sow dissension in our ranks". Griffin asks: "Are these tactics democratic? No. What are they? By any genuine understanding of the term they are, quite simply, fascist – And these people who employ such tactics are fascists".18 In reality, Griffin contends, it is the British National Party that is the "democracy" party – it alone represents the true "silent majority": "Not only are we not ‘anti-democratic’; but we are in reality the only democrats. We are the only people who say what countless millions think."19

In 1998 the BNP had committed itself to contesting the European elections. As the party’s new Director of Publicity, Griffin now had the political opportunity to put a policy and identity makeover to the test. These elections would take place the following year on the basis of Proportional Representation (PR), a type of electoral system common on the continent but hitherto denied to right-wing extremists in Britain. PR is typically said to favour minor parties and it was one reason why party hardliners had maintained that a pure electoral strategy was easier on the continent and therefore remained rather lukewarm to electoral politics. In order to qualify for free broadcasting time in England and Scotland, the BNP had to field a full slate of candidates – 71 in England and 8 in Scotland. This would incur obvious costs, £50,000 on deposits alone, but nonetheless Griffin saw the European elections as the essential first step in making the party acceptable to the voters of "Middle England". To party organisers, however, as in 1997, recruitment was made top priority.20

Significantly, Griffin drew up the strategy for the campaign. The ranks of disaffected Tories who had deserted the Conservatives in 1997 for the UK Independence Party and James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party were his primary target. With them in mind, Griffin drafted the party’s European election manifesto – Freedom for Britain and the British. In comparison with previous manifestos, invariably the work of John Tyndall, the tone was markedly different. References to "revolutionary" change or British "rebirth" had disappeared. We have copious occasions when the far more accommodating word "freedom" was used instead: it appeared in every single sub-title. A mere fleeting reference was made to the party’s policy of repatriating non-whites. In any case, following Griffin’s recommendations, the BNP no longer insisted that the repatriation of non-whites should be compulsory.21 All of this was clearly a bid to widen the party’s base of campaigning beyond the straightjacket of "race". This continued a strategic shift that Griffin had first piloted in 1998 when the party had branched out to run anti-paedophile and pro-farming campaigns in a number of different localities.22

Furthermore, Griffin was assigned the task of designing the party’s full-colour election leaflet, which as a consequence of standing more than 25 candidates, the Royal Mail posted out free of charge. The verso of this "Save Our Sterling" election address saw the party’s opposition to the European Union articulated under the four sub-headings of "freedom", "security", "identity" and "democracy". On the front, meanwhile, a "voter-friendly" photograph of former National Democrat activists, Steve and Sharron Edwards, along with their three young children, occupied centre-stage.23 The inclusion of a young family on the party’s election leaflet, which was delivered to millions of homes across the country, had been a popular choice amongst leading party activists.24 As for its TV broadcast, this was innocuous too. It featured both Tyndall and Griffin, and it was interspersed with a selection of inoffensive "sound-bites" from "ordinary" party members – a mother (Sharron Edwards), a farmer (Terry Cavill, South Wales Organiser), a van driver (Chris Jackson, North West Organiser), a pensioner (Griffin’s mother) and a computer communications consultant (Simon Darby, the former National Democrat activist).25

In contesting the 1999 European elections, Griffin’s prescription for respectability was therefore given its first trial run. Yet during the middle of the election campaign, cold water was thrown all over the party’s attempt to repackage itself. On 25 May 1999, four days after the party’s TV broadcast aired, the association with violent neo-Nazism reemerged when the Mirror newspaper exposed a link between the London nail bomber David Copeland and BNP leader, John Tyndall. In April 1999, Copeland had planted bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho, and the bomb that had exploded in the Admiral Duncan, a gay pub in Soho,26 had resulted in three deaths. It turned out that Copeland had been active with the British National Party for a short period following the 1997 general election and had been photographed alongside Tyndall in Stratford, East London. The reproduction of this photograph on the front page of the Mirror almost certainly helped the public see through the mask of respectability that the BNP had donned.

Moreover, the fact that the party also found itself crowded out by the more mainstream UK Independence Party and the Euro-scepticism of the Conservative Party resulted, not surprisingly, in an ill-fated campaign. When it came to it, the party’s share of the vote amounted to a pitiful 1 per cent, even less than its 1997 general election result. It seems that as much as £100,000 was wasted on contesting this election – around one pound for every one vote.27 One activist complained that "It would have been more cost effective if we had given £250 to every new member recruited during the campaign."28 If these figures are correct, the party probably recruited not more than 400 new members in the wake of its European election campaign. Tyndall’s claim that as a result of the "huge public interest" that its Euro-election campaign generated the party "is now stronger than it has ever been and bids to grow even more"29 was clear wishful thinking. In September 1999, during the BNP leadership contest, party membership still stood at a paltry 1,353.30

Yet to some extent, the picture painted by these European election results is misleading. Admittedly, in local elections in May 1999, several party candidates had actually polled relatively well. On closer inspection, the party’s best results were obtained in Sandwell in the West Midlands, not a rural shire but a deprived urban district in the heart of the Black Country. Here, in Tipton Green and Great Bridge, Stephen and Sharron Edwards had polled 17.17 per cent and 12.94 per cent of the vote respectively.31 The key to their success had been local community campaigning, modelled as Steve Edwards said, on the experience of local Liberal Democrats. Whilst still activists in the far-right National Democrats, this husband and wife team had distributed over 30,000 leaflets in a 12-month period, campaigning on local issues such as policing, housing, education, speed limits and environmental concerns. "Within months", Steve Edwards recalls, "three large residents associations who had rejected the main parties came to us for help". The result was that "Our local helpline was ‘red hot’. My wife Sharron, our secretary, was working flat-out liaising with Sandwell Council on behalf of local residents."32 Evidently, when local activists targeted their efforts at rendering a service to people in their own community, the party could nurture legitimacy. As in Millwall, most progress was made when the party established contact with local residents and concentrated its efforts on local campaigning and target wards. For Eddy Butler, therefore, the lesson was obvious: avoid "jumping straight into the big elections" because by doing so, you will miss out on the intervening stages.33

We now arrive at "professionalism" – the second of Griffin’s requirements (though by forcing a leadership contest on the eve of a European election campaign, Griffin was not necessarily a practitioner of what he preached). A will to win was not enough, Griffin said, the party will never progress "by continuing at our present ‘adequate’ level – monthly magazine, monthly paper, a range of AS leaflets".34 The party had to equip itself with "power-winning" machinery and the first stage, Griffin maintained, was to infuse a range of pre-existing initiatives with fresh blood.

One such initiative was the party’s Media Monitoring Unit, launched in 1998. Its aim was to force the media (typically the local media) to retract from labelling the party as "fascist" or "Nazi". In reality, however, it proved a relatively insignificant operation not least because this "unit" was more or less run single-handedly.35 The party’s embryonic training programme was another existing project that Griffin wanted to see brought to maturity. Aside from improving the quality of grassroots activists beyond recognition, Griffin hoped that this initiative would deliver a layer of two-dozen or so "middle-managers" that could push the party’s "modernisation" effort forward. On this point, Griffin once more took inspiration from the French National Front, which boasts a National Training Institute for its party activists. Also singled out for an upgrade was the party’s website. As I have pointed out elsewhere, Michael Newland launched this in the autumn of 1995, but it lacked sophistication.36 For Griffin, the Internet offered an unparalleled opportunity. Not only could the BNP use this medium to bypass the mainstream media and its (Jewish) "gate-keepers", but it could also create a sense of belonging amongst party members particularly since the party had abandoned more traditional forms of "collective" street activity in the mid-1990s, such as set-piece rallies and marches.37

The Internet, then, would assist with both the recruitment and retention of party members. For sure, as we have seen, membership turnover had been a perennial problem for the British far right. More recently, over the period 1996-99, party members had been dropping out at a rate of 20 per cent.38 If the party is going to finally put the "plug in the metaphorical nationalist membership bath", members need to feel valued, Griffin stressed: "The new recruit must be made welcome, kept informed and made to feel an important part of his or her party."39 Thus Griffin also pointed to the importance of regular members’ bulletins and good quality membership cards. He recalled how, as a teenager in 1975, he had almost failed to renew his subscription to the National Front because the previous year he had been so disappointed with the modest return on his subscription – a card and two bulletins. Another way to make members feel more involved, Griffin suggested, was to undertake a regular "skills audit" of the party membership. And in so doing, the full talents of the party membership could be harnessed and its potential for growth maximised.

As for party structure, decentralisation was proposed, but this idea was not new to Griffin. When radicalising the National Front in the 1980s, the principle of decentralisation featured highly.40 Each section of the BNP should have its own dedicated contact number for queries and complaints, Griffin suggested; he even proposed a party ombudsman to whom party members could turn if their complaints were left unsatisfied. A further item on his list was a leadership "Think-Tank", an advisory council that would meet every few months. This would offer new proposals and advice to the party Chairman although Griffin would have no return to NF-style "rule by committee". Hence, the Chairman would retain the constitutional right to ignore its advice. As a matter of urgency, with Tyndall still effectively holding the "purse-strings", Griffin also implored the party to appoint a national treasurer and to organise a fund-raising team. If the party is to "reach into new areas and with new techniques", it clearly required money and all of this made prudent financial management vital.41

A final area for development, which again took its cue from the French National Front, was Griffin’s plan to create a series of satellite organisations. What Griffin had in mind here was in fact a "counter-society" or "counter-culture" formed from a series of semi-autonomous party associations or "circles" that would extend the party’s influence amongst various segments of the population. A whole series of such "circles" had been formed by the National Front in France, amongst businessman, farmers, women, war veterans and so on.42 Likewise, Griffin’s idea was to form an analogous network of party-linked operations. Their intended function: to "build bridges" with different social groups and so make the party more "approachable".

The development of such a network had already been set in motion in 1998 when Griffin had launched "Land and People", a farming-cum-environmental circle that was intended to "provide a ‘halfway house’ for members of the public who aren’t quite ready to commit themselves to joining the BNP proper".43 However, its achievements proved modest – Searchlight reported that its coordinator had abandoned it altogether in 2000 after becoming disillusioned with its lack of success.44 Of greater significance was the establishment of a support group amongst British expatriates based in Falls Church, Virginia, in the United States. Mark Cotterill, who between 1978 and 1992 was the National Front’s south-west organiser, was the "Griffinite" who set up the American Friends of the BNP (AFBNP) in January 1999. This could not be so casually dismissed. Some observers. have suggested that the AFBNP contributed significant funds to the party’s European election effort.45

In the meantime, on British soil, West Midlands branch secretary Sharron Edwards fronted "Renaissance" – the party’s new "family circle". This group organised a "family fun day" in the West Midlands in July 1999 aimed at promoting the British National Party as a respectable organisation that warmly welcomed ordinary families rather than the "street gang" of old. When driving home from this social event "with the children asleep in the back of the car", Griffin claims to have had "a glimpse of the British National Party of the future". What he had seen on this day was "unsmearable, positive, attractive – and successful".46 Yet if truth be told, it was the Front National having an effect on Griffin yet again. In 1998 he had visited the French National Front’s Fête Bleu, Blanc, Rouge, a social event first held in September 1981 as a "contre-fête" to the more popular festival organised by the Communist Party daily, L’Humanité. Griffin wanted to imitate it and therefore proposed building on the BNP Family Day by staging a weekend "Red, White and Blue" festival the following year. And with video and Internet coverage of such an event, Griffin thought, more could be done for "normalising" the BNP than a "thousand marches or tub thumping rallies" could ever do.47

Slinging mud and electing the leader
With the blueprint for the party’s future having been laid out, Griffin now had to negotiate the leadership election itself. Unlike Tyndall, however, he did not wait until after the European election campaign before he made his start. Whilst Tyndall came across as complacent, Griffin was prepared to steal a march on his opponent. During the European election campaign, in a bid to drum up support, Griffin toured the branches. Campaign leaflets and a cassette tape were used to boost Griffin’s campaign.48 while Tony Lecomber, the BNP’s north and east London regional organiser, lobbied on Griffin’s behalf in the capital.49 Meanwhile, British Nationalist and a number of local bulletins and newsletters voiced their approval of Griffin’s candidature.50

Everywhere, Griffin was supported by Patriot magazine. Intent on seizing the occasion, its summer issue saw Griffin’s promotion drive in full swing. His photograph not only featured on its front cover (along with the caption "New Millennium New Leader"), but on seven other occasions inside the magazine as well. A further helping hand from Patriot came with the publication of Moving On, Moving Up, Griffin’s sleek election brochure. This was posted out to party members in September, and in it Griffin’s team claimed that he had already won the backing of 85 per cent of party organisers and 80 per cent of party activists.51 The brochure featured a series of ringing endorsements from leading figures in the party – Tony Lecomber, Michael Newland, Derek Beackon and Mark Cotterill amongst others. But for Tyndall loyalist, John Morse, this was "the standard advertiser’s trick of promoting a product by claiming that everybody is buying it".52

Whilst the brochure remained respectful to Tyndall as the party’s "elder statesman", the various contributors went into raptures over Griffin – his eagerness to bring fresh ideas to the party; his youth (aged 40 as opposed to Tyndall’s 65 years); his intellectual qualities (a Cambridge graduate rather than the current office-holder who had left Beckenham and Penge Grammar School with a modest three O-levels); and the fact that Griffin’s image was not tainted by a series of highly compromising photographs. Bruce Crowd, the party’s south-west regional organiser, drew attention to this fact in particular when asking: "How many members and voters have been lost over the years by photographs of JT in his neo-nazi uniform?" This exasperated Crowd, "I am sick and tired of trying to explain the unexplainable and excuse the inexcusable to new members, enquirers and people on the doorstep."53 As a further reminder, a picture of Tyndall, aged 28, dressed in his Spearhead paramilitary uniform was juxtaposed with a photograph of a smartly dressed Nick Griffin on a National Front demonstration, aged 22.

The fact of the matter, Griffin said, is that the public "will never support a party which has about it anything which gives credibility to the inevitable media smear of ‘Nazi’". For Griffin, "such irresponsible and impractical extremism remains the political kiss of death as far as 98 per cent of people are concerned".54 But these comments smacked of sheer hypocrisy. Here was a former "Strasserite Nazi" and one-time "pedlar of the Mr. Gaddafi’s ‘Green Book’",55 attacking Tyndall for having an "extremist past". It is no wonder that, as soon as the Euro-election campaign had ended, Tyndall hit back.

After failing to persuade Griffin to call off his challenge, Griffin was sacked as editor of Spearhead in July 1999. Tyndall along with staunch supporter John Morse then availed themselves of numerous pages in Spearhead in order to badmouth their opponent. In the first place, by encouraging internal division, Griffin was berated for having destabilised the party and for having undermined its post-election recruitment efforts. This, for Tyndall, had demonstrated a negligent disregard for the interests of the party. Attention was also drawn to the inconsistencies in Griffin’s political past whilst Griffin’s attempts to rewrite his political career in Patriot were ridiculed. As we have seen, Griffin stressed the need for careful financial management, but with the intention of damaging his credibility on this issue, Tyndall exposed the facts about Griffin’s bankruptcy: in 1994 Griffin had been declared bankrupt at Welshpool and Newtown County Court in mid-Wales with debts of £70,000 resulting from a failed business venture. Tyndall also revisited the embarrassing episode of the Cook Report in 1997 and the claim on the "sole copyright" of "every useful BNP innovation in recent times" that Griffin had staked was laughed at. There was even the suggestion that Griffin’s challenge was part of a state conspiracy to wreck the party. At this point, reference was made to a report in the Daily Express earlier in the year that alleged that Scotland Yard and MI5 were planning a covert operation to break up far-right groups such as the British National Party.56 Yet potentially the most damaging revelations came from outside the party. In early September, Martin Webster in a four-page magazine, Loose Cannon, claimed that he and Griffin had started a four-year homosexual relationship in 1976 that had continued throughout Griffin’s time at Cambridge – a story given credibility by Searchlight magazine. Of course Griffin, who dismissed it as a sad attempt by Webster to settle old scores, denied the Story.57

If Tyndall thought that all this mud-slinging would prompt party members to reconsider their positions and see off the challenge of Nick Griffin, he was sadly mistaken. Tyndall committed two serious blunders, and in so doing his anti-Griffin offensive badly misfired. First of all, when Lecomber and Newland had questioned Tyndall why he had never produced a set of audited accounts in the party’s history, Tyndall informed a gathering of party members in the West Midlands that he had burnt them in order to protect the identity of the party’s donors. Under Tyndall, the offices of Chairman and Treasurer had been combined in one man (though constitutionally, they were supposed to be kept separate). This ensured that no-one could ruin the organisation through financial recklessness, but there was little in the way of transparency. One party member from Northumbria had left Tyndall a substantial legacy in 1991 – a property worth £100,000 of which the rental income was £10,000 a year. Though it was supposed to benefit the party, Lecomber suspected that it had become Tyndall’s personal property. 58 Secondly, in a leaked letter, Tyndall had promised reprisals against Griffin’s supporters should Griffin’s leadership challenge fail. Griffin, meanwhile, promised no recriminations and therefore could pose as the "unity" candidate.59

At its root, however, Tyndall’s real problem was that he offered very little to capture the imagination of the party’s rank-and-file. To put it bluntly, they had grown weary of him. Since Tyndall had largely run the BNP as his own personal fiefdom, too much depended on one man. He might have claimed that his record as head of the party during the 1990s was "one of considerable success",60 but the reality, aside from one local council by-election victory in 1993, was a track record of dismal failure. For many, if Tyndall were elected, the long-term aim of turning the British National Party into a major political force would remain as remote as ever. Tyndall’s record effectively sealed his fate. Even dragging the leadership contest into the gutter failed to rescue it. Not surprisingly, therefore, despite some damaging revelations, Griffin retained the backing of the party’s leading regional organisers. Support remained solid in the West Midlands and parts of the east Midlands, north and east London, the north-east, south-west, Scotland and Wales.61 And so, following the close of ballot on 27 September, there were no surprises when Griffin easily outpolled Tyndall and captured 62 per cent of the vote. The British National Party would therefore go into the new millennium with a new leader. However, as the October 1999 members’ bulletin stressed, though the party leader may have changed, as always, the cause (that is to say, racial nationalism) would remain the same.62

Griffin takes charge
Naturally, coming so far behind Griffin was a crushing blow for Tyndall. Yet he accepted defeat with equanimity and the transfer of power occurred in an orderly fashion. "I have no plans to launch any ‘new party’", Tyndall declared, but he didn’t want to be pensioned off either.63 He would remain a party member and Spearhead would continue to support the British National Party. As for Tyndall’s most loyal supporters – Richard Edmonds (national organiser) and John Morse (mid-south organiser) – they also followed Tyndall’s lead and resigned their party posts. Meanwhile, the election of Nick Griffin brought with it the promotion of key "modernisers" to a string of new party offices. Tony Lecomber was made Director of Group Development whilst Michael Newland, an accountant by profession, was appointed National Treasurer. The Advisory Council was also established comprised of the National Chairman and his deputy (Sharron Edwards), the party’s national officers (Treasurer, Administration, Information Technology, Group Development, Media Monitoring, Stewarding) as well as all the regional organisers from the party’s main regions (West and East Midlands, North-West England, Yorkshire, Scotland and Northern Ireland). Moreover, as Griffin promised, the party’s administration was swiftly decentralised. A series of regional "think-tank" meetings also took place in the weeks that followed. These meetings were sold to party members as a consultation process but they were almost certainly used by Griffin as a means of tightening his hold over the party.

Needless to say, Griffin had to see to it that Tyndall no longer represented a threat. Consequently, during the course of the next few months, Griffin progressively fenced him in. From when Spearhead had first launched, over the winter of 1964-65, it had taken pride of place on Britain’s far right as Tyndall’s mouthpiece. Thus, as Griffin saw it, if distribution of this magazine could be curtailed, Tyndall’s influence would surely wane. Therefore, sample copies of Spearhead were no longer included in the information packs that were sent out to those people who enquired about the party. In the past, Tyndall’s main source of new subscriptions for his magazine had come via this route. Spearhead was also dropped from the party’s revamped website and, furthermore, branches were instructed to give priority to selling the party’s new magazine – Identity. This was unveiled at the start of the new millennium and numerous party branches cancelled their standing orders to Spearhead as a result. But Tyndall was determined to fight back. He formed "Friends of Spearhead", a new support group independent of the party, and in order to ensure the magazine’s survival members were asked to donate £10 a month.64 However, with sales of his magazine on the decline and with his erstwhile supporters no longer in positions of responsibility, Tyndall’s prospects for a political comeback looked thin. Instead he had to console himself with sniping at Griffin from the sidelines.65

True to his original intentions, Griffin quickly devoted his energy to repackaging the party’s hard-line message in terms that ordinary voters would find comfortable. As part of this project, the party’s new magazine, Identity, first appeared as a bi-monthly in January 2000. According to its editorial, the name "Identity" was chosen to reflect the "new, modernist nationalism to which the British National Party is now firmly committed", in other words, a type of non-threatening nationalism where the party’s primary purpose becomes "the preservation of the identity of the traditional inhabitants and cultures of Britain". The far more contentious term "race" would henceforth disappear: "Our demand to preserve that identity threatens no one; it raises no alarming or debatable questions of superiority or inferiority."66 Though this was presented as Griffin’s latest serving of ingenuity, it was surely no coincidence that the title of the French National Front’s bi-monthly, first launched in April 1989, was also Identité.

In order to further accommodate itself to the need for greater public acceptance, the title of the party’s newspaper was also changed from British Nationalist to The Voice of Freedom. Unlike its earlier incarnation, it was taken to newsprint in order to look like a professional, mass distribution newspaper. Five or six years earlier, Tony Lecomber and Eddy Butler had first proposed this idea to the party Chairman but it had not been acted upon by Tyndall, who thought that since the BNP was such a reviled party he would not be able to find any printers that would be prepared to handle its newspaper.67

Having given its media a face-lift, it was not long before the BNP had to contend with a fresh round of electoral contests. Priority was given to the London mayoral elections, which had been dominating the headlines following the decision by the maverick Labour MP "Red" Ken Livingstone to stand as an independent. With mayoral candidates entitled to free postal delivery of their election addresses, and since "the capital gets you noticed politically so it was a good idea for the party to stand",68 the British National Party threw its hat into the ring. One does not need to look hard for the reasons why Griffin approached Michael Newland to stand as the party’s candidate for mayor.69 Newland was not only a life-long Londoner, but more importantly, he was an articulate professional who unusually for a British National Party activist had a squeaky clean image.70

In return for £20,000 (the cost of Newland’s nomination as well as the cost of his election address in the official election booklet), five million electors in London received a copy of the party’s election address. Thus, as Tony Lecomber points out, in many cases the party "reached areas that hadn’t seen nationalist, let alone BNP literature for more than twenty years".71 This was obviously a bonus for the BNP given its meagre resources, it would have had difficulty covering all 14 constituencies with a traditional door-to-door leafleting campaign. Whilst the official election booklet formed the centrepiece of its campaign, the party also distributed 120,000 "calling cards", which were left on parked cars, and "loud-speaker" vans toured each London borough.

As for the election address itself, this was co-written by Newland and Griffin.72 In the official election booklet, it stretched over two pages and its very inclusion, next to the election addresses of the mainstream candidates, almost certainly brought the party a degree of respectability. On its first page, Newland and Griffin decided to focus on crime, public transport, opposition to "multicultural indoctrination" in schools, "equal rights", that is to say opposition to "positive discrimination", and finally the promotion of family values. Meanwhile, on the second page, a sizeable portion was devoted to "bogus" asylum-seekers an issue that, as we shall see, was becoming more overtly politicised as the mainstream parties responded to a wave of sensationalist reporting in the tabloids. If the results of one polling organisation are to be believed, 14 per cent of voters had identified asylum-seekers as their chief concern in the lead-up to polling day.73 Indeed, in the very first issue of Identity, the BNP promised to concentrate on this issue in the months ahead. Yet throughout, the BNP remained guarded: "We are not opposed to individual immigrants", it claimed. "What we oppose is the destruction of the traditional identity of the British people in our own homeland." This, it maintained, was "not a matter of ‘racism’ or ‘hate’ against other peoples". In truth, the party’s racism was merely being repackaged. Pseudo-democratic language, whereby the wishes of the majority should prevail, now became the order of the day: "We ask for our culture, freedoms and our traditions to be respected, and for the majority to have the right to run our country as they wish."74

Unlike its 1999 European election campaign, the party did not come in for any damaging revelations this time around. Unable to find any dirt on Newland, the media largely fell silent. Aside from the Evening Standard putting his biographical details on its website and running an online poll, the press almost entirely blanked Newland’s campaign. In the event, Newland polled 33,569 first-preference votes and 45,337 second-preference votes, suggesting that of the 1.75 million who voted, close to 80,000 Londoners would have supported a BNP mayor. This worked out at over 5 per cent across London, whilst the figure in East London approached 9 per cent (or possibly as much as 13 per cent of the white vote). Nor should we forget that at the same time, in elections to the Greater London Assembly, the BNP also presented a party list of six candidates. This list polled 47,670 votes or 2.87 per cent, thereby meeting the target of 2.5 per cent that was required to retain the party’s £5,000 deposit. In the June 1999 European elections, the BNP had taken a little under 18,000 votes from Londoners. Within 11 months, albeit on a higher turnout, its support had increased significantly.75

In point of fact, this upturn in electoral fortunes found resonance in isolated pockets elsewhere. Outside London, on 4 May 2000, there were elections to more than 3,000 local council seats. The BNP targeted just 16 local council wards, with the West Midlands being the region where the party concentrated most of its efforts. Here, the party’s average vote increased from 6.8 per cent to 10.8 per cent. Not surprisingly, the best score was obtained in Sandwell’s Tipton Green ward where the BNP had established its "Helping Hand" team, assisting local people with neighbourhood concerns. Steve Edwards, who presented himself as respectable, traditional family-man fought a tireless campaign on local issues – crime, housing, litter, opposition to "positive discrimination" measures and so on. His share of the vote increased from 17.2 per cent in 1999 to 23.7 per cent. Another encouraging performance was recorded in Dudley’s Castle and Priory ward where Simon Darby doubled his vote from 8.1 per cent to 16.1 per cent. Meanwhile, in Burnley, the party established itself on the local political landscape for the first time. As late as May 1999, there had been no local BNP organisation in Burnley – in fact, there had only been two paid-up members in the town. Following a leaflet drive, and a subsequent meeting which attracted some 20 supporters, Simon Bennett along with Steve Smith founded the Burnley branch in August 1999. Smith recalls:

"In the early days we picked a ward, Fulledge Ward near Turf Moor, and leafleted it three times in nine months. Simon then stood as BNP candidate in Fulledge in May 2000 and polled 20% of the vote. That result set us on our way and we haven’t looked back since."76

Elsewhere, one candidate was also returned unopposed. John Haycock, who had joined the party in 1995, became a parish councillor for Bromyard and Winslow in Herefordshire. He was the first BNP councillor for over six years.77 However, he failed to attend any council meetings for six months and was later disqualified.78

Soon after, in July 2000 the party notched up another notable electoral gain. At a local council by-election in Bexley, a district of Kent, the party’s candidate Colin Smith (south-east London regional organiser) polled 26.2 per cent of the vote in the North End ward. Smith, a former British Movement skinhead in his teens, ran an energetic campaign. His canvassers, at all times immaculately dressed, leafleted the ward at least three times a week in the run-up to polling day. Whilst local community issues did feature, the focus of his campaign was almost exclusively on the asylum-seeker issue. According to the BNP, the local Tories were guilty of hypocrisy. Although local Tories campaigned for a tougher approach, the BNP claimed that the Conservative-controlled council was simultaneously intent on housing asylum-seekers in the poorest and most deprived parts of the borough (such as the North End ward) rather than traditional middle-class Tory areas such as Sidcup and Old Bexley. As it turned out, Smith outpolled the Tory candidate by 42 votes.79

By the look of things, under the guise of the asylum-seeker issue, the ghost of Enoch Powell was returning to haunt mainstream political life. During the 1970s Powellism had opened up legitimate political space for the National Front, but when Margaret Thatcher had made a hid for the racist constituency in the late 1970s this space had been reoccupied by the Tories. Thereafter, the "race" issue was removed from the arena of national political debate even if by means of successive pieces of restrictive legislation, the Conservatives were still generally seen as the toughest of the mainstream parties on the "race" issue. Instead of challenging the Tories, however, the Labour Party merely shadowed them. In consequence, "race" was not subject to party competition. Thus, notwithstanding rhetorical outbursts from lone Tory MPs over the years (such as Norman Tebbit, Winston Churchill and Nicholas Budgen) along with various instances where the grassroots of mainstream political parties made a play for the racist vote at the local level (as in Tower Hamlets), "race" as an issue remained beyond the pale. This was the case down to the spring of 2000 until the Conservative Party leader Williarn Hague re-politicised the "race" issue by turning asylum into a central plank of the Tories’ May local election platform.

Every so often, this "conspiracy of silence" amongst Britain’s political elite drew scathing comment from the tabloid press. For instance, the Mail rushed to the defence of Tory MP Winston Churchill for having had the "courage" to break the "race taboo" when, in a speech he had given in Bolton in May 1993, a stand against the "relentless flow" of Muslims had been taken.80 Yet, invariably, frontbench Tories would distance themselves from such outbursts, just as Edward Heath had isolated Enoch Powell. Nonetheless, in order to force them on the political agenda, parts of the right-wing press would still try to stoke up the contentious issues of "race" and immigration. For instance, in the lead-up to the 1992 general election, the Daily Mail and the Sun both campaigned against "bogus" asylum-seekers and raised the spectre of a "flood of bogus refugees" should Labour be elected.81 And, whilst "race" may not have been overtly politicised during the 1997 general election campaign, the Daily Mail in particular had stigmatised migrants as "bogus", "scroungers" and "cheats".82 All the same, it was towards the end of the 1990s before the rate of tabloid coverage on the asylum issue grew appreciably. And on this occasion, mainstream politicians joined in the cry of the tabloid scaremongers.

But what brought about the national media’s growing obsession with this issue? One obvious factor was the year-on-year increase in the number of asylum applications. In 1996 there had been 29,000 asylum claims but by 1999 this figure had increased to 71,000.83 Nonetheless, the overall quantity of asylum applications still remained relatively low, with Britain placed eighth amongst European countries in terms of asylum-seekers per head of population.84 A second factor was provincial press coverage, particularly in places such as Dover where local newspapers had become increasingly frenzied in their attacks on asylum-seekers. One editorial from the Dover Express (1 October 1998) had described asylum-seekers in terms of "human sewage". Indeed, when analysing 161 local newspaper reports collected over the course of October and November 1999, the Audit Commission found that in only 6 per cent of the cases did local journalists report on the positive contribution made by asylum-seekers.85 More often than not, the national press followed the provincial lead, and as the tabloid dailies competed with one another for readers, so by the spring of 2000 the headlines had become ever more intemperate and sensationalist: "Time to kick the scroungers out" (the Sun, 15 March 2000); "Get out Scum!" (Daily Star, 4 April 2000) and "Hello Mr Sponger ... Need any Benefits?" (Daily Star, 27 April 2000).

On 15 March 2000, the editor of the Sun had called a pusillanimous William Hague to account for having failed to launch a campaign "against beggars and fake asylum-seekers". A month later, in a speech to the Social Market Foundation, William Hague answered his critics. Common cause was now made with the tabloids; all new asylum-seekers should be placed in secure units, he declared, and he further recommended the creation of a new agency that would seek to eject from Britain all rejected asylum applicants. As he toured the shires and a number of seaside constituencies in order to urge local Tory candidates to maximise political capital out of the asylum issue, Hague claimed that asylum-seekers were costing the British taxpayer £180 million and that old-age pensioners were now receiving less money than refugees. For Conservative strategists, as they succumbed to the temptations of electoral expediency, this move made sense. Indeed, Daily Telegraph journalist, Janet Daley, saw "race" and immigration as the "big idea" through which Hague could make a serious challenge to Labour at the next general election. Seen from this angle, with the Keynesian economic consensus having already been destroyed by Thatcher, William Hague’s opening gambit formed part of a wider attack on the prevailing left-liberal social consensus. Some radical critics have even detected a conspiracy by the right-wing press: according to this perspective, the right-wing tabloids deliberately orchestrated Hague’s demonising of asylum-seekers in order to undermine the results of the Macpherson Inquiry.86

Whatever the truth may be, the way Labour Cabinet Ministers reacted – by stressing how "tough" they were on immigration and by making repeated references to "bogus" asylum-seekers – made sure that tabloid-style anti-asylum rhetoric went unchallenged. The screen through which the public viewed asylum-seekers was therefore shaped according to how the tabloids had originally framed this issue. And so, instead of countering xenophobia, hostile attitudes towards asylum-seekers became more socially acceptable. This, in turn, threatened to set off latent prejudices towards other ethnic minorities. Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, thus attacked the Home Office for having "given life to the racists".87 With the mainstream parties trying to outdo one another on the asylum battleground, the British National Party, with its language of "moderation", now started to manoeuvre itself into position. This was a defining moment, as Nick Griffin remarked to one Guardian journalist in the May of 2000: "The asylum seeker issue has been great for us ... It’s been quite fun to watch government ministers and the Tories play the race card in far cruder terms that we would ever use. This issue legitimises us."88 Griffin was right. At this instant, legitimate political space was being created for his party at a time when, through its programme of modernisation, the BNP had already taken steps (albeit cosmetically) to narrow the distance between itself and the generally accepted norms of the liberal-democratic society.

Modernisation de-railed?
Yet inside a matter of weeks, just as it was gearing itself up to take full advantage of this more favourable political climate, Griffin’s modernisation programme looked certain to hit the buffers. At a meeting of the party’s new Advisory Council held on 26 August 2000, Michael Newland had his membership suspended for three months whilst Deputy Chairman Sharron Edwards and her husband Steve Edwards were expelled from the party altogether. For all his talk of professionalism and unity, Griffin was now at loggerheads with a clutch of influential party activists. Within a year of taking over the leadership of the party, Nick Griffin’s British National Party gave the impression of being ready to implode.

The suspension of Newland and the expulsion of the Edwards’s had ostensibly occurred as a consequence of a number of disciplinary offences. Newland had supposedly revealed details of the party’s financial affairs to non-Advisory Council members and had spread rumours that Griffin had been drawing from party funds in order to finance an extension to his family home. Meanwhile, the Edwards’s were charged with more serious offences: circulating a petition implying financial irregularities on the part of the leadership, calling both an unofficial Advisory Council meeting and Organisers’ meeting and stealing the party’s membership list. For Griffin, this was an attempt by a faction of "ultra-Tories", buoyed up by the Bloomsbury Forum, to hijack the party from within. For sure, Newland and the Edwards’s now wanted Griffin out. It soon became clear to them, Newland said, that Griffin was intent on running the party like Tyndall – "in the old manner as a fiefdom".89

With activists in the West Midlands, the party’s strongest region, demanding that the Edwards’s be reinstated forthwith, Griffin had little choice but to accede to their wishes. Nonetheless, the olive branch that Griffin extended to them at a special "unity" meeting at a local leisure centre in the West Midlands left a particularly bitter aftertaste. Rather than allowing Sharon Edwards to stand as the party’s candidate at the forthcoming West Bromwich West parliamentary by-election, Griffin insisted that he would stand instead. But with supporters of the Edwards’s refusing to canvass for Griffin, the leadership was forced to rely almost totally on the election address delivered by the Post Office. Left with no other option, Griffin had to experiment. An electronic copy of the electoral register was purchased and some 50,000 electors were split into lists of men, women, first-time voters and Asians. A full-colour leaflet was sent to all women, a red-white-and-blue leaflet to all men, a short-run leaflet to all first-time young voters and a sample of 1,200 Asian voters were sent a "neat" but "cheaply produced message" strictly for publicity purposes. As we have seen, some 23 per cent of those who had voted in Tipton Green in May 2000 had backed Steve Edwards, but when it came to it, Griffin could only muster 4.2 per cent of the vote (just 13 more votes than Steve Edwards had polled). On what should have been favourable terrain Griffin’s result was clearly a setback. But he was quick to make his excuses – Tipton Green only accounted for one-seventh of the entire parliamentary constituency and, besides, since local party activists had gone "on strike", Griffin had been denied a team of canvassers. But to make matters worse, at a parliamentary by-election in Preston, the party’s north-west regional organiser Chris Jackson had polled less than Griffin – he had obtained a derisory 1 per cent of the vote.90

As the feel of internal crisis grew more palpable, the party looked all set for a takeover. Griffin had suffered a major blow to his authority and results in West Bromwich and Preston only served to damage his credibility further. As the party ranks destabilised and no issues of Identity appeared for a number of months, Griffin’s leadership looked destined to end. However, even if the air was thick with rumours, a leadership challenge never manifested itself. Both Newland and the Edwards’s held back. Rather than taking Griffin on, his rivals launched a new party in December 2000 instead – the Freedom Party (following the Austrian model).91 According to Newland, by this time he had decided along with the Edwards’s and a number of activists from the Bloomsbury Forum (Eddy Butler, Adrian Davies), that reforming the BNP was no longer a viable option. But outside its West Midlands base, this new party failed to attract many defectors, and even within the West Midlands it was significant that Simon Darby, West Midlands regional organiser and a close colleague of the Edwards’s opted to remain with Griffin. Possibly no more than two-dozen BNP supporters defected.92 One key problem was that the Freedom Party had no obvious leader – it intended to govern itself by a system of committee rule which, as Griffin pointed out in the party’s Members’ Bulletin, had "repeatedly led the nationalist movement into a blind alley of factionalism and division".93 Furthermore, in every respect the new party was merely a splinter group for ultra-Tories. "We do not have any undercurrent of smirking Hitler fans, which is still there below the surface in the BNP", Newland proudly declared.94 But as such, it held no appeal to those hardliners that remained within the BNP for whom Tyndall was still their potential savour should Griffin fail to make any impact at the forthcoming general election.95

With the grab for the leadership having failed to materialise, Griffin started 2001 anxious to put his modernisation programme back on track. Consequently, the first few months of 2001 saw a flurry of new initiatives: Identity was redesigned and reappeared as a monthly magazine, described by January’s Members’ Bulletin as the party’s best-ever magazine (though to be honest, it was more a case of style over substance);96 Land and People was reactivated and the party also launched a new circle – "FAIR" or "Families Against Immigrant Racism". This was intended to function as a support group for "white people and communities who are the victims of discrimination and racism, and to provide a counter-balance to the huge number of organisations pushing the interests of non-whites and foreigners".97 Yet to tell the truth, these initiatives merely papered over the cracks. The acid test for Griffin’s political future would be the general election though he moved quickly to scale down party expectations: "it’s neither the time nor the place to press for a BNP breakthrough", he declared, "it would be a piece of political folly to throw too much into that contest".98 But as we shall see, the June 2001 general election proved to be the most successful ever for the British National Party. In fact, its success was unparalleled in the entire history of right-wing extremism in Britain. Not surprisingly, before the close of nominations on 30 June 2001, John Tyndall quickly despatched a letter to party headquarters. His proposed leadership challenge had been withdrawn.99

How then are we to react to Nick Griffin’s modernisation programme? One response might be to dismiss it of any real substance. If we take the term "modernisation" at face value, surely we lack historical perspective? In a glance back to the 1970s, we find the National Front trying to pass itself off as a respectable political party with reasonable policies. Even if in this respect, its efforts left much to be desired, we have to acknowledge that the NF cloaked itself in a mask of contrived respectability and also offered the British public populist solutions. Furthermore, during the early 1990s, as we have seen, the BNP paid more attention to becoming "voter-friendly", and certain activists, such as Eddy Butler, were willing to embrace more "forward-thinking" ideas.100 In this sense, there is nothing particularly "modern" or "new" about Griffin’s political strategy.

Admittedly, all this cannot be denied. However, it is important to bear in mind that Griffin had taken careful note of the many failures of both the old-style NF and the BNP: the problem of Tyndall’s political past, the "march and grow" tactic which invariably resulted in clashes with anti-fascist opponents and placed the far right outside the cultural norms of liberal-democratic society, the threat the far right posed to ordinary voters, the policy of compulsory repatriation, the fact that the NF and BNP had frequently described themselves as "racist", the prevailing culture of "careless extremism" – activists like Eddy Butler were generally atypical of the BNP membership as a whole for whom unconventional political activity (hence the growth of Combat 18) continued to hold strong appeal. What is more, Griffin did not look to the example of domestic forerunners but took his inspiration from elsewhere, that is to say, the recent examples set by more successful "national-populist" parties in continental Europe – in particular, the French National Front. It therefore seems right to speak of modernisation especially since, as we have seen, Griffin’s programme also carried a commitment to professionalism, a commitment that has been somewhat lacking on Britain’s postwar far right.

In the sharpest of contrasts, the French National Front had succeeded in constructing broad political and social legitimacy, something that on the journey from the political fringe to the mainstream no far-right party could do without. In many cases, therefore, in order to further the party’s quest for legitimacy, Griffin simply lifted elements from both the political style and organisational features of the Front National. Yet Griffin also made it clear that the party’s ideological core was not for compromise: "for like you, I do not intend to allow this movement to lose its way".101 With its revolutionary ideology now buried beneath the surface gloss of "Freedom, Democracy, Security, Identity", Griffin intended that it should remain there for the foreseeable future. But on this point he was anxious to set minds at rest – it was after all merely a case of short-term political expediency: "As long as our cadres understand the full implications of our struggle", Griffin reminded his readers, "then there is no need for us to do anything to give the public cause for concern".102


1. Identity, issue 28, Jan. 2003, p.21.

2 British National Party Members’ Bulletin, Oct. 1999.

3. See Spearhead, no. 367, Sept. 1999, p.13.

4. Patriot, Spring 1999, p.3.

5. See Spearhead, no. 334, Dec. 1996, p.13.

6. Patriot, Spring 1999, p.4.

7 Ibid., p.5.

8. Ibid., p.7.

9. Ibid., p.5.

10. Spearhead, no. 351, May 1998. p.15.

11. On the French New Right, see R. Griffin, ‘Plus ça change! The Fascist Pedigree of the Nouvelle Droite’, in E.J. Arnold (ed.), The Development of the Radical Right in France (Basingstoke: Macmillan – now Palgrave, 2000), pp.217-52.

12. On the FN’s strategy of "dual discourse", see P. Fysh and J. Wolfeys, The Politics of Racism in France (Basingstoke: Macmillan – now Palgrave, 1998), pp.129-32.

13. Spearhead, no. 351, May 1998, p.17.

14. Patriot, Spring 1999, p.7.

15. See H-G. Betz, ‘Introduction’ in H-G. Betz and S. Immerfall (eds), The New Politics of the Right: Neo-Populist Parties and Movements in Established Democracies (Basingstoke: Macmillan – now Palgrave, 1998), esp. pp.3-6,

16. Patriot, Spring 1999, p.8.

17. See Spearhead, no. 363, May 1999, p.28.

18. Patriot, Spring 1999, p.8.

19. Ibid.

20. Searchlight, no. 288, July 1999, p.20.

21. Freedom for Britain and the British, BNP website <http://www.vote.bnp.net/eurorman.html> accessed 17 June 1999.

22. For a summary of BNP activity during 1998 by area, see Searchlight, no. 285, March 1999, p.18.

23. British National Party Election Communication: North East Region, 10 June 1999.

24. Griffin had consulted some 75 party activists on the design of the election leaflet.

25. See Spearhead, no. 362, April 1999, p.4.

26. This had resulted in three deaths. All together, over 100 people had been injured as a result of these nail-bomb attacks. On Copeland, see special issue of Searchlight, no. 301, July 2000.

27. White Nationalist Report (published in Support of the NF), issue no. 5, Oct. 1999.

28. As quoted in Searchlight, no. 289, July 1999, p.17.

29. See For a Britain Strong and Free: An Introduction to the British National Party (1999), p.3.

30. Identity, issue 28, Jan. 2003, p.21.

31. Searchlight, no. 288, June 1999, p.12.

32. Spearhead, no. 351, May 1998, p.5.

33. Patriot, Summer 2000, p.13.

34. Patriot, Spring 1999, p.5.

35. Dr Phil Edwards, a former academic (real name – Dr Stuart Russell) ran this operation from the East Midlands.

36. See N. Copsey, ‘Extremism on the Net: The Extreme Right and the Value of the Internet’, in R. Gibson, P. Nixon and S. Ward (eds), Political Parties and the Internet: Net Gain? (London: Routledge, 2003), esp. pp.226-9.

37. Patriot, Spring 1999, p.6.

38. Identity, issue 28, Jan. 2003, p.20.

39. Patriot, Spring 1999, p.6.

40. See N. Griffin, Attempted Murder: The State/Reactionary Plot against the National Front (Norfolk: NT Press, 1986), p.13.

41. Patriot, Spring 1999, p.7.

42. For a quick guide to these ‘circles’, see for instance, E.G. Declair, Politics on the Fringe. The People, Policies and Organization of the French National Front (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1999), pp.167-9.

43. Spearhead, no. 358, Dec. 1998, p.12.

44. Searchlight, no. 298, April 2000, p.11.

45. On the American Friends of the BNP, see Searchlight, no. 292, October 1999, pp.18-19. In November 2000, the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act became law. This imposed restrictions on foreign and anonymous donations to political parties.

46. Nick Griffin’s official leadership election address: ‘The Future, not the Past’, posted out with British National Party Members’ Bulletin, Aug-Sept. 1999.

47. ‘The Future, not the Past’.

48. Michael Newland to author, 19 May 2003.

49. John Tyndall’s official election address: ‘We’ve Come a Long Way – Don’t Let’s Ruin It’, posted out with British National Party Members’ Bulletin, Aug-Sept. 1999.

50. See Spearhead, no. 367, Sept. 1999, p.5.

51. See ‘The Leadership Election’ column in Moving On, Moving Up: Why People Are Voting for Nick Griffin.

52. Spearhead, no. 367, Sept. 1999, p.7.

53. See ‘Image Does Matter’, by Bruce Crowd in Moving On, Moving Up.

54.See ‘The Challenge of the New Millennium’, by Nick Griffin in Moving On, Moving Up.

55. Spearhead, no. 367, Sept. 1999, p.9.

56. See Spearhead, no. 367, Sept. 1999.

57. See Searchlight, no. 292, Oct. 1999, pp.8-11.

58. See Patriot, Summer 2000, p.15.

59. Searchlight, no. 292, Oct. 1999, p.6.

60. ‘We’ve Come a Long Way – Don’t Let’s Ruin It!’

61. Searchlight, no. 292, Oct. 1999, p.4.

62. See British National Party Members’ Bulletin, Oct. 1999.

63. Quoted in British National Party Members’ Bulletin, Oct. 1999.

64. See Spearhead, no. 370, Dec. 1999, p.14.

65. At a special BNP tribunal held in Chigwell in Essex in August 2003, Tyndall was briefly expelled from the BNP having been found guilty of undermining the party through a series of attacks made on the leadership in Spearhead. See Searchlight, no. 339, Sept. 2003, p.7.

66. See Identity, issue no. 1, Jan./Feb. 2000, p.2.

67. Patriot, Summer 2000, p.15.

68. Michael Newland to author, 19 May 2003.

69. Identity, issue 3, May/June 2000, p.12.

70. Born in Potters Bar in 1944, Newland was educated at South Bank University and then Guildhall University. He joined the BNP in the 1990s after the election victory in Millwall.

71. Patriot, Summer 2000, p.3.

72. Michael Newland to author, 19 May 2003.

73. Searchlight, no. 300, June 2000, p.6.

74. Newland’s election address is reprinted in Patriot, Summer 2000, p.10.

75. See Board of Deputies of British Jews, CST Elections Research Unit, Local Elections 2000 Including London and London Mayoral, Thursday 4 May 2000 and Patriot, Summer 2000, pp.3-6.

76. Interview with branch organiser Steve Smith, in The Voice of Freedom, BNP website <http://www.bnp.org.uk/freedom/burnley.html> accessed 11 Sept. 2002.

77. See Patriot, Summer 2000, p.4, and Board of Deputies of British Jews: Elections 2000 Including London and London Mayoral, Thursday 4 May 2000, p.3.

78. See Searchlight, no. 308, Feb. 2001, p.15.

79. For a report on this campaign and a photograph of Smith, wearing a swastika armband and clothed in British Movement regalia, see Searchlight no. 302, Aug. 2000, p.7. On how the local community in Bexley then fought back against the BNP, see the Guardian, 27 May 2003.

80. See CARF, no. 15, July/Aug. 1993, p.3.

81. See CARF, no. 5, Nov./Dec. 1991, p.3 and no. 6, Jan./Feb. 1992, p.10.

82. See P. Statham, ‘United Kingdom’ in J. ter Wal (ed.), Racism and Cultural Diversity in the Mass Media (European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenopobia, 2002), pp.395-419.

83. The Guardian Magazine, 20 May 2000.

84. See Home Office: Asylum Statistics: United Kingdom 1999, HOSB 17/00.

85. See CARF, no. 58, Oct./Nov. 2000, p.12.

86. See CARF, no. 56, June/July 2000, pp.5-7. The Macpherson Report argued that institutionalised racism in the police force was endemic.

87. See Searchlight, no. 299, May 2000, p.9.

88. See ‘Race to the Right’ in the Guardian Magazine, 20 May 2000.

89. Michael Newland to author, 19 May 2003.

90. See Identity, issue 5, Jan. 2001, pp.4-5.

91. With 40.54 per cent of the vote, Sharron Edwards of the Freedom Party won her first council seat in May 2003 at Wombourne in south Staffordshire.

92. See Searchlight, no. 322, April 2002, p.7.

93. See British Nationalist, Members’ Bulletin of the BNP, Nov./Dec. 2000.

94. Michael Newland to author, 19 May 2003.

95. At the start of 2001, Tyndall had announced that it was his intention to challenge for the leadership of the party, see British Nationalist, Members’ Bulletin of the BNP, Feb. 2001.

96. See British Nationalist, Members’ Bulletin of the BNP, Jan. 2001. Searchlight had previously noted that the original design of Identity owed much to a prewar Communist format.

97. British Nationalist, Members’ Bulletin of the BNP, March 2001.

98. Identity, Jan. 2001, p.5.

99. Identity, July 2001, p.13.

100. See Spearhead, no. 366, Aug. 1999, p.5.

101. Patriot, Spring 1999, p.7.

102. Ibid., p.5.