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Is the party over for the BNP?

This weekend (the 29th-30th of October) fewer than 100 activists are expected to attend the British National Party’s annual conference near Liverpool in the North West of England.

A couple of years ago, over three times that number would have gathered to discuss policy and listen to speeches. Previously, the annual Red-White-Blue festival organised by the party would attract nearly 5000 supporters from across the country reflecting the substantial increase in support the party had managed to build up over the years.

Now, under Nick Griffin’s increasingly isolated and ineffectual leadership, the BNP is split down the middle and in serious decline. Griffin’s fellow MEP (and now main rival), Andrew Brons, lost a leadership challenge by only nine votes in July this year. At a rival conference last weekend near Leicester, which attracted nearly 200 activists, Andrew Brons called for his supporters to stay in the party and build a “shadow” organisation within the party with constructive plans to take over the structure of the party when Griffin’s regime eventually stumbles and falls.

Despite that sincere and principled move by Andrew Brons, after almost thirty years of political struggle by generations of nationalist activists since the party was established in 1982 by John Tyndall after the virtual collapse of the National Front following the 1979 general election, the BNP faces political catastrophe and possible oblivion. Under John Tyndall’s leadership it took over a decade to elect a single councillor in London in 1993. It took another ten years of hard work, with Griffin replacing John Tyndall as leader in 1999, before further political progress was made possible after 2002 with the election of local BNP councillors in Burnley following Muslim riots in the Lancashire town. A political struggle that resulted in almost 100 councillors elected across England by 2007, a party representative elected to London’s city parliament in 2008 and two MEPs, Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons, sitting in the European parliament after elections in 2009 which saw nearly one million votes for the party across the country. Today, the BNP itself is now on the verge of bankruptcy, disintegration and collapse. Many members are leaving the party to join rival nationalist parties, such as the English Democrats, or dropping out of nationalist politics altogether disillusioned by Griffin’s bad leadership and thoroughly disgusted at the ridiculous antics of some of those who continue to support his leadership.

Twelve months ago, following the general election of 2010, the BNP owed £520,000 to creditors, despite claims following the general election that the party’s financial position was healthy. Those claims turned out to be false and many of those creditors are still waiting for their money. Local organisers who questioned the leadership over these matters were sacked by Griffin and the party entered a period of turmoil which continues to this day. Griffin himself faces an avalanche of legal cases relating to those debts and previous factional disagreements. Furthermore, police investigations concerning the party’s accounts and general election expense fraud allegations could derail the party’s leadership at any time.

The main reason for the BNP’s decline is Griffin’s financial incompetence and hubris made worse by the greed and self-serving opportunism of other leading members over the years, particularly those involved in the fundraising arm of the party. Some of those people have now left the party, but Nick Griffin is still surrounded by advisers and party officers who are either inexperienced in political affairs or totally unsuitable for the job of organising a serious nationalist political party in the twenty first century. Even supporters who stood by Griffin during previous factional disagreements have rebuked him and left the party.

Despite promising to stand down by 2013, in a recent interview with the BBC, Griffin said: “I’m in charge and the majority of the party is happy with that.”

Earlier in the year, during a rigged meeting of the general party membership, Griffin changed the party rules and now has a four year leadership term following his victory over Andrew Brons by a tiny majority of nine votes.

If the BNP continues to decline and split apart under Griffin’s leadership over the next four years, there may not be much of a party left to support him should he still be free to seek re-election to the BNP’s leadership.

Read more about the efforts of Andrew Brons MEP and his supporters to save the BNP.

This article was first published (in Dutch!) on a Flemish nationalist website.