Monday, 6 October 2014

Nick Griffin expelled from BNP - the mists clear a little

You would need to be a master Kremlinologist to figure out what is going on at BNP HQ these days.

A couple of months back Nick Griffin appears to have decided to stand down as leader (officially “Chairman”) and appoint Adam Walker as a new pro-tem leader pending elections next year. Griffin was granted the hitherto unknown title of “Honorary President” and remained a member of the Executive Council – the main decision making body for the Party. At least, that is what the public, and indeed grassroots membership, were told.

It is now apparent that Griffin was “pushed” – he did not jump. It seems that at an Executive Council meeting he faced a no confidence vote and decided to accept the inevitable and resign. He appointed Adam Walker as his deputy and then immediately quit; thus making Walker de facto leader until new leadership elections next year.

The underlying problem here is that the BNP is not an incorporated body. In a sense it does not exist. It is such a loose association of individuals that is cannot sue anyone, nor can it be sued. It cannot even enter into a contract, and struggles to open a bank account.

There have been two major legal disputes in recent years. A court action to stop a stolen Party membership list from being published, and an action started by the CEHR requiring the Party to be opened up to non-native members. As the BNP does not really exist both these actions have had Nick Griffin as a personal litigant, and props to the man, he has not shied away from the fight.

However it has left him with substantial legal fees and he has been declared bankrupt. Clearly if the Party could have sued or been sued Griffin would never have suffered this personal tragedy. But on the flip side, if the Party could be sued it would long ago have been put out of business. So the BNP exists in an amorphous state: its functions are carried out by private individuals in their private capacity, often signing contracts in their own names and using their own credit cards, and also by a number of limited liability companies associated with the Party.

Mr Griffin’s person bankruptcy does not put the Party in the clear though. As Chairman he was entitled to a cover of liability for his debts. This means the trustee in bankruptcy, the “official receiver” if you will, can demand that the BNP pay off Griffin’s debts. However long ago Nick Griffin realised this could happen and voluntarily waived his right to have his debts covered thus taking the fall entirely personally should the worst happen – which it now has. The future of the Party is going to rely quite heavily on how legally watertight this waiver is.

The transition to new leadership has not been smooth. The website almost immediately stopped being updated and diktats went out from HQ which upset long-running custom and practice and aggravated members and the paid staff.

In essence Griffin was sacked as leader because other senior members did not like him running the show as a one-man-band, but when they tried to run it they failed quite badly. The current result is that offices are closing, volunteers are withdrawing and the bills are not being paid.

Nick Griffin, in his new “role” as Honorary President, tried to do something about this. He banged a few heads together (metaphorically) and put together a report telling the Executive Council what was wrong and how to fix it. For his troubles a “Conduct Committee” was convened and it dully drummed him out of the Party. He is no longer a member of the Party he effectively founded (at least in its current configuration) and has led for the past fifteen years. This looks like extreme sour grapes to the public and was a very bad idea. Dirty linen should not be washed so overtly. The public will not vote for a party riven by internal feuds.

Expelling him may also have been intended to stop him re-standing for the leadership in the elections next year.

The future of the BNP is now looking quite parlous. Mr Griffin has a substantial personal following at the grassroots level and that may well melt away. What will be left will be a small number of super-activists using Party funds to pay themselves handsome salaries, but no boots on the ground. This may content the activists in question but is no recipe for electoral success.

As for Nick Griffin – his bankruptcy will take a year to discharge (best possible case) and after that, who knows? After the BNP becomes moribund he may seek to restart it; or he might start a different party, or maybe even try to join UKIP. (UKIP have rules about former BNP members, but being expelled may get Griffin a pass on this.)

One thing is certain; we have not heard the last of Mr Griffin. But this blog may not remain “BNP supporting” in the future. We will have to see if the new leadership shapes up.

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