|The Problem is Mr Griffin||It is not policies which divide the BNP, says John Tyndall|
The Problem is Griffin
As readers will know, the press hounds were sniffing around the British National Party in August hoping to help themselves to some tit bits following the news of my expulsion from the party. Unfortunately, they were given some by representatives of the BNP leadership, who were only too ready to blab their mouths off on matters that are internal to the party and should not be disclosed to the media. There were reports in The Times and The Observer which, only too predictably, supplied fuel to the theory that the divisions in the party are over policy and ideology. The Times report spoke of internal discontent over the 'watered-down' policies of Nick Griffin and went on to quote one 'senior source' as saying:-
I would like to know who this 'senior source' is but if he/she cared to contact any Burnley BNP member who was at the meeting at which I spoke last May they could confirm that during my speech I uttered not a word about party internal divisions nor even mentioned the party leadership. As for saying that the BNP is not a Nazi Party, that is to raise a total red herring. I said nothing at the meeting to suggest the BNP should be a Nazi party, and I challenge anyone to produce a shred of evidence to the contrary.
The Observer spoke of a 'power struggle' in the BNP and went on to say that I was expelled "as its chairman, Nick Griffin, seeks to portray the organisation as a more mainstream body in a bid to attract new voters." Red herrings again! There is not the slightest disagreement between Mr. Griffin and myself over the fact that the BNP should aspire to be a mainstream party and attract new voters. It was set firmly on this course from about 1990 onwards long before Mr. Griffin came anywhere near it.
The report went on to state that "BNP modernisers said Tyndall was expelled due to his extreme views." This is nonsense, and if someone in the party made such an allegation he/she is guilty of total distortion. Nothing in the charges against me said anything about my views, only about my alleged actions. Of course, whether my views were an underlying reason for my expulsion is another question.
We have taken issue with Mr. Griffin over certain public relations stunts and 'gimmicks', which we believe have not gained us a single extra voter and only serve to demoralise the party internally: Sikh columnists being given space in the party newspaper; candidates endorsing black sons-in-law; talk of a few ethnic minorities in Britain being better than none at all; declarations that an all-white Britain is neither desirable nor feasible.
But, these errors apart, we are at one with everybody in the BNP over the principle that the party should present itself with an image of reasonableness, decency and civilised behaviour and should, whatever it may say on racial issues, avoid expressions of hate.
This is what makes so downright dishonest Nick Griffin's article in the July issue of Identity magazine, which consists of a four-page tirade against me, no doubt intended to prime members to accept my kicking out of the party. I could go through this article point-by-point and refute in detail every political allegation made, but that would take excessive space and I decline to do so. I will just deal with two particularly misleading references.
At one point Mr. Griffin says:-
The clear implication here is that I favour BNP interviewees facing the media with boots and braces and yelling racist abuse at them. Mr. Griffin knows that this is a million miles from the truth but he chooses to let his readers think it actually reflects my ideas on political tactics. In fact, in the interview with Mark Collett on the Dispatches programme in November last year the BNP went far closer to projecting this image than I would have ever allowed.
In another passage Mr. Griffin refers to John Tyndall's "self-serving thesis that people are getting so desperate that they'd vote for a pig in a nazi armband if it stood for the BNP..." This is so pathetic, and reeking of desperation, that it is hardly worth dignifying with a reply. I have given ample chapter and verse in numerous articles in these columns to show that not so very far back Mr. Griffin himself was striking political postures far more extreme than anything I have endorsed for a long time - the most noteworthy example being an article in 1995 in a journal of which he was editor praising the Waffen SS, and more recently than that his talk of meeting left-wing opposition with "a well-aimed nationalist fist or boot."
The truth is that Nick Griffin's pose as a political leader of 'moderation' is so transparently phoney that it can quite easily be demolished by any media hack at any time who cares to do a little research into his verbal and written utterances of the not-so-distant past; and if he wants to play the game of digging up old photographs, as he did with his July article, people might ask him about the one taken of him visiting Libya just 14 years ago and posing in front of a gigantic portrait of Colonel Gaddafi. Gaddafi, it might be worth reminding readers, helped to finance the IRA, was behind the gang responsible for the killing of WPC Yvonne Fletcher in a London street in 1984 and is generally perceived (rightly or wrongly) to have instigated the Lockerbie air disaster.
Avoiding the arguments
I allowed myself to become involved in some foolish political associations back in my late twenties (I am now 69). There is thus a four-decade gap separating me from those escapades. Like Mr. Griffin, I have made some past political mistakes; but unlike Mr. Griffin, I do not dishonestly exploit the past mistakes of others to deflect attention from current arguments. A number of us in nationalism have been guilty of indiscretions in our earlier political careers, some a long time ago, some not such a long time ago. On these matters we should present a united front, affirming that the important thing is what we propose for Britain today, not what we may have said about foreign politicians in bygone days. Least of all should any nationalist worthy of the name attempt to score cheap points over another nationalist by raking up past errors as a substitute for intelligent debate over matters of the here and now. This is to play the game of Searchlight and the equally obnoxious Express newspaper group.
Long ago, I came to realise that as far as Nick Griffin is concerned policy stances are simply things to be adopted or discarded in accordance with how they further his ends in the factional wars in which, for his whole political life, he seems to have been engaged. His tactics are nothing if not consistent. He ascertains the policy stance of the person he perceives to be his current rival, and he then adopts a different one - so that he can then present his position as arising out of political necessity rather than egotism and ambition. He gets away with this with many people because he has a silver tongue that at times can be extremely persuasive. It takes getting to know the man to see through his tricks.
I have covered these matters in order to get to what is really the core of the issue; and the core of the issue is the personality and character of Nick Griffin; not policy arguments, not ideology, not questions of party 'imagery'.
Portent of disaster
It was after some three years of close acquaintance with Mr. Griffin that I foresaw that his assumption of the leadership of the BNP would portend disaster for the party. I have not changed that view despite some very favourable election results that the party has enjoyed since the Summer of 2001 - results that I attribute to factors far removed from Mr. Griffin's leadership and his U-turns in policy. I would incidentally say also that our earlier election victory in East London in 1993 was in no way due to anything I did myself when then leader but was entirely the result of a happy marriage between local anger against immigration and an excellent campaign by our local activists - factors which have so immensely helped us in various parts of the country over the past couple of years.
I have said this before but I will say it again: As far back as the mid-1990s I was already thinking about the desirability of finding a replacement BNP leader younger than I, and I had started to see considerable attractions in a life which, though still busy, would be free from the intense pressures that weigh on the head of the party.
But I have to say that I never saw Mr. Griffin as the right person. From the very start there was something about him that inspired doubt. On this, my wife was far more emphatic. She has met nearly all my main political associates over the years, and I have never known her to be wrong in her personal assessment of a single one of them. From the very first moment she met Griffin she warned me that I should never trust him. I conceded that she could well be right but, nevertheless, I needed some new blood in the party leadership team, particularly in the writing field, where up till then far too much fell on me. I needed someone to take over the editorship and production of Spearhead so that I could give my almost exclusive time and attention to party matters. I took a gamble in taking Griffin on, while resolving to keep a careful eye on him.
It became clear to me after working with him for some time that he had joined the BNP simply and solely for his own ends. I had been warned of this from the beginning by one or two people who knew him, and it was not long before I realised that their warnings had been correct. He had a history of playing disruptive roles in virtually every organisation with which he had been involved, but at the time I was willing to put this down to the immaturity of youth. I later realised too late that he had not changed a jot.
Biting the hand that fed
Griffin did not perform the duties on Spearhead for nothing; I paid him, as is necessary with the work involved in a publication of our size, quality and frequency. In addition to this, he was also paid for doing certain jobs for the BNP, mainly the writing of bulletins. As proprietor of Spearhead and leader of the BNP, I provided Nick Griffin with his living for some three years. Right from the start, he showed his appreciation and gratitude by plotting and scheming against me. Treachery of this kind I have not known in some forty-plus years of involvement in nationalist politics, during which I have encountered some pretty despicable people.
When Griffin launched his takeover bid in 1999, I was in no way surprised. What did surprise me were the forces in the party that he had working for him. I had had some inkling of these from the effusions of Patriot magazine but I have to say that I totally underestimated the poison they had spread and the gullibility of so many of those on whom they had worked. Many of the latter have subsequently expressed to me their bitter regret that they were taken in by the Griffin faction, but the fact is that taken in they were at that crucial moment in the party's progress.
Our achievement pre-Griffin
And there was progress. The Griffin propaganda machine has skilfully manufactured a myth about the "bad old days" preceding the leadership change, but the fact is that in the two years before Mr. Griffin's takeover the BNP had increased its membership by almost 90 per cent. It put up a full slate of candidates in England and Scotland in the Euro Elections in 1999 and won TV time. Its vote over the country was steadily increasing, though it had not yet experienced the dramatic increase that later led to several councillors being elected. This big upsurge began in certain northern towns in the general election of June 2001, and the catalyst that caused it was undoubtedly the race riot in Oldham just three weeks previously. This gave the party a new credibility rating that led to council seats being won the following year and again in 2003. The fact is, however, that between the leadership change in September 1999 and June 2001 (nearly two years) there was no significant rise in BNP votes that marked anything new from what had already been occurring for some time. When Nick Griffin himself stood as the party's candidate in West Bromwich West in November 2000 he obtained a very mediocre 794 votes (4.2 per cent) in an area which had always been very fertile nationalist territory. This was a mere 13 votes more than a previous BNP candidate, Steve Edwards, had achieved in just one ward in the same constituency a few months earlier!
Fiasco in West Midlands
Mention of Steve Edwards brings us to the story of how Nick Griffin virtually wrecked the BNP in the West Midlands as a result of his paranoid witch hunt against Steve and his wife Sharron in the late Summer of 2000. Steve and Sharron, among others, had raised some awkward questions about Nick's management of party finances. The next thing was that, like many before and after them, they found themselves expelled by Griffin from the party. Sharron Edwards had in fact been the region's chosen candidate for West Bromwich West, but Griffin deselected her at the same time as expelling her. He was later forced to reinstate the Edwards as members following an angry protest meeting in the area in support of them, but Sharron was not reinstated as the West Bromwich candidate. The result? Disgusted local activists who had been prepared to campaign for her, and had in fact already started to do so, refused to campaign for Griffin. The latter was forced to import campaign helpers from other areas to make any kind of showing at all, but it was not enough. The opportunity for an excellent vote was thrown away.
The Edwards and a large portion of the then BNP West Midlands membership then left the party and took part in the formation of the breakaway Freedom Party, on behalf of which Sharron Edwards is now a councillor. I believed this to be a big mistake and advised Steve and Sharron against it. However, their anger against their treatment by Griffin was such that I failed to persuade them to stay in the BNP. Prior to their departure, the BNP in the West Midlands was experiencing a tremendous boom similar to that which it later enjoyed in the North West of England, and had Griffin not wrecked everything it could today be as strong as the North West. It has made a partial recovery but is still very far from what it was prior to the Summer of 2000.
Steve and Sharron Edwards had previously supported Griffin's candidature in the BNP leadership ballot in 1999, and their names and photos were prominently featured in this capacity in some of the Griffin campaign literature. They were to become badly disillusioned. In a letter to me in December 2000 they said:-
The reference to wrecking and factionalising is significant. Griffin is in fact well on the way to doing this to the BNP as a whole, whereas prior to his entry it enjoyed 14 years of almost total harmony. Before that, he accomplished much the same thing with the National Front, and this is why we have given considerable space to the story of the NF break-up in 1986 earlier in this issue. But Nick does not seem content with this record. He seems to want to extend it. The latest area of his wrecking operations is the very one where the BNP has been doing best of all in the last couple of years: Lancashire and the North West.
Vendetta against Burnley BNP
The full story of the damage Griffin has been doing in this region is much too long and detailed to fit into this article; others are working on that and before long we may have the chance to study it. Here I will just give a few of the barest of bare bones.
Somehow Nick has managed to alienate a large portion of leading activists in the most successful branch of all, the Burnley branch. Local people are better qualified than I am to give chapter and verse as to how this has happened. My own vantage point is a limited one and connected with my own personal experience. I was invited to speak at a Burnley branch meeting on the 1st August 2002. This infuriated Griffin when he heard about it and he employed all the persuasion he could to get the then organiser, Steve Smith, to cancel the invitation. Steve, to his great credit, stood firm. From then on, it became clear that his card was marked.
Spearhead gave a full account of that event in its September 2002 issue and I will not repeat all the details here save to say that, mysteriously, Anti-Nazi League demonstrators turned up on the evening, whereas they had not been present at any previous Burnley BNP meeting nor have been since. Who tipped them off about the meeting and my appearance at it as speaker? You can make up your own mind!
The meeting, notwithstanding all this, was very successful - but not nearly as successful as the one which took place on May 29th of this year, when 140 people turned up to hear speeches by Richard Edmonds and myself. This further angered Griffin. An inside report I received from friends in the party told me that at a private meeting at Blackburn just previous to the Burnley one Griffin had hatched a scheme to disrupt the latter. The plan was that one of his (Griffin's) acolytes would be present at the Burnley meeting accompanied by a group of 'heavies'. At a certain point in my speech the acolyte would stage a protest, whereupon if anyone tried to restrain him the heavies would move in and a violent scene would ensue. Then Griffin would be able to claim that wherever Tyndall speaks at BNP meetings there is disorder.
The plan went badly wrong. As the meeting proceeded, the Griffin acolyte could see that his brawny companions were reacting so enthusiastically to Richard Edmonds' and my speeches that he would be unlikely to get their support if he tried to make trouble. He remained silent and nothing happened. The meeting went smoothly and was a terrific success.
Apparently, Searchlight got hold of the story and printed it, but in this case the fact does not make the story untrue. My own source for it is much more reliable.
I have spoken at other meetings in the North West over recent months, in all of them getting a very good reception, and was down to speak at more when Griffin contrived my expulsion. It is very clear that he was getting frightened that I might influence local members.
The upshot of all this - combined with other factors with which I am not connected is that there is now widespread dissatisfaction with the party leadership in this the BNP's strongest and most successful region. Nick Griffin seems to have alienated, one by one, a large portion of the local leaders and leading activists in the region, and the latest is that Steve Smith, the initial architect of the party's tremendous success in Burnley (others have played important parts more lately), has been driven out of his position in the branch. Actually he chose to leave of his own accord, but it was his treatment by Griffin that led to this.
I have had to spend a great deal of time on the telephone in the past few months endeavouring to bolster the morale of people in the North West of England and persuade them that on no account should they quit the party.
I believe that if Nick Griffin is allowed to continue his jealous and vindictive rampage he will wreck the Lancashire and North West BNP just as he did the West Midlands three years ago and the National Front many years before that.
It gives me no satisfaction to say that the warnings I gave about Nick Griffin back in 1999, ignored as they then were by many, have been overwhelmingly vindicated.
As readers will know from the opening words of this article and from last monthly report, I am currently a non-member of the BNP, having joined the long list of people who have been expelled from nationalist parties by the machinations of Nick Griffin. I am planning to take legal action over this but for the moment am barred from BNP meetings, along with several others.
One of the counts on which Griffin's disciplinary tribunal expelled me was that I had 'slandered' him personally (libel is the correct term but we will not split hairs). Nick alleges that I have made defamatory remarks about him.
The 'gay' story
Well, it is interesting to learn that Nick Griffin these days considers defamation of himself a cause for action against the defamer, for this did not seem to be his attitude back in 1999, when a former high ranking National Front official, Martin Webster, put out a circular alleging a homosexual relationship between himself and Griffin back in the late 1970s. Webster, in doing this, challenged Griffin to take him to court for libel if the allegation was untrue. Griffin declined to do so, arguing that as Webster was a 'man of straw' he would not get any damages off him. This completely side-tracked the main issue, which was not one of money but of the personal honour and reputation of the leader of the BNP, and thus of the BNP itself.
But it was not only Webster whom Griffin could have sued. The story was covered in both The Sunday Times and Searchlight magazine, in the latter case being written in tones which gave credence to Webster's claims. Neither of these publications are exactly without assets, and Griffin could have got tidy sums off them had he taken them to court and won.
But he chose not to - which makes it strange that he is now so sensitive to imagined 'defamation' by me and has had me hounded out of the BNP for my troubles. As to whether Webster's story of a homosexual affair with Griffin was true or not, I simply don't know.
But what I do know is that if it was not true Griffin should have sought satisfaction in a court of law. He did not, and it is now well past the time limit for him to do so. If the story is again raised either by Webster or anyone else, it will be his duty to take immediate legal action to squash it - because the good name of the BNP is at stake, not just his own.
It will be gleaned from what I have said in this article that I believe that the removal of Nick Griffin from control of the BNP is essential to the party's long-term health and national credibility - and, in the shorter term, to its internal harmony and unity. The man is a wrecker, wherever he goes and whatever he gets into. Throughout his political career he has left a long trail of disillusioned one-time supporters and betrayed and disgusted one-time friends.
The takeover tendency
Griffin's takeover of the BNP might be likened to the familiar practices of certain people in the world of business. First, an enterprise is founded and built up by the vision, dedication, hard work and sacrifice of a number of pioneers, who have faith in the idea behind it and slave away with perseverance to make it a going concern. Then, once it becomes just that, a going concern, the big business sharks move in and through unscrupulous boardroom politics take it away from its founders to exploit it for themselves. We know who are the people most adept at this kind of operation.
When the BNP was founded in 1982, Nick Griffin was one of those on the sidelines, sneering at and deprecating our efforts in the columns of the publications with which he was then involved - all publications, incidentally, which folded up a long time ago and have not been seen since (these people can never sustain anything for long).
But when in the early 1990s the BNP started to move ahead and show some excellent results in elections it was then that our Nick changed his attitude towards us. He began to become friendly, and he built some fraternal contacts with our Croydon branch. It was not very long after we won our first council seat in Millwall in September 1993 that he started to write to me. One thing led to another and, bit by bit, Nick got his feet under the table of the BNP - something for which I must bear the main share of the responsibility, notwithstanding the mitigating circumstances I have explained earlier in this article.
Now in a position of control, Griffin is directing the party on a basis of favouritism towards his friends and vicious hatred towards those of talent and ability who are prepared to stand up to him. The result is that the BNP is only employing a part of its real human resources: promotions are made of those prepared to be subservient - or, if people of genuine merit do get promoted inadvertently, they will be doomed to have their rise in the party curbed the moment they give the slightest hint that they are unprepared to accept lackey status. I have numerous witnesses to this.
There are still some fine and very able people in the senior circles of the BNP, not-withstanding all this. But they are aware of the need for them not to show dissent if they are to continue occupying responsible positions and giving the party the full benefit of their abilities. For the most well-meaning of reasons, their dissatisfaction is muted. Were it not, Griffin would have a whole lot more problems of personnel than he already has, and he has problems enough.
And indeed we would be witnessing yet more expulsions!
But alongside these excellent servants of the BNP there are also, inevitably, a number of pure toadies of the kind that get close to the top of any political party, not by performance but by flattery and yes-manship. I have come to see a number of them through close acquaintance over the years - people who, when I was seen to be 'on top', were eager to declare their loyalty to me but underwent an indecently rapid change of allegiance once this situation no longer applied. They are of the type who, if Griffin were defeated and down tomorrow, would be pushing to the front of the queue to kick him.
Last, but not least in importance, there are a few who have their own particular agendas. I suspect that these people mostly harbour the same personal contempt for Mr.Griffin as I have, but find him a useful tool in their designs.
Riding on a roll
At the moment the one thing going for Nick is the fact that the BNP is, election-wise, on a roll - with the Thurrock win just the latest case in point. As long as there is the widespread perception in the party, however mistaken it is, that he and his policy somersaults have some connection with this, he will survive for a while, and any premature bid to unseat him in an election would be a charge of the Light Brigade. Not only do I and my allies know this, but he also knows it. Hence his insufferable arrogance and hubris and his belief that he can carry on conducting purges against anyone who crosses him - and get away with it.
For four years, while being critical of some of Nick Griffin's policy decisions, I have held back from giving him the full treatment in terms of personal assessment. In view of recent events, I no longer feel constrained to do so. Hence this article and the one preceding it.
At my stage of life, I do not care over-much whether I ever again become BNP leader or not. I never was obsessed with this position as Nick Griffin very clearly is. If future events should take a turn that led to a demand for me to come back, I would be available as a matter of duty. However, from my point of view the much preferred solution is that a younger man emerge from out of the many talented people we are now recruiting and show the ability and willing to take over the reins and lead the party forth into the future. If such a person does appear he will have no firmer supporter than me.
But first things first. Before anything permanent can be done, we have to get rid of the wrecker-in-chief.
Action for reinstatement of John Tyndall - Legal Fund
Last month, at the end of a report on the expulsion of Spearhead editor John Tyndall from the British National Party, it was stated that Mr. Tyndall would be taking legal action to secure reinstatement, and that we would be launching a fund to help meet the costs involved.
Mr. Tyndall has in fact placed the case in the hands of a London solicitor, and just before our going to press with this issue he received a letter from the solicitor giving a favourable opinion on his prospects of success in the action.
It has, however, been necessary to supply our solicitors with an 'up-front' payment in order to get the case on the move, and further costs of this kind will be incurred in due course.
Mr. Tyndall does have access to a special fund arising from a legacy from a deceased supporter, which has been placed at his disposal for political use to be decided at his own discretion. However, we wish to dip into this fund to the very minimum extent necessary. We are therefore launching what will be known as the 'Spearhead Legal Fund' with a view to raising the money to cover most, if not all, of the costs incurred in this action. Should Mr. Tyndall win the case and be awarded his full costs, the money will of course be recovered. In that event we will confer with the main contributors concerning its disposal.
A supporter in Lancashire has kick-started the fund with a donation of £50.00, for which we are most grateful. Further donations should be made out to our publishers, Albion Press, and sent to our usual address at: P.O. Box 2471, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 4DT.