27 May 2009

Mystery of the BNP's general election war chest

The British National Party is facing an inquiry into its funding after its leader, Nick Griffin, paid a £5,000 political donation into his personal bank account without declaring it.

The party’s finances came under scrutiny yesterday after it declared donations with the Electoral Commission of £21,132 for the first quarter of this year. No donations were declared between March and December last year. It has pledged to spend £500,000 campaigning for next week’s European and local elections alone.

Under Electoral Commission rules, donations in excess of £5,000 to political parties and in excess of £1,000 given to party members to be used for political activity must be declared.

Mr Griffin’s handling of the gift raises questions about BNP efforts to provide anonymity to its supporters.

The BNP has fielded 450 candidates for the local elections and 66 for the European Parliament — at least one for every constituency in the United Kingdom, bar Northern Ireland. The candidates have been backed by a party machine that says it is providing 29 million leaflets and has acquired 50,000 random mobile phone numbers to lobby with text messages.

In its 2007 audited accounts, the party listed a total income of £611,274, including £198,023 from donations. It spent £661,856, leaving it with a deficit of £50,582. Mr Griffin said that nearly £70,000 of income was not included because some records were missing after an internal dispute.

The party has yet to file last year’s accounts but Mr Griffin told The Times that the bulk of the funds for this year’s campaign had been raised from “ordinary Britons” who made small donations.

Mr Griffin admitted that he had paid a £5,000 donation that appeared to be from a political supporter into his own bank account and then transferred the money to a sympathetic political organisation without alerting the authorities.

He said that he did so because the donor, an elderly North London woman who is a member of the BNP, wished to remain anonymous. He said that he gave the money in February to the nationalist trade union Solidarity, which has strong BNP links, because he believed that it would have had to be declared if he had given the donation to the party. He said that there was “no need” to declare it as the donor had asked him to put the money to “best use”. The commission will review the donation to Mr Griffin after a complaint from the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight.

Details of the transaction emerged as David Cameron, the Tory leader, mounted the most savage attack to date on the BNP by a major political leader. “They dress up in a suit and knock on your door in a nice way but they are still Nazi thugs,” he said.

Meanwhile, bowing to public pressure, Mr Griffin said that he would not attend a summer garden party hosted by the Queen, after anti-racism campaigners claimed that his presence would embarrass the monarchy.

The Times

BNP leader: I’m happy to break race laws

Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, has told members in an online broadcast that he has no problem with breaking race laws.

In a recording that was broadcast on a BNP blog late on Tuesday night, and was later placed on the party’s website, Mr Griffin said: “As you know, we don’t break the law. We never have, we never will, you know, on financial things. Don’t mind breaking the odd race law, or being accused of it, you know, inadvertently.”

Mr Griffin was convicted in 1998 of distributing material likely to incite racial hatred and his party is often accused of racism, in part because of its whites-only membership policy. His latest comments were condemned last night by anti-racism groups.

A spokeswoman for Searchlight, which campaigns against fascism, said: “It’s disgusting after a man has been convicted of a hate crime to treat it so lightly. But it’s not surprising, knowing his history.”

In the same broadcast, Mr Griffin revealed that he had paid a £5,000 donation into his own bank account and later transferred it to Solidarity, a trade union with BNP links. He told The Times yesterday that it was appropriate not to have declared the money. Donations to individual party members over £1,000 must be declared if they are for political use.

Mr Griffin said: “If it can’t be received by the party but it’s been given for general purpose, it can be used for a general purpose which is non-party political.”

However, he said that he did not clarify the donor’s intention for the money and a contradictory posting on the BNP’s website said that the donor had wanted it to go to the party.

In a second contradiction, Mr Griffin said that he was suspicious that the donation was a sting operation by either The Times or The Sunday Times but had kept the money anyway because it was not “particularly attractive” to give it away.

His accusation is denied by both newspapers.

Mr Griffin passed the money to Solidarity, which has denied being a front for the BNP but which acts for people who have been dismissed from their jobs because of their association with the party.

Speaking to The Times yesterday he said: “Defending our members is as much a part of our political work as getting people elected.”

In light of the revelations, MPs called for a “forensic investigation” into the BNP’s practices concerning its donations. Martin Salter, a Labour MP, said: “Transparency in party political funding is not only essential, it’s now a legal requirement.”

The BNP is spending an unprecedented amount in its campaign to win European seats on June 4, but it declared only £21,132 in donations in the first quarter of this year.

The Electoral Commission revealed yesterday that it forfeited a further £4,100 from four donors because they were not permissible — usually either people not registered to vote in Britain or foreign residents.A group of musicians, including members of Blur and Pink Floyd, are demanding the right to prevent the BNP from using their work or selling it for profit. The party sells a selection of folk albums on its website.

In a letter to The Times today, members of the Featured Artists’ Coalition and the Musicians’ Union say: “It has come to our attention that the BNP is selling compilation CDs . . . to raise funds. Many musicians featured on these . . . have no legal right to object to their music being used in this way.”

The Times

No comments: