15 July 2009

BNP isolated as MEPs take up European seats

British civil servants and officials imposed a "cordon sanitaire" around British National Party MEPs as they took up their two seats in the European Parliament. The pair were banned from an official government reception for British MEPs, hosted by Glenys Kinnock, the Europe minister.

Nick Griffin, the BNP's leader, elected in the North West of England last month, dismissed the drinks party ban and the prospect of socialising with Baroness Kinnock. "I am not in the least bit fussed about not being able to drink champagne with Glenys Kinnock. She is a political prostitute," he said. "She and her husband started off their careers as anti-common market and now they are there not just with their noses in the trough, they are in the trough."

A spokesman for Baroness Kinnock refused to comment on Mr Griffin's remarks.

Under new guidelines, agreed by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, Mr Griffin and his colleague Andrew Brons, representing Yorkshire and Humber, will be isolated and kept at arms length from the world of officialdom and diplomatic socialising.

"Officials will not engage in any other contact with elected representatives of any nationality who represent extremist or racist views, unless specific permission has been granted to do so on a particular occasion," a government spokeswoman said.

The BNP is planning a challenge to any government moves to bar its MEPs from briefings by officials.

The MEPs have been placed in seats numbered 780 and 781, just one row in front of the new Conservative and Reformist Group founded by the British Tories. They were originally put next to Northern Irish MEP Diane Dodds but the Democratic Unionist refused to take up her place.

Both will collect combined salaries and allowances worth over £350,000 a year each but the BNP has failed to find enough far-Right colleagues across the EU to form a new bloc in the parliament.

Mr Griffin is expected to sit on the parliament's environment committee and Mr Brons on the constitutional affairs committee. Both MEPs have pledged to attend sessions of the parliament and to play a full role holding the EU to account.

"We will attend sessions. The EU has no right to legislate over Britain but the reality is that the parliament has real powers and we will do what is in power to improve legislation," said Mr Griffin.

Glenis Willmott, Labour's leader in the European Parliament, made a statement to MEPs condemning the BNP.

"Sixty years ago we fought against the fascists together. Today two UK fascists are taking their seats in this parliament for the first time. Today is a sad day for Britain and we will not let matters rest," she said.


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