Why no-one wants an invitation to this party

Greg Lewis, Wales on Sunday | Sunday, 6 February 2005 | Click here for original article

FOR years now, the British National Party has been crowing about its 'growing support'.

Each time a National Assembly, Euro or Westminster election approaches, it claims 'this is it, the party is gaining a foothold'.

And every time the result in Wales for party workers is the same.

They'd be wiser sticking their deposit on an old nag at Catterick.

The party now intends to field a single Welsh candidate in the General Election, expected in May.

John Walker, the face of the BNP in North Wales, will stand in either Wrexham or Alyn & Deeside.

He says he'll be guided by the percentage achieved in the Euro elections, in which, of course, the party came nowhere, winning around four per cent of a low vote in Wrexham and Flintshire.

This week I asked the party's national press officer, Dr Phill Edwards, whether it was time to give up on Wales.

After checking I wasn't spying on him ("Yes, I'm MI5," I joked) and accusing me of being under the influence of our company chairman - a great man, I'm sure, but one who'd have absolutely no idea who I was even if I stuck myself to his office window holding my passport and a giant copy of the photograph at the top of this page - Dr Edwards argued bullishly about Welsh support.

It wasn't time to give up, he said, the party was in it for the long haul and it had only been working on Wales for "about a year" anyway.

That is not quite the case. As long ago as 1996, the party, under its previous general secretary John Tyndall, announced a recruitment drive in Cardiff.

In the 2001 General Election, Terry Cavill flew home with 278 votes in Newport West. With 0.8 per cent of the vote he celebrated being the worst BNP candidate in the UK.

In 2003 the BNP stood for a seat in the National Assembly after, it said, it received messages "begging" it to stand.

Pauline Gregory, who stood for the South East Wales region, said in her candidate profile, that she was worried about the "asylum flood".

"It is not a matter of race but of space," she stated. At the time there were around 2,500 asylum seekers among a population of more than 2.9 million. Or, to put it another way, one person fleeing persecution for every 1,160 of us. Not a flood in which anyone is likely to get their little toe wet.

Four candidates - including Mr Walker and Ms Gregory - stood in the 2004 Euro Elections. They received 27,135 votes, 2.9 per cent of the total, and then wandered off home.

In June 2004 the BNP fielded more than 220 council candidates in England and just three in Wales.

In Towyn, Conwy, its candidate received 68 votes (third place, nine per cent of votes cast). In Mancot, Flintshire, our Mr Walker, again, received 126 votes (fifth out of five, 6.9 per cent). In Plas Madoc, Wrexham, it got 60 votes (fourth place, 16.5 per cent).

The party still has no representative in Wales. Its Welsh website, run by party boss Nick Griffin, rarely got updated and now appears to be unavailable.

Despite heavy campaigning on the ground, the BNP has continued to make no inroads here, a fact on which Dr Edwards was prepared to concede a little.

"We're not giving up in Wales, we are just getting started," he said. "But the Welsh people don't seem to have seen the light, maybe they like asylum seekers taking their services and council homes."

On St David's Day, Mr Walker will announce the BNP's general election strategy. When they stand let's not stifle their debate, let's listen.

And then deal with their crackpot claims.

Rubbish like this from Mr Griffin who, under the headline "Time is running out for Western Civilisation", describes the 'liberal agenda' like this: "Make no mistake, this is the start of the Endgame, and the aim of the game is the extinction of the White Man. But players who have become arrogant, players who are in a terrible hurry, frequently make mistakes. And those mistakes are creating the conditions for the Mother of All Backlashes."

With claims like that on their website, I can only imagine what they say on the doorstep. It will ensure they remain a political movement which could hold its annual conference in a telephone box on the promenade in Llandudno.

And that brings me back to Dr Edwards. When I spoke to him, something had left him deeply disturbed - what he called the "BBC's jamboree about Auschwitz".

By that he meant the series of programmes marking the Holocaust and 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camp.

I was surprised that so upset him, after all he had been telling me how much he hated journalists "evoking Hitler" in BNP articles. Now it was him that was bringing them up.

Well, whatever. But you see what I mean.

Let them speak.


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