Taxpayer foots bill for BNP minder
The Sunday Times by Daniel Foggo | Sunday, 18 October 2009 | Click here for original article
NICK GRIFFIN, the BNP leader, has put his personal bodyguard on the European Union payroll as his party becomes the latest to exploit the political expenses system.
A dozen senior figures from the party make up a BNP entourage of publicly funded assistants. As MEPs, Griffin and Andrew Brons are entitled to claim a combined £382,000 a year to pay for their colleagues’ salaries.
Martin Reynolds, a 20-stone bodybuilder who is head of security and Griffin’s bodyguard, said he “honestly didn’t know” why he was justified in being paid by the taxpayer.
He said of his job: “I just do the security side of it and personal assistant stuff and generally looking after him and making sure things are done for him.”
Griffin and Brons are also channelling payments to other “assistants” including Simon Darby, the BNP’s deputy leader, Eddy Butler, its national organiser, Emma Colgate, its national administration officer, and a number of regional organisers and councillors. Some have not been openly declared as working for either MEP and others have unsavoury backgrounds.
Martin Wingfield, former editor of the BNP’s monthly newspaper, Voice of Freedom, is being paid as an assistant by both Griffin and Brons. He served a three-month prison sentence in the 1980s for failing to pay a fine following convictions on two counts of inciting racial hatred with election literature.
Adam Walker, head of Solidarity, the BNP’s supposed trade union, is being paid through Brons’s funds. Walker had to resign his teaching post in 2007 after being accused of posting anti-Muslim comments on the web using a school laptop.
All the BNP hierarchy’s new salaries, which go up to £25,000 a year, are allocated out of a personal £191,000 a year “assistants’ allowance” to which every MEP is entitled.
EU rules state that assistants must justify their taxpayer-funded salaries by doing work which is “directly linked to the exercise of a member’s parliamentary mandate”.
John Walker, the party’s deputy press spokesman, confirmed that he was being paid £18,000 a year in taxpayers’ money. He also receives £6,000 a year from the party.
“I am expected to do two days a week for Andrew and two days a week for Nick. And then the other day … is for the party,” he said.
Walker added that the BNP was “sensitive” to the fact that the rules emphasise all work must relate to the MEP’s role and not the party.
When Reynolds was asked what “specifically” he does for his EU salary, he said: “I honestly don’t know.”
He added: “I never got paid before, all our security was done for no payment whatsoever. I was an electrician.” He declined to say what his pay is now.
He said he was not sure if he also received a salary from the party: “I don’t know the ins and outs of my finances, my wife sorts all that out.”
John Thompson, the BNP’s accountant, said the party’s MEPs were using about half their full allowances and explained that the level of salary varied. “The top level might be £25,000 and the lowest £8,000,” he said.
Walker said: “I suppose we are going to publish the breakdown [of taxpayer-funded salaries] but whether they will go as far as individual remunerations I don't know.”