By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
LONDON, United Kingdom – A British far-right political party that until how has limited its membership to whites has decided, facing legal potential legal action, to allow non-white citizens the opportunity to apply for membership.
On Saturday the British National Party (BNP) met in Essex, England to met regarding the proposed change in membership rules. Following the meet, party leader Nick Griffin declared that “anyone can be a member of this party. We are happy to accept anyone as a member providing they agree with us that this country should remain fundamentally British.”
The BNP change comes when the party has faced recent legal challenges to their long standing rule banning any non-white British citizen from gaining membership. A recent Central London County Court decision ordered the BNP to alter its bylaws or face potential legal action by the United Kingdom’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Opponents to the policies of the BNP declared that the party’s shift in membership rules does not reflect any moderation in the long-standing reactionary policies of the BNP. Weyman Bennett, of United Against Fascism, noted that “regardless of the vote, the changes are cosmetic and have only happened because the courts forced them to stop racist practices.”
Following the membership rules change, the anti-fascist group Searchlight declared that “[the change] was a meaningless gesture by the BNP. No one seriously believes that thousands of black and Asian Britons will now be queuing up to join Nick Griffin’s party. The BNP are as racist and extremist as ever.”
While the BNP has never garnered more than a faction of a percentage of support among the British citizenry, in recent elections the BNP won its first seat in the European parliament, the legislative body of the European Union. Rising national unemployment rates and frustration with the larger national political parties has also led to BNP candidates being elected to a handful of local councils. One of BNP’s signature policies has been its opposition to the current immigration policies of the United Kingdom. BNP still has not gained a seat in the United Kingdom’s parliament.
A British court is scheduled to rule in March on whether this BNP membership change goes far enough to comply with EHRC’s race relation laws.
For more information, please see:
IRISH TIMES – BNP votes to accept black members – 15 February 2010
AFP – Far-right party votes to drop white-only rule – 14 February 2010
REUTERS – Britain’s far-right party to ditch whites-only membership rule – 14 February 2010