2 Oct 2014

Civil war’: the inside story of Nick Griffin’s BNP demise

He led the far-Right BNP through electoral thick and thin for 15 years. Now, after his expulsion, Channel 4 News sheds light on the battle raging within the party that has done for Nick Griffin.

Leaked documents detail an increasingly bitter conlict between Mr Griffin and those who took over the party after he was forced to cede the leadership following the loss of his seat in the European Parliament this summer.

And a bitter exchange between Mr Griffin and the party’s new leader Adam Walker paints a picture of a struggle for political control – as well as of “tens of millions of pounds” said to have been promised to the party in the wills of its supporters.

Mr Griffin, the BNP said, became embittered by his loss of control after being forced to take up the position of “honorary president”.

The documents, seen exclusively by Channel 4 News, show that Mr Griffin and his former ally Mr Walker disagreed over how much power he was to wield in his new role, with the latter finally laying down the law to Mr Griffin.

‘Problems’

“I will not allow anyone to undermine me in my new role”, he said in one exchange after taking the reins. And he added: “gone are days when anyone with a gripe could use special pleading with the Chairman to undermine officials. That includes you, by the way, Nick!”

In a briefing document Mr Griffin prepared for the party’s executive committee, he claimed that 25 wills have been made out bequeathing money to the party. Another 20, he said, were “in the pipeline”.

“At a likely (going on recent experience) average of £200,000, some fifty Wills would equate to £10m. Not all due in next week, but representing a statistically predictable income stream the bulk of which can be realistically expected over the next ten years. That’s a lot of money,” he wrote.

He produced the briefing, entitled “Problems for the new leader – problems for us all. And the simple solutions”, after stepping aside as party chairman. He did so under threat of a vote of no confidence earlier this year, allowing his then deputy Mr Walker to take over as de-facto leader.

Mr Griffin also fell out with the party’s leadership over plans he claimed were afoot to turn the BNP’s executive committee into a limited company just as it stood to benefit from the windfall.

And the former leader expressed his concern that too much control over the wills was in the hands of a single party official.

I am very critical of the failings of the current BNP leadership, and believe they will kill the party off within a few months. Nick Griffin, former BNP leader.

While Channel 4 News cannot confirm the veracity of Mr Griffin’s claims, the BNP has confirmed that the disagreement about them caused a power struggle at the very top of the party of which Mr Griffin has become a casualty.

A spokesman said that, “with hindsight”, Mr Griffin regretted his decision to step down and became embroiled in a struggle to wrestle back some powers, thinking he would be able to “pull the strings behind the scenes”.

“I don’t know where he gained that impression but, in my view, once you step down, you step down,” said the spokesman. He also said that the number of wills and the amount of money the BNP stood to gain from them were “broadly accurate”.

Matthew Collins of Hope Not Hate said that the argument was over who controlled the “potentially lucrative future of the BNP”.

He said: “Griffin would win an election contest, but they seem keen to force out everyone aligned with him. That group grows bigger by the day.”

‘Unpopular and divisive’

Speaking on Thursday, the former BNP leader told Channel 4 News he was “very critical of the failings of the current BNP leadership, and believe they will kill the party off within a few months”.

He has tweeted his intention to set up a new party and there are unconfirmed reports that as much as a third of the BNP membership could go with him. It would not be the first time he has split his party.

In the late 1980s, he led the breakaway Political Soldier faction of the National Front, which experimented with support for Colonel Gaddafi and Black nationalist groups, such as the Nation of Islam.

Professor Matthew Goodwin, an expert on the far-right, said that it was clear that Mr Griffin had become an “unpopular and divisive” figure within the BNP.

The associate professor at Nottingham University’s school of politics and international relations said: “It is more about money than politics.

“In broader terms, the party is struggling anyway because of the rise of Ukip and the internal factionalism.

“It is fair to link the rise of Ukip and the fall of the BNP because there is a degree of overlap. Ukip’s success has restricted the space but, after 2010, the BNP was arguably finished anyway.”