Fuel protest activist leaves BNP after punch-up
Press AssociationWednesday August 8, 2007Guardian Unlimited
An activist who once led fuel protests across the country and recently secured the BNP's best byelection result in its 25-year history after standing in Tony Blair's constituency has left the party after a punch-up with a senior official.
Andrew Spence polled almost 2,500 votes in last month's Sedgefield contest and beat seven other candidates to finish in fourth place behind the three mainstream parties.
Despite polling almost 9% of the vote to secure the party's best byelection result since it was formed, the County Durham farmer said he had now left the party as it was "not what he thought".
The punch-up happened at the BNP's Red White and Blue festival, in Derbyshire, last weekend and Mr Spence today confirmed he had thrown punches at the party treasurer, John Walker, and got involved with publicity head Mark Collett.
It is not known exactly what sparked the incident but speaking from his County Durham farm today, Mr Spence said: "There was a major disagreement and punches were thrown. " It's really saddened me that it came to this but the BNP is not the party I thought it was."
Mr Spence, who led the September 2000 fuel protests, said he had joined the party in good faith and still supported the rank and file members.
The farmer, who was labelled a "people's champion" for his rallying calls during the protests, added: "I made some good friends and was proud to be in the party.
"When I first joined the party it had a common-sense approach to tackling issues that matter to people.
"I wish the BNP the very best of luck at grass roots level but there are some things that just cannot be forgiven."
The police were not called to the incident which was handled by the festival's own security and no further action is expected to be taken.
The two-and-a-half day event was said to have attracted about 3,000 people from across the UK and as far afield as the US, Sweden, South Africa and Germany.
Party bosses hailed the event a huge success that ran smoothly.
The BNP today said the incident involving Mr Spence and Mr Walker was of "no consequence" and did not detract from the success of the event.
Party press officer Dr Phil Edwards, said today: "This issue is an internal, family matter within the party and of no consequence or interest to anyone outside the party.
"There's no further comment to make about it."