|Financially and morally bankrupt - Griffin|
Karl Marx famously wrote in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon that:
"Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce."
Marx penned these lines in 1851, some twenty years before the Franco-Prussian war ended in bloody defeat for France and the flight of Napoleon III (the Louis Napoleon of the title) to Chislehurst in Kent, where he lived in much more agreeable retirement than did his great uncle on St. Helena. It certainly counts as one of Marx’s more accurate prophecies, so far at any rate as France was concerned.
For those who follow or share in the fate of political dissidence on the “right” (whatever that means) of British politics, it might forcefully be said that the very converse it true. History is repeating itself, the second time as tragedy, though the first was mere farce.
Way back in 1986, now almost thirty years ago, Nick Griffin (for it was he) wrote a famously deranged tract in the course of one of the National Front’s repeated bouts of infighting entitled Attempted Murder: the State/Reactionary Plot against the NF, in which he accused most of his former colleagues and sometime friends on the directorate of the National Front of being agents of the state, thieves, drunks, liars, sexual deviants &c.
The drift was that the National Front would become stronger by ridding itself of most of its leadership and indeed its membership, refining the party to a tightly knit cadre of political soldiers, under the command, needless to say, of Nick himself.
This plan did not work very well. The cadres marched off into the political wilderness via Tripoli, where Nick Griffin sought unsuccessfully to solicit funds from Libyan dictator Colonel Gadhafi, and eventually had a split of their own, as one element of the cadres was influenced by traditional Catholicism and another by the occult!
In 1990, Nick Griffin, who had once issued a poignant “call to arms, a call to sacrifice” abandoned his own troops in the wasteland into which he had led them and tried for the first and last time in his life to earn a living outside fringe politics.
The experiment was not a success and ended in his first personal bankruptcy on 16th June 1994 by order of the Welshpool County Court with debts exceeding £70,000 (a much larger sum in 1994 than to-day, twenty years of inflation later).
Griffin boasted to the Mail on Sunday on 9th April 2006 that he was the biggest bankrupt in the history of the Leeds & Holbeck Building Society, which, by the way, is a mutual, so that he was, in effect, ripping off the small savers of West Yorkshire.
In 1986 none of this however really mattered, except perhaps to a small sect of political enthusiasts. In the 1970s the National Front had for a time seemed on the verge of breaking into serious politics. In the end, it never won so much as a single council seat, and suffered a catastrophic reverse at the general election of 1979, when it became apparent that Margaret Thatcher had won the battle for the hearts and minds of a surprisingly large section of the white working classes, especially in the south of England, the Midlands and East Anglia. She then retained their support to the end of her long period of personal predominance in British political life without doing very much (if anything) to deserve it.
By way of a particularly striking example, at a famous bye-election on 15th July 1976, the NF polled 3,255 votes, or 6.64% in Thurrock, Essex, on a turnout of 49,034 electors, while less than three years later, the party polled only 1,358 votes (1.97%) on a much increased turnout of 68,889 (Labour held the seat). Disappointments of this kind were all that awaited NF candidates on the night of 3rd May 1979.
Thatcher steals NF ground
Nationalists who lived through the early 1980s will remember that for the first few years of “Maggie’s” premiership, many believed that “Essex man” (and woman!) would abandon the Tories once it became obvious that Thatcher’s January 1978 “swamping” speech would not be matched by action.
As leader of the opposition Margaret Thatcher famously told Granada’s World in Action programme that:
“If we went on as we are then by the end of the century there would be four million people of the new Commonwealth or Pakistan here. Now, that is an awful lot and I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture . . . If you want good race relations, you have got to allay people's fears on numbers . . . We do have to hold out the clear prospect of an end to immigration . . . “
In government, she did nothing of any significance to limit, let alone stop immigration, but for many years that made no difference to the electoral fortunes of nationalists, who learned the painful lesson that however bad things are, they can still get worse.
Margaret Thatcher took votes from NF with “swamping” speech
Staying with the constituency that I have chosen as an example, there was no NF candidate in Thurrock in 1983, but the BNP did stand, polling a truly disastrous 252 votes or 0.6% on a turnout of 44,981. By the time of the 1987 general election, no nationalist candidate could be found to stand in Thurrock, nor did any nationalist candidate stand in 1992, 1997 or 2001, though the BNP was to re-emerge in the constituency as a serious electoral force in the new millennium, polling 2,526 votes or 5.8% at the 2005 general election and 3,618 or 7.9% in 2010, which was generally accounted a disappointing year for the BNP, but in which the party nevertheless exceeded the NF’s 1976 vote both in absolute and percentage terms.
The lurid account given in Attempted Murder was therefore of no interest at the time to anyone outside the tiny band of committed nationalists who had stuck with what increasingly appeared to be a lost cause in the 1980s. One of them, Mrs Tina Wingfield, wrote a much more rational counterblast entitled Actual Insanity, which describes our Nick’s usual mental state very well.
Strangely, however she and many other victims of the grotesque libels in Attempted Murder made their peace with Nick Griffin some twenty years later, and lived to regret it. She should have read Conrad’s Lord Jim, the moral of which is, if you give a bad man who has done something wrong a second chance, he will take you for a weakling, and do something worse.
From farce, by easy stages then to tragedy. By the end of the 1980s the British National Party had become the leading nationalist party in England, less (some would say) on its own merits than as a result of the demoralisation and division of the NF in the 1986 split between the cadres and the Flag faction, for which Nick Griffin bears prime responsibility.
Back into the fold
Unfortunately for the cause and for himself, BNP chairman John Tyndall invited Nick Griffin back into the fold c. 1993, by when the BNP was doing well enough for JT to need someone else to take on the considerable task of editing the monthly magazine, Spearhead, though the party, whose membership was far short of the 2,000 mark, was not to establish itself at anything near the level of the NF of the 1970s until after the turn of the millennium.
It is likely that this regrettable decision was driven by the disturbing consideration that there was very little talent from which to choose. The members of JT’s inner circle were not getting any younger even then. There had been many bright young things about in nationalism in the early 1980s, but the depressing political realities of that decade had caused most to drop out of politics for family and work reasons.
Nick Griffin, who was by that time on his own account reduced to feeding his family on road kill while living off his wife’s modest earnings as a nurse, was happy to take the job, not that he showed any gratitude to his employer and benefactor, successfully challenging JT for leadership of the BNP in September 1999, and later expelling him from the party that JT had founded.
Less than two years later, in May 2001, race riots broke out in Oldham (Lancs.), transforming the BNP’s political fortunes. In nearby Burnley, an unusually well organised branch that had put years of hard work into community campaigning capitalised upon the changed political circumstances to bring about the election in May 2002 of the first nationalist councillors since the National Party, a populist break away from the NF, won two seats in nearby Blackburn in May 1976.
Nick Griffin had little to do with this success. Indeed, he soon quarrelled with Steve Smith, who had played a leading role in making Burnley the BNP’s premier branch, but the elections transformed the BNP’s fortunes, setting it on the road to a level of electoral success never before attained by any similar party.
In 2003 the BNP gained several more Burnley seats. In 2006 it became the official opposition on Barking and Dagenham council. By 2009, it was a serious minor party with more than 12,000 members, two MEPs, a member of the GLA, three county councillors and 53 borough and district councillors.
Richard Barnbrook – BNP’s first and only member of the GLA
Nick Griffin’s multiple failings as a leader reversed this trend. He alienated or summarily expelled many, even most of his party’s movers and shakers, taking advantage of a deplorable authoritarian constitution bequeathed to him by his predecessor, who was (alas) all too attracted to the leadership principle and opposed to internal democracy. Almost unbelievably, Nick Griffin then managed to make the BNP’s constitution even more authoritarian than it had been under JT.
No less seriously, the party was for years unable to file unqualified accounts, sometimes getting through three treasurers in a year, the latest of whom is Clive Aitken, who goes by the alias of Clive Jefferson, because he has a bad criminal record, including offences of dishonesty and violence under his real name of Aitken.
Nick Griffin also appointed Jim Dowson, with whom he was later to fall out badly, as fund-raiser. A series of emotionally manipulative begging letters persuaded members who could ill afford it to contribute large sums to the party, which squandered their donations on follies, or simply failed to account for them.
After a last hurrah in the 2009 Euro elections, the party’s electoral fortunes went into rapid decline, not helped by Nick Griffin’s calamitous performance on Question Time.
While the party did not suffer so serious a reverse in 2010 as its predecessor had in 1979 (I have given the example of Thurrock above), still it was clearly going backwards, losing councillor after councillor to resignation and defeat.
By the beginning of this year it had only two councillors left above parish level. It then suffered catastrophe at the European elections of 2014, losing its deposit in every Euro-constituency. Now its membership is in free fall, it has no MEPs, no-one on the GLA, no county councillors and only two of the 22,000 plus district councillors in England & Wales, one of whom is up for re-election next year.
That, tragically, is what is left after a decade of struggle and sacrifice by so many for the benefit, alas, of so few in the chairman’s inner circle, who grew if not rich, at any rate, richer than any of them could ever have become on the basis of their own meagre talents and skills.
Griffin forced to go
On 19th July 2014, Nick Griffin paid the price for the Euro disaster, when members of his hitherto compliant Executive Council threatened a vote of no confidence, precipitating his resignation, and the appointment of Adam Walker as caretaker leader till elections for the leadership are held next year.
Adam Walker takes over as BNP leader
Even though Nick Griffin appointed Adam Walker as deputy chairman, and so as his successor, just before he resigned as chairman, the two quickly fell out. Rumours have been circulating for some weeks that Griffin’s resignation was not, as he claimed, his own decision, but bowing to the inevitable in the face of a generalised loss of confidence in his leadership. The rumours have now been confirmed by the leaking of Nick Griffin’s report to the party’s Executive Council, which some have called Attempted Murder, Part Two .
This long, rambling document merely confirms that nowadays the BNP is a dead party, funded by dead people. The rump membership is too small and has been bled too often to give much money, while the spigot of Euro money has been turned off since 30th June.
Earlier this year, Nick Griffin went bankrupt for the second time, owing c. £120,000 to the party’s own solicitors. Despite Griffin’s confidence that he has finessed the trustee in bankruptcy’s claim to an indemnity out of party funds (such as they are) for this and other debts of his on the strength of a supposed “release” that he signed (but which has mysteriously gone missing, needless to say, all through Clive’s fault) the party is not going to dodge the bullet so easily.
Section 423, Insolvency Act, 1986 won’t make cheerful reading for Nick Griffin or the BNP. The gratuitous release of an indemnity so as to deprive creditors of their right of recourse to party funds is plainly a transaction intended to defraud creditors within the meaning and intendment of section 423, and is illegal, null and void.
What is more, Nick Griffin’s reprise of his 1986 falling out with Tina Wingfield has caused him more problems. She has complained to OLAF, the European Union’s fraud investigation body, about irregularities in the expenditure of EU money by Griffin and his staffers, as a result of which the EU is holding on to their severance payments and back expenses claims. In Griffin’s own words:
“As a result of Tina Wingfield’s complaints to the European Parliament (EP), an investigation by the Anti-Fraud Squad OLAF has now resulted in a number of claims from the EP for money back. The total being claimed by the EP is £21,145.48 . . . only two of the items being reclaimed relate in any way to me personally. These are the £3,524,23 spent through the English Fair Fund (a sum I dispute on grounds of Parliamentary rules) and a total of £691.25 paid to my younger daughters for data-basing petition info and doing the donkey work of huge MEP Christmas card mailings.”
Mrs Wingfield reminds me of the vicious animal in the French fable. The vice in its nature was that when attacked, it defended itself. The problems with OLAF, according to Mr G, are otherwise all Clive’s fault. But who appointed Clive, Nick?
Dead men’s money
When the living have no money left, the dead will have to pay. As Nick Griffin explains:
“After all, with several large bequests either in or about to 'drop', I am sure we will all agree that, collectively, we have to ensure that the party's (i.e. the members') money, must not only be handled correctly but must also be seen to be handled correctly.
“ . . . I asked at the EC meeting for an update on the position with wills remembering the party. Clive's response was, from memory (I'm sure the minutes will record his answers faithfully) that he has about 25 actually in his file, with about another 20 in the pipeline and more steadily trickling in.
“From his own account to me (before he started dodging issues and then stopped talking to me) I am aware that several very major wills are about to 'drop' - if indeed one or two have not already done so.
“At a likely (going on recent experience) average of £200,000, some fifty wills would equate to £10 million. 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.
“In the run-up to the EU Election, when Clive and I were still on speaking terms, I complimented him on doing such a good job pushing to get all these wills in. Then I went on to say that the actual set up whereby no-one but him had any oversight of them would, if more widely known, put him at risk of being accused of stealing or preparing to steal large amounts of money.
“Calls or letters about wills arrive on Clive's desk. Clive goes to see the prospects and writes their wills. He is often named as sole Executor.
“Once we have a will in the bag, the only person other than Clive who knows is his long-term girlfriend who calls the will authors every couple of weeks to keep them happy.”
It seems that Nick Griffin is not too happy that his chosen treasurer Clive Aitken alias Jefferson is not willing to share the loot with him, when the “prospects” are safely “in the bag”, and then conveniently “drop”. Such ingratitude is indeed shocking. Who but our Nick would have aided the rehabilitation of an offender by making him treasurer of a party hoping to rake in £10,000,000 from soon to be dead members?
But helping an ageing crim trying to go straight or at least make a quid or ten million is not the limit of Nick’s altruism, oh no! Nick is now a born again democrat!
“In addition to removing the now obsolete surplus powers of the Chairman it is also necessary to positively strengthen the powers of the Executive Council.”
This from a man who has habitually expelled leading members and even the party’s founder without a hearing before a party tribunal, leaving them to seek justice from the courts at great expense, then blaming his victims for running up costs seeking redress for his tyranny in all his years as Lord of Misrule! The sheer brass neck is staggering
The party is however now clearly over. Griffin’s fantasies of huge legacies in the pipeline are likely to prove disappointing, though I certainly do not rule out some successes for the vulture fund. Clive Aitken alias Jefferson may have signed up a few testators, but it is one thing to persuade a member to make a will in the party’s favour now, another to keep him or her from changing it as the years go by. As the much publicised story of Alan Boyce shows, even very hard-line nationalists are trying to cosy up to UKIP (in a wholly one sided love affair, let it be added).
Beneficiary of BNP failure
The residuary heir and beneficiary of the failure of the BNP is of course Nigel Farrage, whose trick of running with the fox and hunting with the hounds on immigration is far easier to play when he is not seriously opposed to his “right”.
It is in some ways extraordinary that a party with Thatcherite, even Libertarian roots and a very middle class leadership, led by a former dealer on the London Metal Exchange (which is regarded in the City as spivvy and disreputable) now sweeps up white, working class votes from sections of the electorate that display very high levels of reliance (some would say, dependency) upon the welfare state, which UKIP theoretically believes is far too big. Old cynic that I am, I can see UKIP accommodating ideology to the wishes of its electoral base with remarkable flexibility!
I do not think that this situation is going to change any time soon. UKIP’s lack of ideological coherence matters less than its capture of a national mood of disenchantment with the liberal establishment, and it will make all the running for the foreseeable future just by making the right mood music, without having to commit to any concrete anti-immigration position that exposes it to establishment odium, or even reconciling the conflicting hopes of its working class and middle class electorates.
The contrast with our nearest neighbour on the continent, where Marine Le Pen of the Front National now tops the opinion polls for the next presidential election (admittedly still almost three years away) could not be starker.
The one ray of hope lies with the small challenger parties, but it remains to be seen whether any of these caterpillars ever become butterflies. They have many obstacles to overcome if that is ever to happen . . . as usual, only time will tell.
Readers can read the entire Griffin diatribe online.