Change membership rules or face legal injunction, EHRC tells BNP
24 June 2009: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has made it clear that Britain’s far-right British National Party, with “all white membership" can face a legal challenge to its membership rules and constitution, as these may breach the racial discrimination laws.
It said the BNP must provide written undertakings by July 20 that it would make changes to its criteria, or face a legal injunction.
The government’s equality watchdog said it has already written to BNP leader Nick Griffin, asserting the party’s membership criteria, employment practices and provision of services may be unlawful.
The EHRC’s letter has referred to an article on the BNP’s official website "Is the BNP racist?" The article makes reference to "the fact that the BNP has an all white membership".
"The exclusion from membership of individuals, whose ethnic origin is not listed constitutes unlawful discrimination on racial grounds," the letter, published on the watchdog’s website, said.
Claiming to have received complaints on BNP’s constitution and membership criteria, the EHRC’s letter said: "As a political party with elected representatives providing leadership within Britain, you will appreciate the importance of the BNP operating a lawful membership policy that complies both on paper and in practice with the (race relations) Act”.
The BNP had scripted success only recently by winning first two seats in the European Parliament in the poll held on June 4, with Griffin and fellow BNP politician Andrew Brons emerging victorious in the north of England.
The party has all along campaigned for a halt to immigration; and has been asking for voluntary repatriation of immigrants, besides British withdrawal from the European Union.
Reacting to the development, Griffin was quick to assert his party did not base its membership on colour, but on ethnicity.
"It’s nothing to do with colour, it’s about ethnicity," he told BBC television. "Because the English, the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh are historically white, it doesn’t mean that white is the marker."
"We are discriminated against in our own country and we as a party are entitled to recruit from those ethnic groups."
The EHRC said due to the party’s recent gains in a national election, the public interest and scrutiny had increased. The EHRC also expressed hope it would not be required to initiate legal proceedings in this case.