Nick Griffin: High and lows of political career
- 1 October 2014
- From the section UK Politics
Nick Griffin has been expelled from the BNP, just months after stepping down as the party's leader. The BBC looks back on the highs and lows of the 55-year old's political career.
The Cambridge law graduate (seen here holding the number 39) was a member of the far-right National Front in the 1970s and 1980s, After the organisation broke up, Mr Griffin founded a splinter group and eventually joined the BNP in 1995, ousting John Tyndall as leader four years later after winning a majority vote in a secret ballot.
Mr Griffin has portrayed himself as a defender of free speech against the politically correct "liberal establishment". Under his leadership, the BNP sought to branch out from being solely preoccupied with immigration and racial politics, projecting itself as a defender of the British way of life. But the party's identity remained bound up with its stance on immigration. It backs an immediate end to all immigration and the "voluntary repatriation" of legal immigrants and British citizens of foreign descent.
In 2004, Mr Griffin was secretly filmed by the BBC telling a crowd Islam was a "wicked, vicious faith". The footage sparked a police investigation but Mr Griffin and BNP activist Mark Collett were cleared of race hate offences in 2006 after two highly-publicised trials. In 2009, the BNP was threatened with potential legal action by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over its membership policy. Mr Griffin fought a protracted battle with the watchdog while party members eventually voted to amend the party's constitution to let black and Asian people join. In 2014, Mr Griffin was declared bankrupt at Welshpool County Court.
After steady progress in the first half of the decade, 2006 was the BNP's breakthrough year. It doubled its number of council seats in England and became the second largest party on Barking and Dagenham Council. Three years later, it toasted its first success at national level. It polled 943,598 votes, 6.2% of the total, in the European Parliament elections, enough to send Mr Griffin and his colleague Andrew Brons to Brussels. Hailing his election, Mr Griffin said the BNP was prepared "to speak openly about the problems of immigration", claiming the "indigenous British majority" had become "second-class citizens".
The BBC's decision to invite Mr Griffin on to its flagship political discussion show, Question Time, in October 2009 caused huge controversy. Hundreds of anti-fascist protesters gathered outside the BBC's Television Centre, in advance of the filming of the programme. Mr Griffin used his appearance on the show - which was watched by more than eight million people - to criticise Islam and to suggest that many people find "the sight of two grown men kissing in public really creepy". He later claimed the show had focused too much on him and the BNP, describing it as an exercise in "beating up Nick Griffin".
On the slide
The BNP increased its share of the vote in the 2010 general election, without coming close to winning any seats. But it soon became apparent that it was failing to build on the momentum of its 2009 success. It lost council seats in places such as Stoke and Burnley and saw itself eclipsed in parliamentary by-elections by Nigel Farage's UKIP. In the 2014 European elections, it saw its support fall back to its 1999 level, while Mr Griffin lost his own seat. He blamed the setback on Mr Farage's party, which he dismissed as "plastic patriots".
In 2010, Mr Griffin suggested he would stand down as leader in 2013 - when he would have been in the job for nearly 15 years. The party has been plagued by infighting in recent times, with MEP Andrew Brons quitting in 2012 and Mr Griffin himself facing a leadership challenge last year. On 21 July, the party announced that Mr Griffin had left his position as chairman following a meeting of the BNP's executive committee and would be taking the role of president, saying it would give more details in due course.
The party moved to expel Mr Griffin, accusing him of "factionalism" and attempting to "destabilise" it. In particular, it claimed that he had made "damaging and defamatory" statements about the party's leadership and finances and had "harassed" party members, including in one case, making "physical threats". In a statement explaining its decision, the BNP said "no individual was bigger than the party". Mr Griffin challenged the decision, saying he had been "expelled without trial" and suggested the BNP had acted in violation of its own constitution.