The lofty, quietly studious corridors of the Royal Institute of British Architects in Portland Place, London, may seem a million miles from the rightwing extremes of the British National party.
But it emerged yesterday that one of the candidates for the presidency of the highly respected professional body has been a member of the BNP for five years. He has also stood as a BNP candidate in a council election. The revelation of Peter Phillips’ political affiliations came during a hustings debate involving the three candidates at the institute on Wednesday night. A new Riba president is due to be confirmed at the end of July.
The news has thrown the profession into uproar. George Ferguson, who was president from 2003-5 and is a member of its governing council, said: “Absolute outrage has been expressed by everyone on council I have communicated with. No doubt that is a united feeling among the profession.”
Mr Phillips said he was standing for election because the institute had “lost its way and no longer represents the interests of its members”. He denied that it was anything to do with his membership of the BNP or that he should have declared his party membership. “No candidate has ever been asked to declare political allegiances. The BNP is a legitimate political party, and it is beginning to win seats.”
Mr Phillips also denied accusations of racism and misogyny. “I am not a racist,” he said. “I was a VSO volunteer in Kenya at the beginning of my career, so I refute that. But when you express different views from people, you have to take quite a lot of abuse. I have expressed my views openly and for some time against pressure groups being funded by the RIBA. At the moment there is a particular feminist group being funded by the RIBA.”