A dancer with the English National Ballet and a former London tourist chief are among a new batch of middle-class recruits joining the BNP, according to an undercover newspaper investigation.
Company directors, internet entrepreneurs, bankers and estate agents are also said to have joined the party after it launched a campaign to attract more “well-heeled” support. Party insiders say the campaign is attracting up to 100 new members a week, including people from London’s wealthiest boroughs.
According to a journalist who spent seven months inside the party, the recruits include Annabel Geddes, a former director of the London Tourist Board.
Mrs Geddes, who developed the hugely successful London Dungeon attraction, allegedly told the journalist she was proud to be a member of the BNP. Asian immigrants were a “bloody bore”, she is alleged to have said, and black people were “ghastly”, adding: “I’m a racist. We’ve got to keep little UK basically Anglo-Saxon.”
Mrs Geddes lives just off Trafalgar Square, and the investigation revealed more than 200 other members living in London’s most affluent areas, including Belgravia, Kensington and Chelsea.
Simone Clarke, the principal dancer with the English National Ballet, is said to be a member despite her partner being Cuban of Chinese extraction.
Immigration has “really got out of hand,” she allegedly said. “If everyone who thinks like I do joined, it would really make a difference.”
Yesterday, the English National Ballet said Miss Clarke was rehearsing and not available for comment. A spokesman said: “We cannot comment on the private life of our dancers. However, we as an organisation are proud to have 19 different nationalities among our dancers.”
The spokesman said that the ballet company would be talking to Miss Clarke—who is due to appear in Alice in Wonderland later this month—before deciding on any action.
Other members revealed in the investigation are said to allegedly include Peter Bradbury, a leading proponent of complementary medicine who has links to Prince Charles, and Richard Highton, a London-based healthcare regulator.
The changing face of the BNP reflects leader Nick Griffin’s efforts to give the party a more legitimate face, and to win support in areas other than its white, working-class strongholds. In a party publication last month, Mr Griffins urged members to help cast off the BNP’s thuggish image, telling them not to use racist language in public.
He stressed the need for members to “clean up our act, put the boots away and put on suits”.
He wrote: “To win electoral power, and to keep it, a political party needs to be rooted in a broad-based movement that is constantly developing and expanding the social and cultural basis of its support.”
Ian Cobain, a reporter for the Guardian newspaper, joined the BNP and became central London co-ordinator, uncovering the tactics used to create the party’s new image.
Mr Cobain was sent email lists of members, whose names were encrypted and available only to a select few using special codes. Party members were also encouraged to use false names, to encrypt correspondence sent to one another, and to guard closely the time and place of meetings to prevent them being infiltrated.
In last May’s local elections, the BNP won 229,000 votes out of seven million cast, leaving the party with 50 council seats nationwide.
However, the party has struggled to win support in areas other than east London, West Yorkshire, parts of Lancashire and the Midlands.
Yesterday, organisations linked to those named in the investigation distanced themselves from the BNP.
Visit London—formerly known as the London Tourist Board—said of Mrs Geddes: “She has absolutely nothing to do with us. She worked here over 12 years ago.”
The Sugar Plum Fairy in English National Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker had to confront angry colleagues before yesterday’s matinee performance after she was revealed to be a member of the British National Party.
Simone Clarke, 36, was named by a newspaper that had infiltrated the party and obtained a membership list.
Others reported to be BNP members by The Guardian included Annabel Geddes, founder of the London Dungeon and a former director of the London Tourist Board, and Peter Bradbury, a leading proponent of complementary medicine who has links to the Prince of Wales.
Clarke said she believed that immigration had “really got out of hand”. She added: “If everyone who thinks like I do joined, it would really make a difference.”
Her opposition to immigration is a sensitive issue at the ballet company because nine of her ten fellow principal dancers—including the father of her child—are immigrants.
Yat-Sen Chang, who has been Clarke’s partner for five years, was born in Cuba and has a Chinese father.
Only one other principal, Sarah McIlroy, is British. The rest are Cuban, Estonian, Georgian, Russian, Czech or Japanese.
The dancers were instructed not to comment yesterday, but Clarke said in a recent interview that she does not mix with the other performers outside working hours. “I don’t socialise with people in the company,” she said. “It’s all too much.”
A spokeswoman for English National Ballet declined to comment on Clarke’s private views but said that the company did not share them. “We are an equal opportunities employer,” she said. “We pride ourselves on the diversity in the company.”
Members of the audience at yesterday’s performance said that Clarke’s views did affect their opinion of English National Ballet. Jasmine Sandhu, 23, who travelled from Leicester to see the show, was upset by the revelation before she went in. “I wish I had found out afterwards,” she said. “It will damage English National Ballet’s reputation.”
Maeve Bridgland, who was taking her granddaughter to the ballet, said that it would not affect her appreciation of the performance. “But I shall have a look now to see [whether the other performers treat her differently].”
Clarke has said previously that she is considering other careers, including property development. “I’ve even thought of becoming a plumber. I enjoy my job . . . but some things need to change. It’s a question of when to start.”
Ms Geddes, who left the London Tourist Board in 1984, was reported to believe that Asian immigrants are a “bloody bore” and that black people are “ghastly”. She told the undercover journalist: “I’m a racist. We’ve got to keep little UK basically Anglo-Saxon.”
She could not be reached for comment yesterday. Visit London, formerly the London Tourist Board, distanced itself from its former director yesterday and the London Dungeon said that it had had no connection with her since she sold the company in 1984. Mr Bradbury could not be reached for comment last night.
Other people said to be members or lapsed members of the party are said to include a servant of the Queen who lives at Buckingham Palace, a former Miss England and several former Conservative Party activists. The Palace said that its servants had the right to their personal preferences “as long as they are not actively campaigning”.
The list of names suggests that the party is actively pursuing middle-class voters in Central London to augment its traditional recruiting grounds in East London, West Yorkshire, parts of Lancashire and some Midlands cities. Nick Griffin, the party leader, told supporters last month that broad-based support was vital to electoral success.