Ian Cobain, Guardian (UK), Dec. 21, 2006
The techniques of secrecy and deception employed by the British National party in its attempt to conceal its activities and intentions from the public can be disclosed today.
Activists are being encouraged to adopt false names when engaged on BNP business, to reduce the chance of their being identified as party members in their other dealings with the public.
The BNP has also been instructing its activists in the use of encryption software to conceal the content of their email messages, and to protect the party’s secret membership lists.
Party members are also employing counter-surveillance techniques, including the routine use of rendezvous points at which they will gather before being redirected to clandestine meetings.
BNP activists are also now discouraged from using any racist or anti-semitic language in public, in order to avoid possible prosecution. In a BNP rulebook, issued only to activists and organisers, they are instructed that they should avoid acting in a way which fits stereotypes of the far right, and “act only in a way that reflects credit on the Party”.
The techniques, adopted as part of the campaign by Nick Griffin to clean up his party’s image, were discovered after a Guardian reporter who had joined the party undercover was appointed its central London organiser earlier this year.
During seven months inside the BNP, the newspaper also discovered that the party is planning a recruitment drive in some of the most affluent areas of the capital, largely in an attempt to broaden its support base and shake off its image as a party which appeals purely to the white working class.
In an attempt to achieve the degree of political legitimacy which it believes it needs to win more votes, the extreme rightwing party is attempting to establish itself in affluent areas of the capital such as Belgravia, Chelsea and Knightsbridge.
The BNP already has significant numbers of members living in those areas. They include Peter Bradbury, a leading proponent of complementary medicine who has links to Prince Charles, Richard Highton, a healthcare regulator, and Simone Clarke, principal dancer with the English National Ballet.
There are also dozens of company directors, computing entrepreneurs, bankers and estate agents among the 200 members and lapsed members living in central London. One member is a servant of the Queen residing at Buckingham Palace, while a number are former Conservative party activists.
While leading BNP activists say that up to 100 new recruits are joining each week, most are joining in its traditional white, working class strongholds — and a significant number of new members lapse within a couple of years of joining.
The party is now attempting to recruit many more well-heeled members, and aims to organise them into a branch which it hopes to use in its attempts to dispel the widely held view that it remains a party of thuggish, working-class racists.
The campaign has been launched at a time of growing confidence among the party’s leaders, who believe they may be on the brink of an electoral breakthrough which could see them win many more council seats, and even capture their first parliamentary seat.
The Guardian was able to witness the success which the BNP’s leader, Nick Griffin, has enjoyed in his efforts to persuade his followers to avoid the use of racist language while pursuing electoral gain. Its activists often shun such words as “black” or “white”, even when talking at party meetings. Many of its activists have accepted the need, in Mr Griffin’s words, to “clean up our act, put the boots away and put on suits”.
Mr Griffin signalled the importance of its attempt to mobilise new middle-class recruits last month. Writing in a party publications, he said: “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 bases of its support.”
The BNP has more than 50 council seats nationwide, including 11 in Barking and Dagenham in east London, where it is the official opposition to Labour. It has rarely gained much support outside east London, West Yorkshire, parts of Lancashire and some Midlands cities, however. While the party does not believe it can win many central London seats, it does hope to win seats on the Greater London Assembly, in elections which will be fought under a system of proportional representation in 2008.
The BNP is also targeting the parliamentary seat of Jon Cruddas, a contender for Labour’s deputy leadership, who held Dagenham with a majority of 7,600 last year. The BNP candidate won 2,870 votes, 9.3% of the total, but only half of the constituency’s electorate turned out to vote.
Some BNP leaders believe the party is close to a seat in parliament, a presence in towns halls across the country and a greater degree of political legitimacy than at any stage in its 24-year history. “But first,” one told the Guardian’s journalist, “people must stop seeing us as ogres.”