Nico Hines, Chris Smyth, Jenny Booth, Times of London, November 19, 2008
Police chiefs said tonight that they expect every force in the country to be scouring a leaked list of alleged BNP members that looks certain to cost at least one Merseyside officer his job.
Problems for the far-right party continued today after Rod Lucas, a radio DJ, and a policeman became the first victims of the breach of privacy that saw the names of thousands of BNP members published on the internet.
Officers in Liverpool referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission when they discovered the name of one of their officers on the membership list.
This afternoon the IPCC said it had no need to intervene and suggested that Merseyside Police act firmly.
“The national policies are clear that membership of the BNP is incompatible with the requirements of the role of a police officer and I know Merseyside Police will act robustly if necessary,” said Naseem Malik, IPCC Commissioner for the North West.
Decisive action is expected to be replicated across the country as individual forces face questions on the political affiliations of their officers.
The Association of Chief Police Officers has banned officers from joining the BNP and a spokesman said it was “highly likely” that forces all over the country would be scanning the list. Police are banned from becoming members of the BNP because it would damage race relations.
TalkSport radio said today that it had “no plans to use” Mr Lucas, a chat show presenter who covered late-night shifts for the station this year, after he was listed among more than 12,000 BNP supporters.
The presenter responded this afternoon by claiming that he had joined the party as an undercover journalist.
“I am an investigative radio journalist and am a member of over 20 political parties and pressure groups,” he said.
“I do this for research, in order to come up with material from my show. In 2004 I did a series of shows on Fusion Radio in which I delved into the BNP.
“I have often mentioned on air my work on the BNP—it is certainly no dirty secret.”
His name and contact details were included alongside his profession: “media: radio/TV production”.
Mr Lucas, a Sony Award winner who once worked for Radio One, had eulogised on his website how much he had enjoyed working for his “favourite” radio station, but this morning TalkSport bosses were swift to distance themselves from him.
A spokesman said: “We were not aware of his membership of the BNP until today. We have no plans to use Rod Lucas in the immediate future.”
The membership list was today removed from the original blog where it was published but remains available on other websites.
Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, said that the party would take court action against those responsible for the leak. Earlier this year the BNP said it had obtained an injunction at the High Court in Manchester, banning any publication of the list.
Mr Griffin said: “It was entirely wrongly used without authority by a very small group of previous party members who were expelled late last year who then passed it on, to who we simply don’t know.
“All we can say is that if we find out who it was and they are one of those covered by the High Court injunction, then they are going to prison.”
Mr Griffin was forced to deny that BNP spokesman Simon Darby had intended to threaten violence when he told The Times last night that if the culprit was found, “it will turn out to be one of the most foolish things they have done in their life”, and that “I wouldn’t be sleeping very well tonight”.
He said: “There is no threat of violence as is being reported.”
The BNP said in a statement on its website that it had lodged a complaint with Dyfed-Powys Police on the grounds that the “disgraceful act of treachery” breached human rights and data protection laws.
Prison officers, like the police, are forbidden from joining the BNP but the leaked list appeared to include several prison staff.
A Prison Service spokesman, however, refused to confirm whether they were investigating the individuals included on the list.
Most other public sector professions including teachers, healthcare professionals and armed servicemen are not governed by similar bans but many workers now face questioning from colleagues and bosses over whether belonging to a party associated with racist views is compatible with the caring ethos and emphasis on equality in their work.
The Ministry of Defence says that serving members of the Armed Forces who belong to the BNP are breaking no rules.
At least two dozen people serving in the Armed Forces are members of the BNP, according to the leaked list, with well over a hundred people listed as ex-servicemen.
“Individuals are free to join political parties but they are expected to abide by our values and standards in all they do,” an MoD spokesman said. There is known to be unease within the MoD about some BNP policies, which are believed to be incompatible with military values, but it has no plans to follow the police in establishing a formal ban.
One former soldier named on the list told The Times today that there were “a lot of serving BNP members in the British Army”. Keiron Le-Mar, who served in Iraq with the Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry, explained: “It’s a party that thinks that England should be put first and when you join the British Army you’re obviously a pretty patriotic person.”
Mr Le-Mar said that he was open about his BNP membership for two years while in the Army, before leaving twelve months ago. None of his colleagues expressed any hostility towards his political allegiance, he said.
He said that he had not encountered any soldiers from ethnic minorities while in the Army but would have had no problem serving alongside them.
Other servicemen contacted refused to speak. One had set up his mobile phone voicemail to explain that he was not answering his mobile phone “probably because I don’t want to speak to any choppers like yourself”.
Several BNP members give their addresses as Army barracks or RAF bases. There is no rule against this, and the MoD confirmed that there is nothing to stop servicemen or women receiving BNP literature through the post on base. They would be banned from distributing leaflets on service property, however.
Many people posting on the British Army’s unofficial online forum appeared supportive of their BNP colleagues, before moderators deleted the entire thread, leading to accusations that the “thought police” were at work. That thread was also deleted.
The Department of Health has a similar policy in place with no action to be taken unless a member of staff’s views affected their work or they were found to be abusing their position to recruit for the BNP.
Dee Lockhart, 44, a BNP member and a medical secretary from Cumbria, said that in six years working for the NHS she never encountered any problems when discussing her political beliefs.
“It’s my feeling that you’re supposed to have political freedom,” she told The Times today, explaining that she had retired from work last year after a road traffic accident.
The wife of one doctor on the list said that since his name had been published on the leaked list his life had become a misery.
“My husband has been hounded and he’s not even a member of the party,” she said. “This is really hurting him. If there are any employment repercussions we will be seeing a solicitor.”
Another care professional told The Times he was outraged that his name had been published. He claimed that he had done excellent work with young offenders in three years as a youth worker and said he did not feel his political views affected his work.
“I’ve worked well with children from all walks of life and this will definitely affect my chances of getting future jobs. It’s sickening,” he said.
The list of BNP members posted on the internet contains the details of people in a wide range of jobs. Some of them appear to have already been sacked while others’ jobs are said to be under threat.
The police have a ban on BNP membership that they say is based on their duty, as a public body, to promote equality under the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000.
But while all public bodies are subject to the act, most of them appear not to share the police view that “promoting equality” necessitates a ban on BNP membership (an action not explicitly endorsed in the act). Other public bodies believe that by ensuring employees do not practise discrimination in the workplace they are complying fully with provisions of the act.
Merseyside Police has confirmed that it is investigating claims that a serving officer is a member of the British National party. The force’s chief constable, Bernard Hogan-Howe, insisted that membership of the BNP was “totally incompatible with the duties and values of Merseyside police”.
The Association of Chief Police Officers said police were banned from becoming members of the BNP because it would damage race relations.
“Membership or promotion of the BNP by any member of the police service, whether police officer or police staff, is prohibited,” said Acpo’s workforce development spokesman, Peter Fahy.
“This is because such membership would be incompatible with our duty to promote equality under the Race Relations Amendment Act, and would damage the confidence of minority communities.
“While the policy may have been controversial at the time it was enacted in 2004, it has since been accepted by all staff and staff associations, and remains unchallenged thus far.”
The ban on BNP membership among police officers was enshrined in 2005 in an amendment to the Police Regulations 2003.
A prison service spokesman said it was the first public sector employer to ban staff from being members of racist organisations and had dismissed employees for such action in the past.
“The prison service is very clear on this issue: we take allegations of racism very seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy of those who hold racist views,” he said.
“When being recruited externally or applying for transfer or promotion, candidates are asked to state categorically that they do not belong to the BNP, National Front or Combat 18, or any other group or organisation promoting racism.
“Membership of such organisations is entirely incompatible with working in the prison service and, if it is confirmed that a member of staff belongs to one of them, they will be subject to our disciplinary procedures.”
Church of England
Ben Wilson, a spokesman for the Church of England, which is not a public body under the Race Relations Amendment Act, said it had seen “no evidence” that any serving vicars were on the list, despite media reports.
“The church’s General Synod passed a motion in 2004 stating that any political movement that seeks to divide our communities on the basis of ethnicity is an affront to the nature of God revealed in creation and scripture and is a grave danger to harmonious community relationships; consequently voting for and/or supporting a political party that offers racist policies is incompatible with Christian discipleship.
He said: “It would be difficult to take any formal action against a vicar on the basis of their alleged membership of the BNP, as membership of any lawful political party is excluded from the grounds for complaint under the clergy discipline measure.”
An MoD spokesman said: “Our position is that individuals are allowed to join political parties as long as they uphold our values and standards.”
But he and colleagues found the views of the BNP “abhorrent”, the spokesman said.
The General Medical Council, which regulates doctors in the UK, has a policy that upholds doctors’ rights to hold personal political beliefs.
But a spokeswoman said: “Doctors must not allow their own beliefs to compromise patient care … They can’t allow their professional or political beliefs in a way that exposes the patient’s vulnerabilities or causes distress.”
The General Teaching Council for England, which registers all state school teachers, was clear that BNP membership was no obstacle to registration.
“We don’t have a policy that says that people within the teaching profession cannot be members of the BNP,” a spokeswoman said.
Malcolm Trobe, policy director of the Association of School and College Leaders, said teachers have a right to their own political views but said “extremist views might not fall in with the conduct expected of a teacher”. He pointed in particular to “core values” such as respect, equality and diversity.