Jenny Booth, Times of London, November 19, 2008
A male police officer in Merseyside is the first alleged BNP member to face consequences at his job after the far-right party’s full membership list was leaked online.
Police called in independent investigators today after the officer’s name, occupation and contact details were listed among more than 12,000 BNP supporters on an internet blog posted on Sunday night.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said that it was waiting for official referral of the complaint about the Merseyside officer.
Police are banned from becoming members of the BNP because it would damage race relations, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).
“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 membership list was today removed from the original blog where it was published but remains available on other websites.
Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, initially accused former BNP staff members who have been sacked, telling the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “We are pretty sure [that we know who leaked it].
“We had a problem with a very senior former employee who left last year. He was one of the hardliners I inherited from my predecessor, he didn’t like the direction the party was going in, thought it was too moderate, so he broke away taking the list with him.”
The BNP won a High Court injunction against a former member in April preventing a membership list being made public.
WIthin a couple of hours, however, the BNP appeared to be backing off from accusing its former employee, and turning its sights on the Labour Party.
“It is looking increasingly likely that this is the work of Labour Party supporters,” said Simon Darby, the party spokesman. “If they have not protected their IP [internet service provider address] properly, there will be an electronic trail leading back to the culprit.”
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, showed little sympathy over the leak. She told Sky News: “It probably says something about the BNP that people don’t want to have it known that they are a member.”
Mr Griffin was forced to deny that Mr Darby had intended to threaten violence when he said 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”.
Mr Griffin told Today: “There is no threat of violence as is being reported today.”
Others whose names, jobs and contact details are posted online were this morning in fear of their jobs, as the names include prison officers, who in 2002 were also explicitly banned by their employers from holding BNP membership.
Teachers, doctors and serving members of the Armed Forces are among the members listed, and may now face questioning from colleagues and bosses over whether belonging to a party that expresses racist views is compatible with the caring ethos and emphasis on equality in their work.
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 law.
Mr Griffin admitted that the Human Rights Act was one of the BNP’s pet hates, but denied that using it to enforce the privacy of its members was hypocrisy.
“No, we are not in favour of the Human Rights Act, it is a European piece of legislation, but as it is there we will happily use it if we can,” he said. “I don’t think that European law can be used to defend freedom as the two things are fundamentally at odds, but it’s certainly something that can be used to defend privacy.”
Mr Griffin said that the BNP had no problem with the professions of its members being known, “but the moment any journalist goes as far as to put someone’s name and address in the public domain, when precisely who holds what political opinion is a private matter, then I think that we are moving from legitimate journalism and into a very nasty piece of intimidation on behalf of the Labour Government”.
Mr Griffin accused Labour of trying to persecute the BNP. This month Labour MPs began moves in the Commons to enshrine in law the right of trade unions to refuse membership to those who belong to the BNP—a right already upheld in a test case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg involving the train drivers’ union Aslef.
Many rank-and-file BNP members have turned on their party leader over the leak, in angry postings on the internet. “If Griffin cannot keep the membership secure he should resign,” said a typical posting, on the NorthWestNationalists website. Possible names for who was responsible for leaking the list were being touted.