Tim Shipman, Daily Mail (London), May 11, 2009
BBC bosses were last night accused of going soft on the far-Right British National Party.
Campaigners and MPs said news chiefs were guilty of a ‘whitewash’ for delaying a programme investigating the group’s extremist views until after next month’s European elections.
The June 4 poll could see the party gain seats in the Brussels Parliament for the first time.
The programme, produced by BBC Wales, investigates a senior BNP activist with links to the South African security services.
The shelved investigation, being produced by BBC Wales, features Arthur Kemp, the South African head of BNP election distribution, who was arrested following the murder of anti-apartheid activist Chris Hani, in 1993.
Although subsequently released, Kemp admitted producing a list of names of prominent ANC activists that was found at the home of one of Hani’s killers.
Searchlight is also angry that a Newsnight report titled ‘the rising power of the BNP’ broadcast last week concluded: ‘It looks like a more moderate BNP courting voters this spring.’
The programme failed to mention that Clive Jefferson one of the BNP activists it interviewed was arrested two years ago for an alleged public order offence, following a complaint from a member of the public that he had been threatening and abusive whilst distributing BNP literature.
A second BNP figure featured in the report, Martin Wingfield, was arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned in 1985 under the Race Relations Act, following distribution of racist literature.
His criminal record was not mentioned either and BNP Deputy Leader Simon Darby advised his members to watch the broadcast, claiming it was, ‘not a bad piece overall’.
The anti-fascist group Searchlight yesterday called for an explanation as to why it would not be shown earlier.
The group claimed the BBC were ‘being played like fools’ for treating the BNP like ‘any other political party’.
‘If the BBC want to cover the BNP that’s fine, but they have to challenge them and properly expose their agenda of prejudice and hate,’ a Searchlight spokesman added.
The BNP’s leader Nick Griffin has already been offered a one to one chat with the BBC interviewer Andrew Marr if his party acquires its first MEP.
Senior Labour MP Jon Cruddas joined the outcry, writing to BBC News director Helen Boaden.
‘Membership of the BNP is proscribed in a number of public sector organisations, such as the police and the prison service,’ he wrote. He added that ‘their activists were featured, but not challenged’ by the BBC.
A BBC spokesman said the programme was always meant to be shown after the elections and denied the corporation failed to scrutinise the BNP.