A night of the long knives?

Once in favour, now out of favour:
Peter Rushton is seen here in background as
Nick Griffin speaks at the RWB camp in 2001.

IN JULY there was an announcement on the British National Party web site that Peter Rushton, a well-known and popular activist in the North West of England and one of the BNP's best speakers, had been excommunicated from the party and that members should henceforth have no contact with him. Precisely what Mr. Rushton had done to deserve this treatment was not specified - except that he was supposed to have passed on to Searchlight magazine some information that certain party officers had fed to him as a 'trap'. The announcement did not say what the information was, nor was any proof offered that if it came into the possession of Searchlight it was through him and not through someone else. 'Proof was anyway superfluous because no disciplinary trial had been held at which Peter could have defended himself and challenged the allegations made against him -supposing that he had been told precisely what they were, which he never was!
    The weakness of Peter's position was that for a year or two he had failed to renew his party membership subscription, so that it was possible for the party administration to classify him as a 'non-member' and thus deny him such a trial. This was unfortunate but it would not necessarily have made any difference. Some short time before, two other people who had held current party membership were handed punishments by disciplinary tribunals for 'offences' that might seem trivial compared with the case of another member against whom no disciplinary action has ever been taken - a matter we will come to later. These were the currently serving South Wales regional organiser Terry Cavill and the former West Midlands regional organiser Keith Axon. Mr. Cavill's 'offence' had been to take part in a leafleting activity in support of Steve Edwards, another former BNP regional organiser, who last Spring was standing as a candidate in an election to Sandwell Borough Council on behalf of the Freedom Party, a BNP breakaway group. Mr. Cavill's action in leafleting on Steve Edwards' behalf might have been considered unwise, but as the latter was a personal friend of his and there were anyway no BNP council candidates standing in South Wales at the time it seems stretching it to designate it as a 'hanging offence'. Most people would have thought that a reprimand, at the very most, would suffice, but the tribunal decided on expulsion.
    Keith Axon's alleged offence was to have spread false and malicious rumours when speaking at a meeting in Cardiff in criticism of the BNP chairman Nick Griffin. Mr. Axon maintains to this day that he did not do as alleged but that he was given a year's suspension of membership by a 'kangaroo court' whose verdict had been decided well in advance.

Contrasting treatment
    Whatever the facts concerning the Axon case, the handling of it contrasted glaringly with the case of Tony Lecomber, the party's group development officer, a paid party employee and one of its highest-ranking officials, who last year produced and distributed a spoof local news-paper (referred to elsewhere in this issue) in which he accused BNP founder and Spearhead editor John Tyndall of being a 'thief - at least equally a false and malicious rumour, one would have thought, but which did not result in Mr. Lecomber being required to appear at any disciplinary enquiry, least of all given any disciplinary punishment. The inconsistency in the treatment of these two cases was dealt with in a report in Spearhead published in February this year.
    But this was not the only instance of Tony Lecomber being given licence to do whatever he likes in the BNP and being, apparently, immune to any disciplinary action. Earlier this Summer, a party supporter in London, Alex Cooper, received an anonymous letter alleging extremely insulting remarks being made against him and his wife by another supporter and activist Dave Hill. Alex was immediately suspicious about the letter and contacted Dave concerning it. The two recognised straightaway that the ill-disguised hand-writing in the letter and on the accompanying envelope belonged to Tony Lecomber, and that this was just a little piece of 'dirty tricks' by Mr. Lecomber to cause friction between the two - both of whom had clashed with him over party matters. Another member telephoned Mr. Lecomber and asked him if he was the writer of the letter - to which he replied that he had no comment!
    The matter was reported to Nick Griffin, who at first acknowledged that the handwriting just had to be Tony Lecomber's and that he was extremely displeased at Lecomber's behaviour.
    But when later pressed as to whether any disciplinary proceedings would be taken against Lecomber he indicated that he intended not, and that Lecomber was "a very valued colleague."
    Should anyone think that we have made up this story, we would advise them to contact Dave Hill and obtain corroboration. Dave is active in the party's East London branch and any communication intended for him can be sent through that channel.

    We have mentioned the Freedom Party, formed from a breakaway from the BNP. Our editor strongly opposed the decision to set up that party and made strenuous efforts to dissuade those concerned. However, it must be said that the events leading to the formation of the party revolved largely around the expulsions in 2000 by Nick Griffin of Steve Edwards and his wife Sharron from the BNP - later rescinded after a stormy meeting in the West Midlands held in support of the two forced Mr. Griffin to back down. The expulsions were made following questions being asked by the two and by others concerning Mr. Griffin's handling of the party's financial affairs. Though Mr. and Mrs. Edwards were at the time card-carrying party members, they were never granted any trial.

Causing' dissension'
    Others too have in recent times been excom-municated from and proscribed by the party with no evidence produced of any wrongdoing that might warrant such action, let alone any trial at which they might defend themselves. Among these have been West Midlands activist Graham Monnes and East London activist Bob James. In one general members' bulletin the proscription of Mr. James was announced with the explan-ation that he had caused 'dissension' among party activists and at meetings. We are not in a position to know one way or the other as to whether that allegation was justified or not, but our experience, speaking generally, is that causing 'dissension' often amounts to no more than expressing criticism of the party leadership. Tony Lecomber, of course, is never guilty of causing 'dissension'!
    In the bulletin announcing the action taken against Bob James it was stated: "No BNP member should henceforth have anything to do with him, and anyone doing so will be guilty of a serious disciplinary offence." A moment's thought will establish that this is not only paranoid but completely ridiculous. No one can dictate to individuals whom they may associate with in their own free time. Whoever wrote that passage in the bulletin might well himself qualify for disciplinary action on the grounds of his making the BNP a laughing stock. However, not being afflicted with summer madness we make so such suggestion!
Internal party discipline most certainly has to be maintained, and no one is more supportive than we are of sensible actions taken by the BNP to this purpose. But if disciplinary rules in the party are to be treated with respect they must be seen to be enforced both impartially and with practical regard for what is possible in an organ-isation of volunteers.
    With recent expulsions and excommunications, many are being left with the thought that what we are witnessing in the BNP is a latter-day night of the long knives, a demented purge of people whose real crime is to harbour 'forbidden' thoughts about certain people in positions of power, and about certain policy changes, in the party rather than to have committed actions against the party itself.

From Spearhead magazine - Issue 403, Sept. 2002