Bankruptcy of Nick Griffin deals further blow to British National party
Party dogged by financial claims and dearth of councillors could be absent from UK after European elections, say experts
Rowena Mason and Matthew Taylor
Friday 3 January 2014 18.27 GMT
The bankruptcy of the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, has dealt a further blow to the far-right organisation, which has been rocked by the departure of scores of key activists and a dramatic slump in its popularity at the ballot box.
Griffin‘s name was published by the Insolvency Service after he was declared bankrupt at Welshpool and Newtown county court on Thursday. This followed a dispute between Griffin and a firm of solicitors over outstanding debts of £120,000.
The judgment marks a new low for Griffin and the BNP, which a few years ago boasted 57 councillors, two MEPs and a London assembly member.
Now the party, which has been dogged by allegations of financial mismanagement, has just a smattering of local councillors, and experts say that by May the UK could be “BNP-free” for the first time in a decade if Griffin fails to retain his seat in the European parliamentary elections.
“The important point is that, while Griffin is now personally bankrupt, the party he leads is undoubtedly politically bankrupt,” said Matthew Goodwin, an expert on far-right politics at Nottingham University. “The BNP is finished in elections, and at the European elections this May Griffin is almost certain to lose his seat in the north-west, which will mean for the first time since 2001 Britain will be effectively BNP-free.”
The bankruptcy ruling does not prevent Griffin from standing as an MEP, and on Twitter on Friday he confirmed he would be defending the seat he won in 2009. “Party funds are not affected in any way. Our campaign in May will be our most professional yet and I will be lead candidate in the north-west,” he said.
The BNP spokesman Simon Darby said the judgment followed a dispute between Griffin and his former solicitors, Gilbert Davies and Partners, who represented him in a legal battle with the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2010 – a case that ended with a court ruling that the BNP’s constitution was racially discriminatory.
The firm, in Griffin’s home town of Welshpool, had claimed the BNP leader owed it £77,000 plus costs. At an earlier hearing, Griffin had been ordered to pay nearly £120,000 in outstanding moneys and costs to the firm.
Darby said that Griffin had no assets as the family’s smallholding near Welshpool was in his wife’s name.
Gilbert Davies refused to answer questions about the case.
But some analysts said the ruling was “another nail in the coffin” for the BNP.
Goodwin said: “The context to this is the implosion of the BNP more generally. The number of BNP members has collapsed by up to 90% according to some estimates, which leaves the party in a very fragile position, especially as most of its key activists have either left politics altogether or joined rival far-right groups.”
As recently as 2009, when it won two seats at the European parliament and had a London assembly member, the BNP appeared to be on the brink of breaking through into mainstream British politics. However, since then it has been beset by vicious internal feuds and an implosion of support that saw it lose all but three of its councillors last year.
In October last year Andrew Brons, the party’s second MEP announced he was quitting the BNP with an angry statement claiming that the vast majority of the party’s membership, activists and former officials had already left. He blamed Griffin, for “having destroyed the party of which he is still nominally head”.
On Friday Darby refused to say how many councillors the BNP had. A spokesman for the Local Government Association said its records showed the party had just two councillors, excluding town or parish councils.