After facing “treason” only a few weeks ago in Scotland, the BNP have had to carry out another purge within their own ranks. This time its against a far more senior member, making far more serious threats to the party leadership. The BNP have expelled 3 of their leading members, including their head of publicity, Mark Collett. Alongside Collett, two other leading BNP members have been given the heave – the party’s election organiser Eddy Butler and manager Emma Colgate. Collett is the best known of the 3 – he stood trial with Griffin a few years ago when both were charged with incitement to racial hatred, and was the subject of a documentary “Young, Nazi and Proud”.
Collett has not only been expelled, but been referred to the police for allegedly plotting to kill both Griffin and the party’s chief fundraiser and virtual owner Jim Dowson. Collett’s expulsion from the party could possibly generate discontent among some of the party’s members. Despite their electoral success there has always been a minority of BNP members in opposition to Griffin; for being a “zionist”, whitewashing any references to Nazism and his dictatorial control of the party. Despite these concerns Griffin’s expulsion of Collett is unlikely to do much damage to his standing. Collett’s appearance on the “Young, Nazi and Proud” documentary did damage to the BNP’s modernisation plans, as he was caught attacking the Jews, Churchill and the Royal Family. Griffin himself described Collett as a “pig ignorant man”, who he frequently had to berate.
More damaging to the BNP will be the expulsion of Eddy Butler. Despite not being as well known as Collett, Butler was far more valuable and useful to the party. It was Butler who began the process of turning the BNP away from street violence and on to campaigning for “Rights for Whites” in areas were there was division between white and asian residents over access to social housing. This modernisation succeeded with the BNP gaining its first councillor on the Isle of Dogs.
With the BNP at the height of its powers why are any of its members disenchanted with the party? Some might be disillusioned with the vote to accept non-white members, others may always have opposed Griffin’s modernisation plans, and wanted a return to street violence. More likely in my opinion, the discontent comes from how the party itself is run – as a virtual dictatorship of two individuals, Nick Griffin and Jim Dowson.
As party chairman Griffin has been able to enforce decisions on the party against sections of the memberships will – such as taking cash off other party regions to fund his election campaign. He has also claimed £200k in expenses from the European Parliament, despite standing on a platform of “Punish the Pigs”. These actions may have led Collett and others in the BNP to mobilise against their party’s leadership.
The other “co-owner” of the BNP is anti-abortion activist and loyalist Jim Dowson. Dowson came to prominence as the director of “Precious Life” an extreme anti-abortion group that was disowned by other anti-abortionists in the Catholic Church due to its sending of death threats to pro-choice MP’s. Dowson also has also been involved with loyalist flute bands, one of which was named after loyalist gunman Michael Stone.
Dowson joined the BNP in 2007 and since then has provided important resources into the party through a variety of companies he directs, such as election leaflets, offices and its infamous “Truth truck”. Dowson has also recruited staff to man the BNP’s call centre in Belfast. Northern Ireland is thought of a “sanctuary” by the BNP leadership, a base for them to open permanent facilites like call centres which they could not do in the UK.
At present there is no evidence of a serious split in the BNP against Griffin and Dowson’s leadership. Most of the party supports the electoral focus and is resigned to accepting black and asian members of the party given the alternative is bankruptcy. What does remain however is a disproportionate amount of personal control of the party in Dowson’s hands, and of political control in Griffin’s. Despite the BNP’s success a minority of members on far-right forums and blogs have correctly identified Griffin as one of their limiting factors. Despite his efforts to modernise the party and his success in doing so Griffin cannot excise his own past in denying the Holocaust, attacking Jews and his conviction for racial hatred.
If the BNP are going to become a far-right party on the scale of the NF in France or the Lega Nord in Italy more baggage must be dumped – specifically the BNP’s image as a racist party with a neo-Nazi past. Griffin may have to be dumped to achieve that goal, and with the power he and Dowson have in the party, that could lead to a very vicious and bloody fight indeed.