Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 8 May 2007

The police and the BNP

The Guardian is reporting that Greater Manchester Police is investigating claims that it has British National Party (BNP) members in its ranks. It seems that some police officers called to enforce the peace outside a Manchester pub where BNP supporters had gathered to celebrate St George's Day (23rd April) had spotted off-duty police officers at the event.

I will repeat a comment I have made in this blog several times in the past: whilst the BNP is an odious organisation promulgating odious policies and beliefs it is NOT an illegal organisation.

The Guardian points out that Greater Manchester Police was one of the police forces where racism amongst recruits was identified by an undercover reporter; I wrote about that in October 2003. It also refers to the three-year old policy of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) under which BNP members would be dismissed from police forces, it being felt that membership of this particular political organisation is incompatible with being a police officer. My reaction at the time, and now, is that whilst I understand fully the desire of ACPO to keep racism and bigotry out of its ranks, its job is to enforce laws passed by Parliament and signed into law by Her Majesty the Queen. I am not aware that any law has been passed by Parliament, or that any statutory regulation has been introduced by the Government, to make membership of the BNP illegal. Personally I would shed no tears if membership of that organisation were to be made illegal, but ACPO has no legislative powers and it should not act as if it does.

I expressed similar views when I read in September 2004 that the Home Office was contemplating introducing a ban on BNP membership amongst civil servants and when I read in May 2005 that Scottish police forces were to screen recruits for racism, in itself a laudable aim.

Whilst I loathe and fear the BNP (I am after all a gay man, not perhaps a favourite category for these people) I do not think it wise to abandon certain of our liberties so casually by allowing bodies such as the police, or indeed the Government, to act in ways which the law makes no provision for. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, there was a very interesting programme on BBC Radio4 this evening called Turning Right (to be repeated on Sunday 13MAY07 at 5pm) about the rise of the 'Far Right' in Britain; you can listen to it again for the next week by clicking on the 'listen again' button. Amongst others interviewed was the leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, who said that he no longer believes, as he admits he did ten years ago, that the Holocaust is a myth. When asked why he had changed his mind he said:

"Because of European law; if I say I believe that, I can be extradited to France."

When asked to clarify whether this means he has actually changed what he believes rather than just what he is willing to say, he responded:

"I believe that which the law says I must believe."

He predicted that by sometime like 2040 either a political party like the BNP, or perhaps the BNP itself, could be the Government of this country; a frightening prospect. Draw your own conclusions. For myself I believe that the BNP continues to be a dangerous and loathesome organisation. Perhaps there is a case for making it illegal. There are dangers in that course of action as banning it might merely drive members and like-minded people underground, but I think this is a better and safer option than allowing the police to take the law into their own hands.

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