A disaffected former member of the British National Party (BNP) is alleged to have taken revenge on the party by publishing the personal details – names, addresses, telephone numbers, occupations etc – of more than 12,000 of its supporters on the web. Unsurprisingly, this has provoked a massive response and many of those named on the list are claiming to have been threatened or put at risk because of it.
Whilst the overarchng view is that the list has been published by a former member, some BNP activists have begun to point the finger at the alleged skullduggery of certain Labour activists.
Quite irrespective of who’s to blame, the BNP’s leader Nick Griffin is trying desperately to gain some victory from the situation. As he has repeatedly suggested, a previous leak of members’ names in London did the party nothing but good especially when one of those named was the ballerina Simone Clarke who had a Cuban boyfriend. So much for the BNP being racist – or so the party itself put it.
Most of the details leaked this time do not include occupations but in what has become little more than a witch-hunt, it has been suggested that some of those on the list include a director of an IT company, a computer manufacturer and a web designer. Not the average or stereotypical job of a BNP supporter.
Most worryingly, the witch-hunt has begun to take the form of calls for ‘banning’ the BNP and for ousting those supporters that are in certain jobs. Given that the list is alleged to include serving police officers – who would be banned from BNP membership – investigations have already begun on Merseyside. Similarly, there is also a prison officer on the list and the Prison Service asks all recruits to confirm they are not BNP members. At least one teacher is also on the list and the teaching union NASUWT is campaigning to ban BNP members from the profession. Personally, I feel that this is a bit strong.
The BNP, as a legal political party, are denouncing this as discrimination and say they are not a racist party but a party concerned about immigration and in favour of voluntary, not compulsory, repatriation of non-European immigrants. Given the circumstances, it would seem that the BNP may have some recourse to law under the Human Rights Act 1998 which protects the right to freedom of expression, freedom of belief, privacy and of course, not to be discriminated against on the basis of political affiliation. Griffin has already suggested that he will go to court to protect his members’ human rights, to prevent any further leaks and to try to stop the further dissemination of personal information.
Having written repeatedly on this blog about my dislike for the BNP and its beliefs, I do not however believe that we should be able to ban something just because we do not like it. As I have also written about quite extensively on this blog, things that we do not like or do not agree with are entirely subjective. They tend to be personal, emotional and – at times – even completely irrational, typically being for little more than because we ‘don’t like it’. This is not a good enough reason and is, without doubt, an extremely slippery slope upon which to go.
So as with my calls for the right to offend and the right to be offended, so the BNP has the right to exist and for its members not to be discriminated against even if many of us absolutely deplore what the Party stands for or indeed the legacy it has emerged out of.
My suggestion then is to view the list, check whether any of your family and friends are on it, see who lives near you and then move on without the need to ban anyone or anything.
Everything on this site by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. www.chris-allen.co.uk.