Page last updated at 23:52 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 00:52 UK

BNP leader upbeat after egg incident

By Arif Ansari
BBC North West political editor

Nick Griffin
Nick Griffin held a meeting to discuss his role at the European Parliament

This is supposed to be Nick Griffin's honeymoon period.

On Wednesday the BNP leader was in Manchester to explain what he plans to do as an MEP.

A lot of people were there to see him but very few of them were there to listen.

While the North West voted him into office, there are many people who remain deeply opposed to his views.

Quite possibly the BNP showed a certain naivety in their choice of location for Mr Griffin's launch.

It is well known he has used the Ace of Diamonds pub before for various events.

Protest outside

When the party asked journalists to meet nearby on the Oldham Road, it did not take an intelligence officer to work out where the final destination was likely to be.

A Liberal Democrat councillor felt compelled to share this information with the wider world on a press release, and sure enough the elements were put in place for a confrontation.

A crowd of about 30 "anti-fascists" stood outside the pub chanting slogans and jostling with police.

The BNP had publicly complained that the Metropolitan Police had not done enough to stop protesters disrupting its Westminster news conference earlier in the week.

Mr Griffin's security team stood in the pub's driveway should anyone get close.

But the Greater Manchester Police took a firm line, keeping the demonstration away from the pub and at one stage closing the road.

Neighbouring workers angry at the protest began shouting at the demonstrators, accusing them of being on benefits.

Victory sign

Although the shutters were down, the pub itself was welcoming carefully-selected guests.

The BNP leader displayed a sense of humour by reading a newspaper which featured his egg attack on the front cover.

A sign above the bar offered free range eggs for sale but there was nobody inside to make use of the missiles.

Police officers and a protester
Protesters gathered outside the pub where Nick Griffin spoke

As usual Mr Griffin lost no opportunity to exploit the situation, arguing the demonstrators favoured freedom of speech except when it related to him.

He said Manchester City Hall had refused to allow him to use a room there, a claim later rejected by the authorities who said there had been no formal application.

A large board exclaimed "Victory in Europe" day for the party, something which had been printed before the actual result.

That result was much tighter than many people had expected. The BNP actually lost 3,000 votes compared to the last European election five years ago.

Mr Griffin said this was because overall turnout was down and pointed out his share of the vote had increased.

Expose inefficiency

Much of the questioning was taken up with the usual theme of whether the BNP was racist or not with predictably little progress.

On other issues, Mr Griffin argued there was no scientific evidence for global warming and he had no intention of trying to save the polar bear.

Well, if even the BNP refuses to stand-up for white bears, one wondered, what hope does the species have?

On Europe the BNP plans to head to Brussels and expose the inefficiency and criminal waste which it believes is happening under our collective nose.

As Mr Griffin left the Ace of Diamonds one protester was arrested after allegedly spitting at his car.

Physical opposition to the BNP is not a new phenomenon but elected office has made the leader more of a target.

But the reality is that many of his enemies do not know how to combat the BNP's message and are at risk of being criticised for preventing a legitimate party from exercising its democratic mandate.

At the same time Mr Griffin might be finding that getting elected to office was easier than exercising power.



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SEE ALSO
More protests before BNP meeting
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Egg attack on BNP leader Griffin
09 Jun 09 |  UK Politics
BNP secures two European seats
08 Jun 09 |  UK Politics
Walkout after BNP election win
08 Jun 09 |  England

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