Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Sunday, 15 November 2009

BNP attempts to reach out

By Ross Hawkins
BBC political correspondent

BNP leader Nick Griffin
Mr Griffin hopes to capture a Westminster seat at the next election

A sports bar and gym building on the fringes of an industrial estate outside Wigan is an unlikely setting for a political conference.

It would be difficult to tell a party with two members of the European Parliament was meeting here, were it not for the police van opposite.

But the men in black ties on the door have not come to work out. They are BNP security guards.

And they have orders to keep journalists away from the bar where the conference is taking place.

'Loyally assimilated'

Leader Nick Griffin says the officials here have voted to ask the full party membership whether its constitution should be changed to allow members of ethnic minorities to join.

He says: "To have members of loyal assimilated minorities in this country involved in the party as well, I'm sure, will actually help."

The change has been forced on the BNP by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It is not clear whether the party has taken it to heart.

In a film on its website an unnamed BNP member says he is going to demonstrate the effect of failed immigration policies.

"We'll show you exactly what's going on," he says. "What you're about to see is horrific."

The video then cuts to a shot of black and Asian shoppers on Wembley High Street.

The party's next focus though is not a membership drive, but Mr Griffin's attempt to become an MP. He intends to fight his campaign in Barking Constituency.

He has stood unsuccessfully as a candidate several times before. However his election to the European Parliament this year means his campaign will attract more attention this time round.

Having a BNP member of the House of Commons would - of course - be a huge fillip to the party.

But the first-past-the-post system used at Westminster elections means he would need a much higher share of the vote than the 8% his party won in the North West of England to secure him a seat representing the area in the European Parliament.

To do that the party's message will have to be heard well beyond the sports bar hosting its conference.

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