Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Court gives BNP last chance to scrap whites-only policy

Nick Griffin
BNP leader Nick Griffin wants to change the party's constitution

The British National Party has been warned it has one last chance to scrap its whites-only membership policy or face a possible court injunction.

BNP leader Nick Griffin was told party rules complying with race relations law must be agreed at an extraordinary general meeting in two weeks' time.

There were scuffles outside the Central London County Court as Mr Griffin tried to speak to reporters after the case.

About eight anti-fascist protesters were demonstrating on the court steps.

BNP officials were forced to rush out letters to the party's 14,000 members in the last post in order to achieve the 14 days needed to alert them to the proposed changes.

'Powerful submissions'

Even then there remained queries over whether the amended version would go far enough to satisfy lawyers from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Robin Allen QC, representing the EHRC, told the hearing the changes the party had proposed to its constitution were "highly suspect" and "unquestionably" racially discriminatory.

We are pledged to the continued creation, fostering, maintenance and existence of the unity and of the integrity of the Indigenous British
Proposed BNP constitution

He said that making potential members agree that they supported the "unity and integrity of the indigenous British" would in effect bar some people from joining.

Judge Paul Collins told the hearing that "on the face of it" the EHRC had put forward "powerful submissions", saying some passages in the proposed text were vague.

But he declined to rule on the legality of the new constitution until after the party had held an extraordinary general meeting (EGM), which is due to take place at a secret location on 14 February.

Deciding on an adjournment, Judge Collins said: "I'm going to give the BNP an opportunity to have its EGM and take into account what has been said today and get it right.

"I do not think there will be another opportunity to get it right. This is it."

He ordered the BNP to pay the £12,500 in court costs relating to the adjourned session.

Party principles

Mr Griffin has urged party members to back the changes to its constitution, saying it must "adapt or die" but he also condemned the EHRC action as "cynical and despicable" and a "waste of public money".

He has blamed the delay in holding a vote to change the constitution on difficulties with finding a race relations lawyer to represent the party and a secure venue at which to hold the EGM, as well as the "complexity" of the document itself.

In the proposed new constitution BNP members must be "indigenous British by descent or origin", or "of any other descent or origin" and who "bona fide supports and agrees with each of the Principles of the Party".

The party's new statement of principles includes: "We are pledged to the continued creation, fostering, maintenance and existence of the unity and of the integrity of the Indigenous British and of the government of ... our 'British Homeland'."

It also states that the party is "implacably opposed to the promotion by any means of any form of integration or assimilation of any indigenous people, including the Indigenous British, which is likely to deprive such people of their integrity as a distinct people or the distinctiveness of their cultural values or of their ethnic or national identities or characteristics".

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