Page last updated at 17:21 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Profile: Nick Griffin

Nick Griffin is leader of the British National Party and has been a member of the European Parliament since the 2009 elections.

Nick Griffin
Mr Griffin studied history and law at Cambridge

A smartly-dressed, Cambridge-educated married man with four children, he has written of the need to "normalise" a party which has its roots in the National Front and, when he took over as leader in 1999, was chiefly associated in the public mind with skinheads and swastikas.

He has portrayed himself as a defender of free speech against the politically correct "liberal establishment".

But he has a controversial past, which includes a 1998 conviction for incitement to racial hatred relating to material denying the Holocaust.

'Not a Nazi'

During a controversial appearance on BBC One's Question Time, he insisted his views had been widely misrepresented in the media and he denied a string of statements attributed to him, including a quote from 2006 that "Adolf went a bit too far".

"I am not a Nazi and never have been," he said.

"I am the most loathed man in Britain in the eyes of Britain's Nazis. They loathe me because I have brought the British National Party from being, frankly, an anti-Semitic and racist organisation into being the only political party which, in the clashes between Israel and Gaza, stood full square behind Israel's right to deal with Hamas terrorists."

Nick Griffin is pelted with eggs
Mr Griffin's public appearances are targeted by protesters

Under Mr Griffin, the BNP has sought to branch out from being solely preoccupied with immigration and racial politics, projecting itself as a defender of the British way of life.

But its core policy remains an immediate end to all immigration and the "voluntary repatriation" of legal immigrants and British citizens of foreign descent. Until 2001, the party advocated forced repatriation.

And the BNP under 51-year-old Mr Griffin is still best known for its political involvement in areas with racial tensions.

It has performed well in some local council elections - but has also been accused of stirring up antagonism - particularly against Muslims - in places such as Oldham, Burnley and Bradford.

In 2004, Mr Griffin was secretly filmed by the BBC telling a crowd Islam was a "wicked, vicious faith".

The footage sparked a police investigation but Mr Griffin and BNP activist Mark Collett were cleared of race hate offences in 2006 after two highly-publicised trials.

Family involvement

Born in 1959, the BNP leader comes from a wealthy family with a history of involvement in right-wing politics.

His father, Edgar, was a longstanding member of the Conservative Party, but was expelled in August 2001 over his links with the BNP.

He took his son to his first National Front meeting at the age of 15.

After attending a private school in Suffolk, Mr Griffin went to Cambridge University in 1977, where he studied history and law at Downing College.

While there, he founded the Young National Front Students and gained a lower-second-class degree and a boxing blue.

Mr Griffin, who is married to a former nurse and has four children, rose through the ranks of the party, becoming national organiser in 1978.

The National Front gradually fell apart in the late 1980s and Mr Griffin was instrumental in founding one of the more obscure factions to come out of the split.

Breakthrough

It was called "the International Third Position", which advocated a right-wing cross between socialism and capitalism.

In 1990, Mr Griffin had an accident that left him blind in one eye. He then experienced financial difficulties in 1991 after a business project he was involved in went badly wrong.

Mr Griffin joined the BNP in 1995 and ousted John Tyndall as leader four years later.

He has since attempted to emulate the electoral success of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of France's right-wing National Front, who came second in the country's presidential election in 2002.

The party's biggest breakthrough came in June 2009 when it gained two seats under the proportional representation system used in European Parliament elections.

Mr Griffin was elected for the North West region and Andrew Brons picked up a seat in Yorkshire and Humber after a collapse in Labour's vote.

Mr Griffin will be hoping that his party can make a similar breakthrough in the first past the post voting system used in Westminster elections.



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