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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Griffin's 'foolish' BNP phone call
Edgar Griffin
Mr Griffin said he still supports Mr Duncan Smith
The Iain Duncan Smith supporter at the centre of the row over British National Party links said he regrets causing embarrassment to the Conservative leadership hopeful.

Speaking on the doorstop of home in mid Wales, 79-year-old Edgar Griffin, father of BNP chairman Nick Griffin, told BBC Wales that the whole affair was "a storm in a teacup."

We all make mistakes - that was one that I made and I regret having embarrassed Mr Duncan Smith

Edgar Griffin
"I answered the phone once quite inadvertently because my wife was over posting some letters," he said.

"She was waiting for a call from a friend from abroad and I foolishly picked it up - it's as simple as that."

He said he was flabbergasted by his expulsion from the Conservative party.

Sympathy for candidate

The former air force man remained sympathetic to the Chingford and Woodford Green MP, who sacked him as a vice-president to his campaign over the controversy, and predicted he would beat Ken Clarke to the leadership by a massive majority.

He said: "We all make mistakes - that was one that I made and I regret having embarrassed Mr Duncan Smith.

"Poor Duncan Smith's campaign is obviously embarrassed.

Edgar Griffin¿s Welshpool home
Mr Griffin lives at Welshpool in mid Wales
"I will withdraw immediately for that, but I shall still be prepared to hand round his manifesto in the Welshpool area because I'm flat-out for the Duncan Smith campaign.

"A lot of these people stirring up trouble now for me are relative newcomers and they are afraid of their own shadows - it's ridiculous.

"I suppose they're trying to protect their backs from the Clarke campaign, who would like to make up some lost ground because their campaign doesn't seem to have got off the ground."

'Connections known'

Mr Griffin said Welsh Conservatives knew of his association to family members Nick Griffin and wife Jean, who recently defected from the Tory party and stood against Mr Duncan Smith at the last general election.

He branded his treatment by the party "a poor reward" for his grassroots work over the years and said he has been a Conservative member since 1948.

He said a vote for Mr Clarke could mean eventual entry into a European super state.

"Our independence would go forever," he said. "I didn't fight for 18 months in the home guard and five years in the RAF to lose our independence to Europe."

And he claimed the BNP are "right in the middle of British politics," and "identical" to the Conservative party on issues such as trade union involvement.

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See also:

24 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Duncan Smith sacks BNP-linked backer
19 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Clarke 'not surprised' by Hague snub
19 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Tory rivals prepare for ballot
18 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Hague backs Duncan Smith
18 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Clarke denies personal tactics
17 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Lib Dems welcome 'wipe out' threat
16 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Clarke: I'm best chance for Tories
15 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Tories enter contest's final stretch
15 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Tories warned of 'mighty task ahead'
29 Jul 01 | UK Politics
No euro purge says Duncan Smith
21 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Thatcher backs Duncan Smith
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