Making a bid for the leadership of the British National Party is no easy matter. An ordinary member is required to have five years uninterrupted membership, has to obtain one hundred signatures from supporters (as opposed to a present officer who only needs ten signatures), is banned (or at least discouraged) from attending meetings to proselytize for him/her self and faces a barrage of criticism, accusation and misinformation, while the current leader Nick Griffin attends all the meetings he can and lays the propaganda on with a trowel himself and via his minions.
Not altogether surprising then, that the Colin Auty leadership challenge is in trouble. The major purge of members that took place after last year's leadership challenge is clearly making the membership wary of signing for Auty - a tacit admission that they are unhappy with the current leader. There have also been strong hints that if this challenge goes ahead, Nick Griffin will make it his business (with the help of an impotent and pointless Advisory Council) to change the system so that a challenge can only be made once every four or five years - a rumour that horrifies the dissidents within the party who have managed to persuade Auty to make the challenge in a doubtless vain attempt to see the former rebels reinstated and a few of the older members returning to the fold.
Although the result of the challenge last year was lauded as a mandate for Nick Griffin to continue his role as party dictator, it was clear that only 39% of the party membership had voted for him. Spin that as you will, 39% does not make a mandate. Nevertheless, Griffin's leadership was made more secure, and despite continually mediocre election results (just ten new councillors at the recent elections as opposed to the BNP predictions of forty) and with conditions as near-perfect as the BNP could hope, his position remains internally unassailable.
And unassailable it will remain, if Griffin and his acolytes have anything to do with it. Since rumours of Auty's challenge have emerged, the dirty tricks department of the BNP has been on overtime. Lee Barnes, the party's insane legal beagle, dashed out a letter to the membership as soon as the news became public, attacking Auty as being a 'puupet' for the machinations of the December rebel's group (or Voice of Change, as they call themselves). Certainly, they have openly given their backing to Auty though, as time passes, rumours of fragmentation reach us. Indeed, it was announced only yesterday that Steve Blake, one of the key rebels, has decided not to support Auty's challenge after all. Others, it seems, are following his example. Chris Beverly, former Griffin blue-eyed boy, has also backed off following pressure from above.
Barnes' letter was swiftly followed by another, this time from the party's National Elections Officer, Eddy Butler. Butler, like Barnes, made no bones about his contempt for the challenger:
'But the backers of this ridiculous bid should reconsider their aimless tactic. People should refuse to sign the nomination papers. It is a distraction and a waste of time and effort and it will end up almost certainly with the constitution changed in a way that destroys the important Right of the possibility of a yearly election. Standing a no-hoper is stupid, mindless and fatally undermines our Constitution. It is a pitiful and moronic – a bankrupt tactic by people who can only be described as having gone giddy to the extent that they are now without the imagination to think how they can raise issues in a legitimate way.
This election, if it goes ahead, should be carried out in the most rapid manner possible with zero publicity allowed for the joke candidate...'
We're told that the party has banned ALL discussion on the Auty challenge on its own forum, thus stifling the possibility of dissent and avoiding giving Auty the opportunity of presenting the reasons for his opposition to Griffin. Stormfront, the playground of the many nazis within the BNP, has been awash with anti-Auty propaganda - much of it instigated by a character calling himself 'Walk towards the light' (Lee Barnes), and other far-right forums are being flooded with anti-Auty propaganda.
Rumour also reaches us that branches have been warned via regional organisers that Auty is not to be allowed a platform under any circumstances. Apart from stopping him speaking on his own behalf (while Nick Griffin zooms up and down the country attending meetings with his entourage at the expense of the membership) this is putting a severe dent in Auty's musical career, such as it is. Auty, the BNP's answer to Keith Richards, was apparently booked to play his rubbishy songs at several branches over the coming few weeks. These have now, we're told, put him on hold. Whether this is because he is challenging Griffin or simply because he's crap, we don't know.
Insults aside, it has been reported that when Auty loses (as he certainly will if the challenge goes ahead) he will be kicked out of the party, as will his supporters. His campaign manager, Roger Robertson, the BNP's former South-East Regional Organiser, has already been told that he faces a disciplinary tribunal on July 6th.
Furthermore, there is another aspect of this leadership challenge that needs to be watched. Griffin has let slip that he is sick of being challenged - using the pretext that it interferes with election planning and electioneering - and that he intends to begin the process to have challenges limited to four or five-yearly as soon as humanly possible. Even less democracy in the BNP - that least democratic of political parties.
Auty's career is in decline and will end with his failure to become party leader. Like Chris Jackson last year, Auty will, if the challenge is allowed to go ahead and he manages to get enough signatures, only have three weeks to campaign. But to whom will he campaign? Griffin, we are told, is refusing to allow Auty access to the membership list on the dubious grounds that such access would breach the Data Protection Act. This effectively kills Auty's ability to reach out to the members who might possibly give him their vote if they know of his existence. A devious and surprisingly clever move by Griffin though the Data Protection Act doesn't seem to have stopped the Barnes and Butler letters being sent out to the entire membership. Interesting how rules can be bent, isn't it.
There is one further complication for Auty that will do him no good at all; the rumour that Chris Jackson intends to stand again. If this is true, the opposition to Griffin will have two people on which to pin their single vote, thus ensuring that neither of them get any respectable numbers in the ballot. This second attempt by Jackson will do nothing for anyone except Nick Griffin, and it has become clear that Jackson is generally regarded as a stalking horse, used last year to flush out the malcontents within the party so that they could be entertainingly purged and used this year to split the vote, thus ensuring Auty's failure, and to prop up Griffin's position in the party.
Open support for Auty is, to say the least, sparse. Just twenty-three members appear on his site under the banner 'We're proudly (and openly) backing the challenge!'. Of these, seven are suspended members, one has had his membership renewal rejected, two are about to be kicked out and Auty's position is itself looking increasingly precarious. If Griffin has his way, this leadership challenge will collapse before it properly gets started. Even if he doesn't, Auty will lose and Griffin will get the security of four or five-yearly terms in office. Either way, Auty's career with the Britsh National Party is over because he had, in Eddy Butler's curious phrase, the 'temerity' to wish to stand for the leadership of the BNP.