BNP may have to admit black and Asian members after court challenge

Griffin agrees to change far-right party's membership rules. Robert Verkaik reports

Black and Asian Britons must be allowed to join the British National Party (BNP), it was claimed yesterday, after the far-right organisation caved in to legal action and agreed to change its membership rules.

The climbdown follows court proceedings brought by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which accused the BNP of having a constitution that discriminated against racial and religious groups.

In an order issued at the Central London county court, the BNP agreed to use "all reasonable endeavours" to revise its constitution so it did not unlawfully discriminate against sections of British society.

The decision could expose deep divisions in the party when its leader, Nick Griffin, tries to persuade the ultra-extremist sections of his organisation of the wisdom of the settlement.

Yesterday, the BNP claimed that its decision to consult on changing its constitution had meant it had "outflanked" the EHRC. In a statement issued last night, it accused the EHRC of acting "maliciously" by attempting to bankrupt the organisation with court costs. The proposals go before an emergency general party meeting next month.

John Wadham, the head of legal affairs at the EHRC, said yesterday: "We are pleased the party has conceded this case and agreed to all of the Commission requirements. Political parties, like any other organisation, are obliged to respect the law and not discriminate against people.

"It is unfortunate the BNP spent several months before conceding and dealing properly with our legal requirements. We will be monitoring the BNP's compliance with this court order on membership, and its other legal obligations, including to its constituents."

But Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group Liberty, said: "A shiny new constitution does not a democratic party make. It would be a pyrrhic victory, to say the least, if anyone thought that giving the BNP a facelift would make the slightest difference to a body with so much racism and hatred pumping through its veins."

Commenting on the decision, the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "Even if the BNP complies with this judgement, its unpleasant, intolerant and racist objectives will remain. The BNP will continue to peddle hatred and fear." Richard Barnbrook, the BNP representative on the London Assembly, said he believed party members would vote in favour of a reformed constitution.

He said: "I believe the vote will go for yes, the first reason being that trying to fight this court case would bankrupt the party, and we have more important issues to deal with, including elections."

The BNP has also agreed in the settlement to freeze its membership list until the changes have been made.

The EHRC has a statutory duty, under the Equality Act 2006 to enforce the provisions of the act and to work towards eliminating unlawful discrimination. This duty includes preventing discrimination by political parties.

The Commission sent a letter to the BNP on 22 June setting out its concerns about the party's constitution and membership criteria, which appear to restrict membership to those within what the BNP regards as particular "ethnic groups" and those whose skin colour is white.

This exclusion is contrary to the Race Relations Act, with which the party is legally obliged to comply.

In its letter, the Commission asked the BNP to provide written undertakings that it would amend its constitution and membership criteria to ensure it did not discriminate against potential members on racial grounds.

Following the BNP's failure to comply with these requirements, on 24 August the Commission issued county court proceedings against Nick Griffin and two other party officials, Simon Darby and Tanya Jane Lumby. The court heard Mr Griffin would be given 10 days to submit a signed undertaking confirming the proposed changes. The case was adjourned until 28 January.

Outlawed: The BNP constitution

The British National Party has given an undertaking to change its membership rules to allow non-whites to join.

According to the BNP's constitution, which has now been suspended, membership was restricted to people derived from "Indigenous Caucasian" stock. Those who qualified as being from "indigenous British ethnic groups" included the "Anglo-Saxon folk community" and the "Celtic Scottish folk community".

A revised constitution is to be presented to members next month.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape