BNP faces legal challenege over membership restrictions

The BNP faces legal action over its "apartheid-style" membership policy that bars membership to black, Asian and Jewish people, the equalities watchdog has warned. In the first such action against a political party, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said the party may be breaching the Race Relations Act over its membership rules, which say members must be "strictly defined" as "indigenous Caucasian and defined ethnic groups emanating from that race".

Its recruitment policy and treatment of constituents may also fall foul of the legislation. Its website also states that anyone wishing to work for the party must submit a membership number, which the commission believes breaches race legislation. It is also concerned that BNP candidates elected to office do not intend to offer equal treatment to all members of the public that they represent, which would also amount to a breach of race laws.

The commission has told the party's leader, Nick Griffin, that the party has less than a month to ensure that it conforms to the legislation. It has been ordered to respond to the EHRC's edict by 20 July, agreeing to make necessary changes or face legal action, which could include fines or even imprisonment.

Mr Griffin said he believed that the BNP was not in breach of the Race Relations Act. "This has got nothing to do with colour, this is about ethnicity," he said. "Because the English, the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh are historically white, does not mean being white is the marker."