The British National Party is a serious political force with policies extending far beyond the question of immigration, we were assured as we waited patiently for the arrival of its leader, Nick Griffin, at the launch of his general election manifesto yesterday.
Then in he walked – an aspirant prime minister in waiting – trailing awkwardly into the municipal splendour of Stoke-on-Trent civic centre behind a man dressed in what looked worryingly like a pair of curtains and wearing a saucepan on his head.
In fact Ian Kitchen, a member of the party's northern security team, was dressed up as St George because this was the feast day of the great Turkish-born dragon slayer adopted as a national symbol by the medieval Christian church in England. What better occasion to unveil a 90-page document which describes the prospects of Turkey's 75 million predominantly Muslim population joining the European Union as the "final solution against all European nations"?
Normal English voters can feel empathy for the saint, explained Mr Griffin, because they – like him – are "exiles in their own homeland". But at least there was no danger of mistaking Mr Kitchen for a real soldier this time – unlike the fake squaddie who followed the BNP leader around earlier in the campaign.
It would have been easier to take Mr Kitchen seriously if we had not just been promised by deputy leader Simon Darby, who is standing in Stoke Central, that the BNP's manifesto, Democracy, Freedom, Culture and Identity, offered something "completely different" – bringing a hint of Spamalot to proceedings.
But instead of Mr Griffin pretending to be one of Monty Python's Knights Who Say Ni! he revealed that he had had very little to do with the document, which he described as a "serious piece of political kit".
In a mark of its seriousness he pointed out that just eight pages were devoted to immigration while 16 were given over to sorting out the state of the economy. And there were some eye-catching policies among the usual promises to send back asylum-seekers, debunk climate change and "confront the Islamic colonisation of Britain".
A future Queen's Speech written by Messrs Griffin and Darby would include legislation to make beer cheaper in British pubs, introduce formal bank holidays for all national saints' days and reintroduce capital punishment for drug dealers and child murderers. Householders would be allowed to defend their property by "whatever means necessary" and a penal station for extremely dangerous criminals (including rapists) would be built on the British island of South Georgia. Out would go wind turbines and foreign aid and in would come a new high-speed 200mph magnetic levitation inter-city rail network. Traffic congestion would be brought under control by curbing the "immigration invasion".
These measures would be funded by slicing £80bn off the annual budget by, among other things, withdrawing from Afghanistan and pulling out of the European Union.
After delivering his manifesto Mr Griffin proved that he was now truly a serious party leader by striding off hand in hand with his wife, Jackie, dressed fetchingly in a patriotic red rose print dress. She said she had no intention of taking on the likes of Sam Cam or Sarah Brown because, by contrast, she had a "real job".
Although obviously "very proud" of her husband, she said that she was only there as his car was in the garage.Reuse content