BNP votes in favour of non-whites

Anti-immigration party changes its rules – but says it will never be 'multi-racial'

The British National Party (BNP) is to open its doors to black and Asian members after voting to scrap its whites-only rules.

The move was forced on the anti-immigration party by legal action that could have crippled its finances. Nick Griffin, its leader, urged members to approve changes to its constitution after a court instructed it to comply with anti-discrimination legislation.

He told them there was no alternative if the BNP was to take part in this year's general election, but he reassured hard-line members that it would never become a "multi-racial" party.

The decision to ditch the rule that restricted membership to "indigenous Caucasians" was announced after an extraordinary general meeting of the BNP in Hornchurch, east London.

The party is now set to sign up its first ethnic minority member: Rajinder Singh, a 78-year-old Sikh from Northamptonshire, who is a bitter critic of Islam. Mr Griffin said: "I will be absolutely delighted to shake his hand and give him his membership card."

The BNP leader said he expected a "trickle, rather than a flood" of applications from ethnic minority Britons. He said: "We are happy to accept anyone as a member, providing they agree with us that this country should remain fundamentally British."

Yesterday's meeting was called after the Central London County Court told the BNP to amend its constitution or face legal action by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The BNP is due to return to court next month to argue that its constitution now complies with race relations laws.

In a message to members, Mr Griffin had warned his party that they faced "legal financial meltdown", and would be unable to contest elections, if it challenged the court ruling. He added: "As for the BNP becoming a 'multi-racial' organisation, this will never happen."

The party denounced the action as politically motivated, describing the EHRC as a "government quango using the judicial process to try to nobble a political opponent". One member said after yesterday's meeting: "It was a necessity rather than something we wanted to do from the heart."

The party's revised constitution, which says it welcomes members from all backgrounds but still represents the interests of the "indigenous British", will be sent to the EHRC within days.

A spokeswoman for the commission said: "We haven't yet seen what the changes are, but hope the BNP's revised membership policy is no longer discriminatory ... When we have received this we will consider our position ahead of the next court hearing on March 9."

The EHRC first wrote to the BNP in June, to raise concerns that it believed the BNP's rules "discriminate against potential or actual members on racial grounds", despite a pledge from the party to clarify the word "white" on its website.

A spokesman for anti-fascist group Searchlight said: "This is a meaningless gesture by the BNP. No one seriously believes that thousands of black and Asian Britons will now be queuing up to join Nick Griffin's party. The BNP are as racist and extremist as ever."

The BNP had its most successful electoral year in 2009, winning two seats in the European Parliament and its first three places on county councils. The European breakthrough led to the BBC One's controversial invitation to Mr Griffin to appear on Question Time.

The party's main election hopes rest on the seat of Barking, east London, where Mr Griffin is trying to oust Margaret Hodge, Labour's Culture Minister.

The BNP's Sikh supporter: Rajinder Singh

After the BNP voted to allow non-whites to join the party yesterday, the first to sign up is likely to be Rajinder Singh, a 78-year-old Sikh. Mr Singh, a retired teacher, has been sympathetic towards the BNP since hearing Nick Griffin on television in 2001. He has since written for the party's newspaper, Freedom, appeared on its internet TV channel, BNPTV, and voted for them.

In 2005 he provided a character reference for Mr Griffin at his trial for inciting racial hatred. Mr Singh came to the UK from India in 1967. He blames Muslims for the death of his father during the Partition of India in 1947. He said: "I got in touch with the BNP on certain core policies that appeal to me. I also admire them since they are on their own patch, and do not wish to let anyone else oust them from the land of their ancestors."

Martin Wingfield, the BNP's communications and campaigns officer, has recently told members: "I say adapt and survive and give the brave and loyal Rajinder Singh the honour of becoming the first ethnic minority member of the BNP."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
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

Nursery assistants required across Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

SEN 1:1 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified teache...

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

English and Media Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English & Media Teacher - ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week