Duncan Smith sacks aide with BNP link

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Indy Politics

The Tory leadership moved swiftly today to expel Edgar Griffin, a campaign aide of Iain Duncan Smith, from the party for "assisting the British National Party".

The annnouncement of his expulsion. by Tory acting chairman David Prior, followed the sacking of the far-right from Mr Duncan Smith's leadership campaign.

Mr Duncan Smith accused his rival in the Conservative leadership contest of smears but the presence of Mr Griffin, who is father of Nick Griffith, the BNP chairman, in his campaign literature was seen as a severe embarrassment for the candidate, who is regarded as being on the right of his party.

Duncan Smith said in interviews that he had sacked Mr Griffin "minutes" after hearing that he was involved in his campaign in Wales, and stated his opposition to the far-right party. Mr Griffin, 79, was one of about 40 vice-presidents whose name appeared on Mr Duncan Smith's campaign literature.

Mr Griffin said that he was "absolutely shattered" at the news, and said that it was "a very poor reward" for "53 years' hard work" for the party. The retired accountant whose son was accused of helping to fuel racial unrest in Oldham and other areas earlier this year, was asked to join the Duncan Smith campaign after a call for support from Tories across Wales.

Last night Mr Griffin, from Welshpool, Powys, who is the vice-chairman of the Monmouthshire Conservative Association, said he had taken his son to a National Front meeting and said that the Conservative Party and the BNP shared polices on illegal immigration and asylum-seekers.

He said he was "on the right" and shared his opinions with the grass roots of the Tory party. "OK, so my son is the chairman of the British National Party and my wife was a prospective candidate. So what? It's a democracy."

He said he had "sympathy" for the BNP and insisted that it was a democratic party. "They picked up 16,000 votes in Oldham. You don't pick up 16,000 votes unless you have good grounds, do you?

"The two parties are almost the same in terms of long-term plans. In terms of manifestos of the Tories and the BNP, you can hardly tell the difference."

Mr Griffin added: "I think Mr Duncan Smith has a very good record. He is a man of principle and I wouldn't want to rock the boat."

Mr Duncan Smith moved swiftly to sack the former Tory councillor from the campaign after his office was alerted to allegations that Mr Griffin had links to the BNP and had answered the party's telephone.

A spokesman for Mr Duncan Smith said Mr Griffin was confronted and he resigned from the campaign.

That was denied last night by Mr Griffin, whose wife, Jean, stood for the BNP against Mr Duncan Smith in the general election. Mr Griffin said he had been asked to consider his position, but had not left the leadership campaign. He said he would resign if he caused embarrassment to the leadership contender.

But the Conservative vice-chairman Steve Norris, a supporter of Kenneth Clarke in the Tory contest, said: "Iain's problem is that however nicely he says it, his message attracts precisely these sorts of people. That's why so many of us are so determined to stop the party drifting to the right."

Mr Duncan Smith said: "I have fought them in my own constituency. I utterly abhor their views and what they stand for. I will not tolerate people who are infiltrating the Tory party and this is the sort of swift action you can expect me to take when I am leader if I find any more examples of this from whatever source."

David Jones, a former chairman of the Montgomeryshire Conservative Association, said Mr Griffin had been vice- chairman of the association for about four years.

He said: "I have known for some years that he was the father of Nick Griffin, but I cannot hold him responsible for what his son does and that has been the view of the Conservative association."