Thursday, September 03, 2009

Mea Maxima Culpa

I can't remember where, but I posted somewhere that the Left seemed to be far less paranoid than the Right when it came to the malignant influence of Her Majesty's Government. The Respect split generated vast numbers of comments at places like Socialist Unity, but nowhere did I see anyone fingering MI5 as involved.

By contrast the BNP split of 2007, and even more the leaking of the membership list in 2008 generated reams of speculation about state involvement. And, to be fair, Occam's Razor seemed to point that way. I was as guilty as anyone.

Generally I am a firm believer in Mr Cock-up rather than Mr Conspiracy. But the thesis put forward by Nick Griffin yesterday - that the list was released by a senior ex-member who thought the party were too moderate - seems unlikely. I'm not a guru of BNP internal politics, but I thought last years split was over tactics and personalities rather than strategy.
What I obviously forgot was how very unpleasant a split over personalities can be.

A judge attacked an ex-member of the British National Party for living off the state today as he fined him £200 for releasing membership details online. District Judge John Stobart described Matthew Single's decision to publish the names and contact details of some 12,000 BNP party members as "foolish and criminally dangerous"...

The Crown Prosecution Service said that following his guilty plea, they were dropping the charges against his wife, 30-year-old Sadie Graham-Single. She was not at court today, having moved with her husband from Church Lane, Brinsley, Nottinghamshire, to a new home in the south of England, the address of which was not disclosed by the court. More than 160 complaints were made to the police from BNP members across the country after they became victims of revenge attacks following the publication of the list last November.

Outside court, Detective Sergeant Chris Reynolds said he was "disappointed" with today's result. He added: "It's taken a great deal of work to get the case to court. "There was pretty serious stuff after what happened. People were fearful for their safety. There was an arson attack on a vehicle; there were daubings and malicious communications. White powder was also put through people's letterboxes purporting to be anthrax and there were daubings of swastikas on garage doors and on homes."

The row between Single, his wife and the BNP started in December 2007 when the couple were expelled from the party for launching a blog, calling on Nick Griffin to sack a number of their colleagues. They then used the membership list to send out a bogus BNP mailshot demanding Nick Griffin change the structure of the party. After this, the BNP successfully sought a court order against Single, who trained its members in security techniques, and his wife, banning them from publishing the details of the party's members. Although Mrs Graham-Single had given the information to her husband he was prosecuted for publishing the details on the web.

The BNP says the dispute within the party started when Single and some of his former colleagues tried to install Mrs Graham-Single as leader and were frustrated because they were unable to make constitutional changes taking power away from the leadership. Single, on the other hand, claims the party had become entirely focused on making money and had turned in to a "cult" centred on Nick Griffin. He said he wanted to make the party seem more acceptable to mainstream voters and less focused on extreme politics. Outside court, Single, dressed in a checked shirt and brown pin-striped trousers, said the BNP had become a cult. He also denied rumours he and his wife were actually members of a socialist organisation who had infiltrated the BNP."The BNP at grassroots level has some very good and honest people but I think at the top of the party it's very corrupt," he said. "It seems to be more to do with about trying to make money than about trying to serve local communities. It's turned into a cult where all the members look to one person, that being the party leader, Nick Griffin. This happened because Griffin saw Sadie as a challenge to his authority, as a threat. We wanted to make the party something far more acceptable."

I know from the local papers that a couple of pensioners in Gloucester had their house graffiti'd when the list came out.

Just goes to show. How anyone can convince themselves that publicly outing a party membership, especially for a party whose members should be shot or duffed up in the streets, will encourage them to join a breakaway, I'm not sure. The SWP walked off with the Respect membership list, computers and passwords, but I didn't see them appearing on wikileaks. There appeared to be no possible reason why the breakaway faction would want to do such a thing, and I still can't see one now.

But in the meantime, I owe an apology to our government. They are not quite as anti-democratic as I thought them to be. In their Canute-like struggle there are still one or two things they won't do. Yet.

UPDATE - it still seems an unreal thing to do for any political activist who's not actually mentally ill. Most strange.