In 1988, Margaret Thatcher forced through a media broadcast ban on the voices of members from 11 republican and unionist parties in Northern Ireland. She hoped the ban would “starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend.”
The ban had the opposite effect, however. Free speech campaigners raged against the ban and broadcasters employed actors to read words in synch with images of politicians speaking. This just served to give banned speakers more publicity than they would have received if they had not been banned.
More recently, the Equality and Human Rights Commission case against the British National Party – over rules limiting membership to “indigenous Caucasians” and ethnic groups “emanating from that race” – has been criticised for giving the far-right free publicity.
Slowly but surely, however, the EHRC’s tactics appear to be paying off. Late last year, facing the prospect of almost certain defeat at central London county court, the BNP agreed to amend its constitution to admit non-white members.
The BNP submitted an amended constitution to the court last month. The constitution repeatedly used the words “indigenous British,” however, and exhibited unlawful “indirect discrimination”. Judge Collins ordered the BNP to go away and redraft it. He also ordered they pay costs of £12,500.
At the tail-end of last week, the BNP returned to court with another constitution – the party’s 12th – but Judge Collins found key aspects of the constitution remain indirectly racist.
The offending provisions include a requirement for members to support the “continued creation, fostering, maintenance and existence” of the “indigenous British”, and a policy requiring applicants to succumb to a two-hour home visit by two party officials which the judge ruled could operate as a form of indirect discrimination against non-whites.
The court ordered the BNP to pay costs of £60,000 and issued an injunction ordering them to comply with the Race Relations Act, adding that “the membership list will have to be closed until then”.
BNP leader Nick Griffin faces imprisonment, a fine or sequestration of the assets of the BNP if he fails to comply with the injunction, and the Times says the costs order will likely ‘cripple’ the party.
- BNP Court Challenge (FindLaw)
- BNP Must Admit Non-White Members (FindLaw)
- British National Party Have One Last Chance To “Get It Right” (FindLaw)
- BNP ‘whites-only’ membership rules outlawed (Guardian)
- Revised BNP membership rules ‘still racist’ (Times)
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