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John Tyndall expelled
John Tyndall, ex-leader of the BNP, has been expelled from the party; while Luke Smith, a BNP councillor in Burnley has been suspended pending internal 'disciplinary proceedings'. Both actions appear to be an attempt by Nick Griffin, the BNP's current leader, to strengthen his position against growing dissent within the party.
Griffin has wanted to get rid of Tyndall for some time. Tyndall is an unwelcome reminder to the public of the neo-Nazi views all long-standing BNP members hold, but the real reason for Tyndall's expulsion is that his criticisms of the current BNP leadership have been gaining support from a number of important BNP activists.
Tyndall, leader of the BNP from its founding in 1982 to when he was defeated by Nick Griffin in 1999, has not been prepared to fade from the limelight. He has criticised the current leadership both in his magazine Spearhead and at a number of BNP meetings, and rumours of him launching a new challenge to win back the leadership of the BNP have been growing.
However there is no real disagreement over the strategy that the BNP should follow. All those concerned, including Tyndall, agree that they have had enough of isolation and marginalisation and want the BNP to present itself as a populist far-right party (to shake off their neo-Nazi image and attract a wider layer of support). The differences are partly over tactics, but are mostly the petty squabbles and jealousies of thieves falling out.
The suspension of Luke Smith shows that Griffin's real motivation is to protect his own position within the BNP. Although most of their organisers are still hardcore neo-Nazis, Burnley BNP have been the most successful branch in the country at trying to 'reinvent' the BNP: the very strategy that Nick Griffin won the leadership of the BNP with.
There has been tension for a long time between the national leadership of the BNP and the Burnley branch, who appear to resent 'interference' from the leadership. According to the BNP national leadership, Luke Smith has been suspended awaiting an internal disciplinary hearing for 'bringing the party into disrepute' by his involvement in some kind of fight with one of Griffin's minders at the BNP's summer camp in August.
To anyone familiar with the BNP's long history of violent confrontation (between fellow members as well as against outside opponents), this charge sounds like an excuse.
Luke Smith also caused the BNP some embarrassment when the August issue of the antifascist magazine Searchlight revealed that he had been given a life ban from Burnley football club after being convicted of a public order offence only a few months before he stood as a councillor. However it is clear that neither the fight, nor his conviction are the real reason for his suspension.
But the suspension has made the row between Burnley and Griffin public and damaged the BNP, particularly in Burnley. Luke Smith (whose uncle is Steve Smith, the BNP's Burnley organiser) was elected as a councillor in May this year, when the BNP became the second-largest party on the council and the official opposition to Labour with eight seats. His suspension means that the Liberal Democrats have now taken over as the official opposition, with eight seats to the BNP's seven.
According to the Burnley Express, Steve Smith has resigned as BNP branch organizer, saying: ‘I am burned out and expelling Luke was the final straw. We have taken the Burnley party as far as it can go.’
Luke Smith has also apparently decided to resign his position as a councillor. The Burnley Express quote him in the same article as saying: ‘I have had enough of the BNP. I have no interest in it whatsoever and I am disgusted by how the people locally have been treated by the leadership.’ (Burnley Express, 22 August 2003).
While these threats to resign may or may not be confirmed, it is certain that Tyndall is determined to fight his expulsion. According to Searchlight (the anti-fascist magazine) and The Observer, Tyndall has decided to challenge the decision to expel him in the courts.
Could this be the end of the BNP? This public falling-out will create problems for them. However, while there is no real workers' party to challenge Labour, the BNP - or other far-right parties - will find it easier to exploit anger against the government for their own right-wing purposes. A strong socialist alternative is needed to give genuine solutions to the social and economic problems that the BNP is exploiting.
*Griffin has since had to allowed John Tyndall and Richard Edmonds back into the BNP. It would seem that Tyndall's threat of making public the whole sorry story of the struggle for the BNP's leadership by dragging the BNP through the courts has forced Griffin to back down.