We've Been Here Before
John Tyndall compares his expulsion with past events
- Personal attacks
- Accusations of 'subversion'
To be exact, we were here 17 years ago. The year was 1986. The British National Party was four years old. The National Front, the party out of which it was formed, was racked by chronic internal divisions, with accusations and counter-accusations, personal attacks and demands for expulsions poisoning the air. Does it sound familiar? It should, because there is a certain common thread linking that time with times much more recent.
It was in 1986 that the NF split in two. One morning, nationalists in Britain woke up to find that there were now two organisations claiming to be the National Front where previously there had been one: there was the 'Official' National Front, led by
Inevitably, both sides in the conflict issued their respective versions of what had gone wrong and who was to blame. Those of us by then in the BNP smiled as we watched these two factions screech at each other like alley cats, each seeking to outdo the other in mutual recrimination. Of course, we took no sides. Long ago, we had come to view the NF as a party with no future, albeit that it still contained some good patriots at rank-and-file and lower leadership levels. With the individuals at the top, a clash had always been probable, and it was no surprise when it came.
Hysterical and nutty
Neither version of what had happened impressed us, but of the two the version issued in the name of the 'Official' Front seemed by several degrees the more vituperative, paranoid, hysterical and plain nutty. It was titled Attempted Murder: the State/Reactionary Plot Against the National Front. From this choice of words it will be gleaned that the 'Official' NF regarded its internal opponents as hirelings of the political establishment, whose mission was to sabotage the party from the inside. Our own view at the time was that there was probably some truth in this but it was only half the truth; the likelihood was that the establishment had its agents placed in both camps, with the intention that through action and counteraction from one direction and then another the NF would be smashed to pieces. Effectively it was, though a rump of it has managed to survive to this day.
Attempted Murder in due course took its place among the piles of mostly forgotten factional literature that have gathered dust in attics, cellars, spare bedrooms and garages over the years - just occasionally retrieved and read for amusement and for old time's sake. Certain recent events, however, brought memories of it back, and we acquired a copy for study. The study was well worthwhile, and the document is highly recommended to those who seek to make sense of what has been happening in the BNP, our own party, over the past few years. We too are deeply divided within - though successes on the electoral scene should, from every commonsense standpoint, be making us more united than ever, while other nationalist groups should be abandoning their own separate operations and joining us. Why is there this division? Let us turn to Attempted Murder, and see if it offers some clues.
In the introduction to the document it is made clear that, though it was unanimously approved by the National Directorate of the National Front, its author was in fact
We do not have to proceed very far in Attempted Murder before something of its flavour emerges. In the third paragraph of the Introduction it is stated that:-
'The facts about the State's response to the growing NF threat, and the part played in it by the last reactionary elements within the old leadership, have taken a long time to uncover. And the need to ensure fair trials for these few individuals at their resuming disciplinary tribunals has prevented previous publication of the full story about the rise and fall of their factional adventure.'
It is at this point that we should explain that throughout the document Mr. Griffin's opponents in the NF are described as the 'reactionaries' and his own faction as the 'radicals'. The division, in other words, is over matters of ideology and principle, and has nothing to do with human egos, personal ambitions or power-rivalries. Make sure you understand this!
Fair trials for individuals at disciplinary tribunals! Does this not sound faintly familiar In the next paragraph members are assured that the offending individuals - termed 'ring-leaders'- have now been expelled. Familiar again?
What follows is a depressing tale of organisational incompetence within the party, with one individual after another being blamed for this. In fact, when one tots up the names of the people who are accused of incompetence and/or bad personal habits and/or dishonourable or subversive behaviour the list reads like a roll call of just about everyone who was anyone in the NF at the time. There is one notable exception among these names, and that is
The tale takes a kind of diary form, with commentaries recorded against the months in which things happened. The first such entry is for December 1983. Here it is stated that "a meeting of the National Directorate voted to expel [Martin] Webster and his homosexual lover Michael Salt from all their paid and elected positions within the party." Now that really is interesting - because not so very long previously Mr. Griffin had been one of those in the NF who had opposed John Tyndall's move to have Mr. Webster dismissed on the grounds of his homosexuality! This sounds a rather Damascan conversion, but no doubt Mr. Griffin will be able to explain it - as he usually has an explanation for everything.
In the same section
The narrative proceeds to August 1984, in which section Tom Acton, Ian Anderson and Roger Denny are all attacked. There is an argument over the location of a party printing machine, which, according to Mr. Griffin, Anderson wanted to be in East London "which he saw as his own personal power-base." Following on from this, in a section dated April 1985,
Everyone is guilty except Nick!
Needless to say, we have no way whatever of knowing whether any of these accusations are justified or not. It is just that virtually everyone who had been, or currently was, a colleague of
It is the same in a section which follows, dated July 1985. In this section we read about a long succession of cock-ups. Money has been handled irresponsibly, if not dishonestly. Large numbers of letters to the party office have gone unanswered. Stocks of books have run down while orders have not been dealt with. Leaflets have been produced far too late and have been of poor quality. A printing press has been purchased which is quite useless, while the motive for its purchase is deemed as factional. There are more attacks on
Next target for attack is one Michael Hipperson. Yes, he too has incurred Mr. Griffin's displeasure. Mr. Hipperson is accused of failing to deliver photos of an NF march for the party's paper and also neglecting to pursue follow-ups - with what justification we have no way of knowing. He simply joins Mr. Giffin's 'hit list' and is thought to be part of the rival faction because he shares accommodation with
While all these misdeeds and failures of duty were occurring, what, the reader might ask, was
The attacks continue. One person out of favour is accused of being into drugs. Another is too fond of his beer.
The hit list grows
There next appear accusations of a leak to The Guardian newspaper over a printing operation. As with so much else, it is impossible 17 years afterwards to get to the truth of what actually happened. Ian Anderson, by now very clearly enemy number one, is believed to be the culprit; however Wingfield and Acton are attacked again, this time for obstructing charges against
Coming to the Autumn of 1985, the attacks on
It is known that at some time during those years Ian Anderson was in fact chairman of the NF Directorate and therefore in effect leader of the party, though Attempted Murder is extremely imprecise as to when he took over this position and when he vacated it. At all events, throughout the time he was most definitely part of the NF's hierarchy. If his sins were so glaring as Mr. Griffin makes them out to be, it seems incredible that anyone in senior party circles should have failed to be aware of them and support the appropriate action against him. Yet he appeared to have several defenders at the very top of the party. Why? Perhaps these defenders knew a few things that are not made obvious in Attempted Murder.
Next to come in for condemnation is Miss Tina Dalton; she joins the lengthening list of guilty persons. She is accused of inefficiency as a typesetter but it is hinted that in this capacity she did some jobs for
Gutter press tactics
Interspersed with these attacks against all and sundry, we find in the section headed January 1986 a reference to certain sensitive papers being found in an office and destroyed as part of a security operation. Apparently not all of the papers were of a political nature, and here Mr. Griffin again descends to a piece of bitchiness worthy only of a low-grade female gossip columnist, talking about certain personal diaries and love letters that should never be regarded as party business. He is at it again a page later, insinuating an 'affair' between a member and another member's wife when the husband was unavoidably away. This is gutter stuff which we could well do without.
Next to incur disfavour is one Steve Brady, whom some readers will know. Brady apparently sent a letter to Joe Pearce, now (Spring 1986) in Prison, which contained sensitive information liable to be read by the prison censors. This was foolish but hardly a hanging offence. Nevertheless it is stated that "The Directorate took a dim view of this and Brady ended up on a charge." It is not stated who actually moved that there should be such a charge, but the reader will perhaps have little trouble in guessing! Brady is described as having letters of support from Wingfield, Brons,
About-turn on street confrontation
Following this, there is further condemnation of Wingfield for his opposition to a policy of 'direct physical confrontation' by the NF against marches by IRA supporters. It is not the time nor place here to enter into this argument, save to remark that Mr. Griffin, who clearly then approved of these tactics, has now done a 180° turn and throws the 'street confrontation' charge against his opponents in the BNP, alleging that they favour it!
After more tirades against Wingfield (his ally these days, remember), Mr.
But none of this should sidetrack us from the fact that
Of course, anyone disposed to disagree with this action is branded an 'enemy' too, with prominence in this regard given to Wingfield and Acton. Wingfield is accused here, as elsewhere, of having 'Tory' tendencies. Brons, out of things for some time, is attacked for opposing the action against
Recently Spearhead has spoken to some of the people around at this time to get their views on the situation. They are unanimous in saying that, although
We now come to the Directorate meeting at which
'For all his faults, Brady was considered quite radical and was a drinking mate of Pearce's, so Nick had told him on the 'phone that his recent short suspension was the end of the affair of his indiscreet letter to Pearce, and had made it clear that Wingfield's attitude made it necessary to expel Anderson. He went on to tell him that there were so many genuine charges against him that his removal was assured, but that no one else would be touched as long as they didn't move to support his corruption...'
His removal was assured! Readers will perhaps find here an eerie foretaste of later events and declarations. As for the promise that no one else would be touched, this sounds very much like: "Support my action - or else". Here again, future events seem to cast their shadow. When in July of this year Mr. Griffin was phoning around the country urging people to support the pl
In the outcome, the motion to bring charges against
Accusations of corruption
Nick is not finished with Wingfield. There follows in Attempted Murder a two-page section headed 'Wingfield's Corruption' which makes it all the more amazing that Wingfield and Griffin are now colleagues and the latter is able to write glowing tributes to Wingfield's skills as a journalist and propagandist. The whole affair of 1983-86 involving
The new party Executive, according to Mr. Griffin, consists of six persons, namely
At this point it should be explained that the National Directorate remained the senior authority in the NF; the Executive was merely a body appointed by the Directorate to make quick day-to-day decisions that could not await the next scheduled Directorate meeting. Thus appointed, the Executive could likewise be dismissed.
And this is what Mr. Griffin now sets about planning. According to the account in Attempted Murder, he manages, by energetic and persuasive lobbying of Directorate members, to obtain a majority, albeit not a large one, for the dismissal of the Executive he dislikes and the appointing of a new one. Readers will not be overwhelmed with surprise to hear that the new chairman of the Executive, Directorate and party is -
According to his own account (and corroborated by others), Nick now sets about pursuing the expulsion from the party of his main opponents and rivals. The pretext is a bulletin issued by these people which is claimed to reveal confidential minutes of a Directorate meeting, but to put spice on things the offenders are also accused of telling lies and making attacks on Nick and his supporters. And that's not all. To quote Attempted Murder, "additional charges of disloyalty were also brought."
The four arch-criminals, namely Wingfield, Brons, Nash and Acton, are duly expelled from the party. One of our current witnesses who was there at the time has opined that the four had a pretty strong case for challenging the expulsions in court, but were put off the idea by the thought of the expense involved. It seems from Attempted Murder that there were additional purges, but the document is not too specific about which individuals were affected. Somehow the ghost of Joseph Stalin makes a fleeting appearance here.
Attempted Murder rambles on for many more pages the details of which it would be tedious to reproduce here. Briefly, what next transpired was that the sacked people refused to recognise their expulsions and set about creating their own organisation. They called it the 'National Front Support Group', claiming that their loyalty was still to the party though not to its existing leadership. For a while,
support slips away Griffin
Eventually, the Griffin Front disintegrated entirely, leaving the Wingfield Front as the sole claimant to the patty's title. The National Front of today is the heir to that party.
In years following, nationalists in
We come then to the early to mid-1990s, when we find Nick making overtures to the BNP, which some years previously he had been regularly attacking. But that is another story.
This article is reproduced from Spearhead magazine edited by the late Mr Tyndall.