BNP list: State of play

Since a list of BNP member’s names hit the web on Sunday, thousands of people have been cited as right-wing extremists. From the far north to the furthest south, from political parties to schoolrooms, the after-effects of the list are still being felt.

Among the names on the list are several clergymen, an actor, two solicitors, a number of teachers at various levels, a doctor, police officers, several government employees, serving soldiers and even members of the royal household.

Politically, the most eye-opening revelation was that of the Green party activists who defected to the BNP. These were not just grassroots workers. One, Keith Bessant, was a two-time parliamentary candidate. The other, Reverend John Stanton, was a local party chairman.

Mr Bessant offers the most stupefying explanation. He believed the BNP had superior environmental policies.

“He formed the opinion that the BNP climate change policy was more radical than ours,” a Green party spokesperson said.

“He didn’t hold any racist or bigoted views and I believe he left after a couple of weeks. It’s amazing how little people know about the BNP.”

Mr Bessant claims to have left the BNP shortly after joining.

Rev Stanton, from Essex, merely expressed his concerns about immigration when the subject of his membership came up.

“I am not a racist,” he said. “It’s Islam I don’t like, not Muslims. If a Muslim family moved next door, I would treat them like any other family.”

Then there’s the British motocross champion Billy Mackenzie. The Honda racer says he’s not an active member, but he does pay the annual subscription – citing strong feelings about the ‘war on terror’.

Things were more serious for Rod Lucas, a DJ on TalkSport radio. When his name was discovered on the list, Mr Lucas claimed he joined as part of his investigative journalism.

“I find the BNP distasteful,” he said. “I wouldn’t vote for them. Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty.”

His freelance contract doesn’t look like it’s going to be renewed.

More sackings will invariably be on the way, especially among professions where membership of such groups is illegal. The police force are feeling the brunt of that right now, with a Merseyside policeman looking at the abyss if reports of his membership are true.

“We will not accept a police officer or police staff being a member of the BNP,” a spokesperson said.

“Whether Merseyside PC Steve Bettley was, or is, a member of BNP is subject to an ongoing inquiry.”

Mr Bettley was suspended this morning while the force digs a little deeper.

Every police force in the country is poring over the list to find if any of its officers are on it. The prison service are doing the same, pledging to throw out anyone they find.

But outside of the manhunt for supporters, serious questions will soon be asked about the BNP. No longer can people relax in the assumption that the party is full of skinheads and lunatics. It is clearly drawing limited support from a wide cross-section of British society. Soon, people will start asking why – and how to stop it.