The international fascist movement is showing their true colors more and more.
One man grabbed my nose and tried to remove it from my face. I was seized and shoved out of the door towards a parked car. I threw my hands out to steady myself. A BNP thug snarled: “Don’t touch people’s cars mate.” Obviously, I offered no resistance.
I had gone to the Elm Park pub in Hornchurch to report on a press conference at which Nick Griffin, MEP for North West England and chairman of the British National Party, was to explain how his activists had just passed an historic membership reform.
Although I had been invited, one prominent BNP politician had taken exception to an article in Saturday’s edition of The Times. After he lost his temper with me I was quickly shoved and lifted out of the building, hit in the back and had my face squashed.
The BNP, the most successful hard-right party since Oswald Mosley’s 1930s neo-Nazi Blackshirts, had been forced by equality legislation to hold an extraordinary general meeting to let non-whites become members.
The party faithful had gathered at Upminster railway station at 11am to be given directions to a secret location — all part of the effort to outwit any left-wing agitators who might have been leaked Mr Griffin’s location.
The activists soon found themselves on a five-minute drive through East End suburbs to the Elm Park pub.
It was Valentine’s Day but the hundred or so white activists, mainly men and almost all clad in black, walked past the florists into a room with a bar, snooker table and stage festooned in St George’s crosses, Union flags and posters saying: “Support our troops — bring our boys home”. Everybody in the BNP looks like a bouncer, so it is only by the “Security” signs on the back of their jackets that the real protection team can be spotted, ready to save their leader from the Lefties who had, frustratingly, failed to appear.
I recognised Richard Barnbrook, the BNP’s London Assembly member and a local councillor, outside the pub and approached him for a quote. When I introduced myself, he became extremely angry, objecting to an article in The Times on Saturday that said that in his local area he was spat at on the street and that some of his neighbours were worried about kind of visitors he had at his house.
A few minutes later he stormed across the road carrying a copy of the story, printed from Times Online at 10.57 yesterday morning, just before the party get-together. He made it clear that The Times was not welcome in his manor. I listened patiently to his objections but made no comment.
While the BNP met behind closed doors I visited people from ethnic minorities in the neighbourhood to see if they would join when the rules changed. A Turkish man serving at a general store had no idea what they stood for and was unable to comment.
I followed the sound of clapping upstairs to the Redeemed Christian Church of God, where one of the elders. Peter David, 56, who came to Britain from Trinidad in the 1970s, left the worshipping to tell me that, yes, he would consider supporting the BNP.
He said that he was a former Labour councillor but had become disillusioned. “I have come to the point where this small island, if you put too many people on it, the island might sink. It’s only now the British Government have decided the borders have got to be tightened and secured. The BNP have been talking about this for some time. People have the wrong idea of the BNP as a racist group.”
With this viewpoint in my notebook, I headed back to the pub, where a press conference was being organised. Simon Darby, the BNP’s national spokesman, had been speaking with me on the telephone during the day and had briefed me for ten minutes about the constitutional reform while we stood on the pavement outside.
The press were led to the entrance to the pub, where we could hear a tape of Jerusalem being played, followed by enthusiastic applause. The security guards checked each individual into the room. The Times photographer and I were clearly identified. Mr Darby called me by my first name and said that I could come in, although he added: “Don’t send Fiona” — a reference to my colleague Fiona Hamilton, who has a series of BNP scoops behind her. In my job I have to try to speak with people from all walks of life. I have met Mr Griffin before and spoken with him plenty of times on the telephone. This was the first time I had met Mr Darby in person although we had often discussed matters by phone. Both are quite capable of displaying basic manners.
Mr Griffin, wearing a smart suit and looking younger and fitter than I last remember, was preparing to do some interviews for television cameras and I prepared to take notes of what he said. At that point Mr Barnbrook appeared and said that I was unwelcome in the pub because I worked for The Times.
I tried to explain to an official that I had been invited in by the press officer but I was told to leave. A security official gave me a sneaky hit in the small of the back. I pointed out that he had assaulted me. He denied it.
I stood my ground. The official asked me whether I would leave, and warned me that I would be ejected. I declined to give a yes or no answer since I thought that there must be a misunderstanding and that Mr Darby, or maybe Mr Griffin, would sort it out. It was a long way to the door, and I could hardly believe that they would physically force me out of the room in front of the massed media, having invited me in by my first name.
In a matter of moments I found about half a dozen security guys enthusiastically removing me. One threw a punch but it failed to land.
Inside, Mr Griffin gave a series of interviews. Asked about my rough ejection, he said that it was “because he is from The Times, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and it lies and it lies and it lies about this party. So he was told, ‘We’re sorry, you told one lie too many’, so we are not allowing anyone from The Times in — kindly leave. He refused to leave so he had to be en- couraged to leave.”
No such exchange took place. I was simply invited in and then ambushed by his henchmen.
Maybe they were all just frustrated because the Anti-Nazi League failed to turn up. I’ve just looked in the mirror at the Burger King where I am filing this story and spotted the blood drying on my face. I never thought I would actually get my nose bloodied trying to cover a press conference for a British political party — but that is the true face of Nick Griffin and his BNP.