BNP is hijacking Army’s good name, generals warn
Attack comes as BBC Trust agrees to review ‘Question Time’ invitation to BNP’s Nick Griffin
A group of former British army generals has launched an attack on the ultra-right British National Party (BNP), accusing it of "hijacking the good name of Britain's military" for its own political advantage. "The values of these extremists - many of whom are essentially racist - are fundamentally at odds with the values of the modern British military, such as tolerance and fairness," the generals warn in a letter revealed by the Times newspaper.
The generals' warning comes as the BBC Trust agreed to review the decision to allow BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time this Thursday - a decision that has angered many politicians and provoked considerable comment.
The Trust, which has never before been asked to intervene prior to a programme's screening, is responding to a letter from Cabinet minister Peter Hain, in which he argues that the BNP is not "lawfully constituted" because of its admission that its whites-only membership policy breaks discrimination laws.
BBC Director-General Mark Thompson, defending the invitation to Griffin, has argued until now that the BBC is obliged to have the BNP on the show because two of its members were elected to the European parliament this year and, if there were to be a general election now, the BNP would be able to field candidates.
The Trust is expected to examine only whether the process by which Thompson made his judgment was fair, rather than commenting on the merits of the decision.
Meanwhile, the letter from the generals is bound to be a topic for discussion on Question Time, whether or not Griffin ends up appearing on the panel show. The generals concerned are a high-powered quartet: Sir Michael Jackson (above, left) and Sir Richard Dannatt (above, right), both former heads of the Army, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, former Chief of the Defence Staff and Major-General Patrick Cordingley, commander of the Desert Rats in the Gulf War.
They are particularly upset by the BNP's repeated uses of insignia and other symbols of Britain's military heritage to promote its right-wing politics. The party named its campaign for the European parliament elections the 'Battle for Britain' and chose a World War Two Spitfire for its campaign logo. It regularly uses photographs of Winston Churchill and evokes the 'spirit of the Blitz' on its website.
Leader Nick Griffin repeatedly wears a poppy badge, knowing that it upsets the Royal British Legion, and claims his party has a better relationship with the arnmed forces than the mainstream parties. "How dare they use the image of the Army, in particular, to promote their policies," Gen Jackson told the Times. "These people are beyond the pale."
Meanwhile, a leaked list of BNP members is expected to be published on the internet today. The list is understood to show that the party has 11,560 members. ·
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