Published on Saturday, 22 December 2012 14:57 Written by Sonia Gable
After eight days of silence the British Freedom Party has finally come clean and admitted to its members that it has been deregistered as a political party by the Electoral Commission. Perhaps not quite “come clean”: an article posted on 19 December, shortly after I reported the deregistration, said it was “a mystery” why the party had been deregistered, that “no reminders or warning letters were sent or received” and that the yearly registration was sent in with the accounts in February.
Not according to the Electoral Commission, which told me that a couple of reminders had been sent after the initial request. The accounts were indeed received, of which more below. Even their own supporters were not all fooled. Charlotte Lewis, formerly of London British National Party, who in June lasted just four days as the BFP’s Croydon organiser, commented: “If you had sent a cheque in February, then you would have known if it had been cashed or not by checking your bank statement”. Quite.
Another person asked why if it was “business as usual” nothing had been posted on the website for ten days, to which Simon Bennett, the party’s webmaster and treasurer, replied: “Because we are having a well earned break after two years flat out, seven days a week, 17 hours a day non stop”.
The party repeated that excuse two days later: “British Freedom has had a hugely successful year but we have taken our feet off the accelerator in the last week or so in order to rest and recharge our batteries over the Christmas period. Membership continues to rise and the party finances are in great shape.” The party would be re-registering and would be “back fighting fit and fully recharged in the new year”.
The BFP also denied reports that Jim Dowson, of the rival Britain First party, had taken legal action against Paul Weston, the BFP leader. “It is nothing more than empty threats and bluster from a busted flush organisation and individual with all the legal, political and financial clout of a plank of rotting wood,” claimed the BFP. Likening Dowson to a plank of rotting wood is appealing but the denial carries no more weight than the claim that they returned the registration form in February.
That said, those on “both the extreme far left and the extreme far right” who celebrated the death of the BFP were indeed premature. As I explained last Wednesday, the party still exists even if it cannot fight elections for now, and it can re-register, not a difficult process.
Whether it is “fighting fit” is a different matter. The party claimed 449 “paid and non-paying members” at 31 December 2011, and income for the whole of 2011 of £2,418.38, a figure that indicates most of the members were non-paying. Income in 2010 was £3,288.57, so financially at least it has made no progress. Expenditure in 2011 was £1,891.70, of which the largest items were £706.79 on “internet activities” and £536.03 on travel and accommodation (why so much?). Another £217.30 was spent on “stationary [sic] & consumables”. Precisely nothing was spent on leaflets.
The 2011 accounts also include the £25 Electoral Commission registration fee for 2011, so it’s not as if the party didn’t know how to fill in the form. The fee in 2010 for the initial registration was £150. Presumably the party will have to shell out that sum again to re-register, making the deregistration an expensive mistake for a party with so little income, as well as an embarrassing one.