Could the BNP now be sued for discrimination?
The BNP’s policies and pronouncements are subject to the Race Relations Act 1976: ‘incitement to racial hatred’ was established in the Public Order Act 1986 and, for publications, in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. ‘Racial hatred’ is defined in law as hatred against a group of persons by reason of the group's colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins. Section 18 of the Act says:
A person who uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, is guilty of an offence if —
(a) he intends thereby to stir up racial hatred, or
(b) having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.
The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 amended the Public Order Act 1986 by adding:
A person who uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred.
Freedom of expression is, however, sustained in Section 29J:
Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.
The problem that the BNP now have (as an unincorporated association or even as a ‘private club’) is that they are now in receipt of public funds – and quite a lot of it, if reports are to be believed – for the administration of their representation of the people. They are thereby subject to all EU employment legislation (incorporated into UK law) relating to equality and discrimination.
The BNP operate a screening process to determine eligibility for party membership (limited to ‘indigenous Caucasian and defined ethnic groups emanating from that race’). If a suitably-qualified Asian were to apply to be (say) Mr Griffin’s parliamentary researcher, and Mr Griffin were not inclined to employ the candidate on racial grounds, then a claim could be brought to an employment tribunal.
The fact that this political party is now in receipt of public funds means not only are they obliged to adhere to all equality legislation, but they must be seen to be doing so. There is a statutory requirement on all publicly-funded bodies to be ‘equal opportunities’ employers and so to effectively ensure visible quotas of minority groups. To be otherwise (or, rather, to appear otherwise) is to operate outside of the law: limiting employees to ‘indigenous Caucasians’ is incompatible with public office.
Cranmer hopes to see a steady stream of minority ethnic applicants applying to work for Mssrs Griffin and Brons in the UK and in Brussels. That should give Trevor Phillips at the Equality and Human Rights Commission something to busy him for the next five years.