It was only last May that the tiny British Freedom party announced with a loud fanfare that English Defence League leaders Stephen Lennon and Kevin Carroll had become its joint vice-chairmen. The BFP declared that this was a “historic development” which established the party as “a new force in British politics”.
Since then things haven’t been going too well for the BFP. In October, Lennon tweeted that he had resigned from the organisation in order to concentrate on building the EDL, and he told the Independent that he was intending to stand for election under the banner of the EDL rather than the BFP. Even Carroll’s 10.6% of the poll as the British Freedom candidate for Bedfordshire police commissioner in November failed to provide a boost for the party. Although this was in fact a worryingly high vote for such a notorious figure on the far right, the result inevitably had a demoralising effect after the BFP led its supporters to believe that Carroll had a serious chance of winning, only for him to finish a distant fourth behind the successful Labour candidate.
Hope Not Hate now reports that on 11 December the electoral commission de-registered British Freedom because the BFP leaders failed to complete the necessary paperwork or pay the fee required to renew its registration as a political party, despite repeated reminders. Acording to HNH, this development “spells the end for the short-lived religious and racial extremists”. Well, maybe.
Two weeks ago the BFP’s South West regional organiser Chelsea Anne White convened an “informal get-together for patriots” in the Hartcliffe area of Bristol involving “members of British Freedom, representatives of the English Defence League and interested local residents”. Although the BFP report emphasises that “British Freedom must show itself to be a viable political alternative, a party that will listen to the people and stand up for their demands and concerns”, the actual aim of the meeting was to build “a broad coalition of patriotic people in the Bristol area” which would be able to mount “a strong challenge in the next General Election”.
Based on that report, rather than marking the definitive end of the BFP, omitting to renew registration with the electoral commission may indicate that the leadership have lost enthusiasm for contesting elections in the name of British Freedom and in future will instead promote far-right unity candidates (who will presumably claim to represent an initiative by the “local community”) in the hope of attracting some wider forces behind their electoral interventions.
Given the failure of British Freedom to establish any name-recognition among voters or provide a pole of attraction for far-right activists, that would be a sensible tactical turn by the BFP leaders. It is doubtful, however, whether it could lead to any dramatic improvement in their electoral prospects.
Update: The BFP has issued the following statement:
British Freedom have been de-registered as a political party by the Electoral Commission unbeknown to us.
Why is still a mystery, but we suspect our renewal wasn’t received or lost somewhere along the line. No reminders or warning letters were sent or received. Our yearly party registration was sent along with our accounts in February this year.
British Freedom continues business as usual, but may in the worse case scenario have to re-register with the Electoral Commission.
There is no need for concern, everything is fine and it’s business as usual and we will resolve this minor hiccup within the next few days.