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Saturday, April 08, 2006

The problems with change

David Cameron has already discovered how difficult it is to change the direction of a political party. His attempts to remould the Conservatives into a more modern and relevant political force have consistently floundered on the rocks of member willfulness, as they continue to select non-PC candidates and act as if their party was still led by Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit.

Now the BNP have hit the same ceiling, with members in open revolt at attempts by their leader, Nick Griffin, to widen their membership base. In 2004 Mr. Griffin, tried to force through rule changes allowing non-white people to join the BNP. After widespread opposition from members, he was forced to abandon the proposals.

However, the issue has come back to haunt him with a venegence with the selection of the grandson of an asylum seeker to fight a seat in next month's local elections. Sharif Abdel Gawad, whom the BNP describes as a "totally assimilated Greek-Armenian", has been chosen to stand in a Bradford ward as part of the BNP's biggest ever electoral push.

"The decision has provoked a backlash among BNP hardliners who described Mr Gawad as an "ethnic" who should be barred from the party on race grounds. One regional organiser responsible for the candidate's selection is thought to be under pressure to resign. Another regional organiser is leading the dissent against the party leadership, saying it had betrayed the members and would confuse voters.

On online noticeboards used by BNP supporters, scores of contributors denounced Mr Gawad's selection. They said the BNP should remain an all-white party and the decision to appoint him was taken over the heads of rank and file members."

It is at times like these that people need to remember that, by-and-large, it is not the leader who defines the nature of a political party but the membership. It is possible for a leader to lead from the front and to work with the grain to achieve change over a period of time, and it is likely that as part of that process new members will arrive who will help to cement that transformation into place. However, when the leader is seeking to redefine the core values and principles on which the party was founded then the task is almost impossible.

Thus, the BNP will always remain a racist party, whilst the Tories will always be a party built around self-interest and reaction. Each has their own electoral constituency but neither is relevant to the needs and interests of twenty-first Century Britain.
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