Anybody who would prefer either a democracy or a meritocracy over a dictatorship will be shocked at just how much power is given to the National Chairman.
SECTION 3: PARTY LEADERSHIP
1) Once elected, the National Chairman shall have full executive power over all the affairs of the party. This will include:-
(a) Power of appointment to all other executive offices in the party, with the exception of the Party Auditor, who shall be appointed by the Advisory Council as specified in Section 5 and who shall not be the same person as the National Treasurer. These include the Directors of Group Development & Regulation, Administration & Publicity, the National Press Officer and the National Treasurer as well as any other offices which may need to be created as the situation demands. Not all such appointments need necessarily be made by the elected National Chairman directly. They may also be made by subordinate officials. Nevertheless, all such appointments, direct and indirect, are made upon the authority of the elected National Chairman and may be over-ruled by him.
(b) Power to determine, and where necessary change, all organisational structures within the party and to determine all rules and procedures whereby such structures are governed.
(c) Power to determine all routine executive, administrative, policy and tactical decisions made by the party.
(d) Power to determine, and where necessary change, all policies relating to the political objectives of the party whilst remaining within the framework set out in Section 1 of this Constitution.
2) While the elected National Chairman may at his discretion delegate decision making powers to individual colleagues or to assemblies of his colleagues where he feels that such decisions may be better made, the elected National Chairman shall have ultimate and final authority upon any decision made.
The BNP has become, due to the hard work of all its activists (the current Chairman included) a major political party. However, even though the Party has grown in terms of popularity, the internal structure and mechanisms of the Party have stagnated, and even crumbled under the heavy weight. When the Party had a few hundred members, the current Constitution did the job, even though it was still a million miles away from being democratic. However, now the Party has thousands of members, and many more people of skill, talent, and experience, the Constitution is seriously outdated.
In fact, the current role of National Chairman is seriously outdated. Gone are the times when the Chairman could be here, there and everywhere. Gone are the times when he could head up all the main day to day operations, and also lead on policy and press relations. Quite simply, the situation at present is that because the current Chairman is trying to control everything, that the Party is suffocating and good people are being over looked for roles that the Chairman either tries to do himself, or fills with people whom he can easily control.
Section 3 of the Constitution basically says that the Chairman appoints everyone, has sole control over everything, can over-rule any decision, and is responsible for the entire running of the party, with ‘power to determine all routine executive, administrative, policy and tactical decisions made by the party’. This is simply absurd. While the position of National Chairman should be the most prestigious and indeed the most powerful, in no terms whatsoever should it give the Chairman sole control.
The Constitution needs changing so that the Party is split into three arms – an executive, a political, and a judicial arm. The Chairman should head the Political arm, an elected Party Manager should head the Executive arm, and an elected team of scrutinisers should oversee both previous arms and also head up the Judicial arm. This would bring about democracy, it would give people a chance to vote at different levels within the Party, and it would also take overall power away from the Party Chairman, even though he would still be a very powerful person. It would mean that rather than having the potential for one person with great talent running the show, there would be the potential for many more, with different people responsible for different things.
SECTION 4: ELECTIONS TO THE PARTY LEADERSHIP
1) Any member of the party may become a candidate for the post of National Chairman of the party provided that person has served a term totalling 5 years' continuous membership of the party and is a party office holder as defined in Section 7 of this constitution. Should a member not be an office holder, then he may still become a candidate for the post if he first obtains 100 instead of the usual 10 signatures. No exception to these rules may be made unless it is with the consent of the currently serving National Chairman of the party,
2) Any such candidate must submit his nomination to the party's Head Office not earlier than 31st May, and not later than 30th June of any year. This nomination must be signed by the candidate and counter signed by a proposer and a seconder, both of whom must have served a term of membership of the party as specified in Sub-section 1 of this Section, and by 10 other members of the party who have served not less than 2 years' membership.
Thankfully, this part of the Constitution allows for a yearly Leadership Challenge. However, after speaking to those who were part of the 2007 Leadership Challenge, it seems that the National Chairman made a free and fair election nothing more than a pipe dream. A recent statement from the current BNP Elections Officer, who should be impartial to internal elections, stated that the BNP should not give the current challenger publicity, and that people should not sign his nomination forms. He also labelled the challenger a ‘joke candidate’. This is an absolute disgrace, and shows that the mentality of the leadership really needs to change.
SECTION 6: DISCIPLINE
1) The disciplinary code of the party is embodied in the Code of Conduct, which comprises Annex 1 of this Constitution.
2) Once the constitutionally defined internal disciplinary mechanisms of the party as outlined in this Section are exhausted in regard to the disciplinary procedures and proceedings, then the decision of the disciplinary tribunal is final and binding on the member concerned. As such, members (including those who have been disciplined or expelled) legally affirm and agree that they will not seek any external legal (or non legal) review of any disciplinary tribunal decision or its procedures. They also agree and affirm that they will accept the decision of any disciplinary tribunal as final and binding.
3) Members who have offended against the Code of Conduct or otherwise acted in a manner contrary to the interests of the party shall be liable to disciplinary sanction.
4) Ultimate authority to determine how the "interests of the party" as specified in the above Sub-section and in Section 2, Sub-section 5, may be defined rests with the elected National Chairman of the party or will any official or group of officials and/or members of the party authorised by him to art in that capacity.
We have recently seen a situation whereby committed nationalists, and in many cases, party workers, have been expelled from the BNP without having the chance to have a fair and impartial disciplinary hearing. They have not had any evidence brought against them. Their ‘crime’ was to criticise the Party Chairman. The latest round of expulsions were the most severe to date, yet they have been preceded by many others. This has led to a situation where there are as many talented nationalists outside of the BNP as there are in it. This is absurd, when we should all be fighting on the same side, and is a direct result of the current Chairman expelling people at will who he does not like or get along with. Anyone who he considers a threat usually gets expelled with a complete character assassination so that their name is blackened within nationalist circles.
Note part 4 of the above which states that the “interests of the party” are defined by the Chairman, or those authorised by him. It is easy to see how the “interests if the party” can easily become the “interest of the National Chairman”. There are simply no checks and balances to this power which has been so abused by the current Chairman. How can the expulsion of so many decent nationalists over the years, when all procedures have not even been started, never mind exhausted, be justified as “in the interests of the party”?
SECTION 13: GENERAL MEMBERS'MEETINGS
4) Any changes in Sections 1,4, 5 or 13 of this Constitution must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote of members attending a General Members' Meeting. Any member wishing to submit a resolution incorporating such change or changes for inclusion on the agenda of such a meeting must first obtain consent from the elected National Chairman for such inclusion, having in the first place submitted the resolution for consideration in accordance with Sub-section 6 of this Section.
This part of the Constitution outlines the fact that the Constitution can be altered by a vote at a General Members Meeting. This is incorrect, as general members are not necessarily voting members, and thus they can’t alter the Constitution. However, note again the fact that the National Chairman can either accept or refuse a resolution at whim – giving him sole power over everything once more. Even if a region was unanimous in its decision about a resolution, if the current Chairman did not want it to be discussed, it would not be discussed. End of story.
SECTION 14: REVISIONS TO THIS CONSTITUTION
1) Consideration will regularly be given to changes in this Constitution for the purpose of improving the functional efficiency of the party. Final authority to determine such changes, however, will rest with the elected National Chairman - saving those Sections protected by Section 13, Sub-section 4.
2) Any changes made to this Constitution by a majority vote at a properly convened General Members' Meeting shall be effective from the time the vote is taken. Changes made by the elected National Chairman shall take effect following publication in a Members' bulletin. The revised Constitution in either case must then be published and made available within 30 days.
Here we again see the unrestrained power given to the current Chairman by the outdated Constitution. Worryingly, part 2 also states that the Chairman can make changes to the Constitution whenever he wants – all he must do is advertise the changes in the members’ bulletin within thirty days! Thus, while everyone else must submit a resolution to the Chairman, to see if he agrees that it can be discussed and voted on, the Chairman himself can alter the Constitution at ease, without the approval of anyone else.
ANNEX 1: CODE OF CONDUCT
(a) The National Chairman may proscribe individuals, organisations or publications which are so hostile to the party, or whose views and or behaviour are so likely to bring discredit upon the party, that members should have no contact with them.
(b) Such a hostile individual, publications or group is thenceforth regarded as a rotten apple and proscription is the means by which they are prevented from contaminating others. Not only are the proscribed barred from attending party functions and activities, but party members are barred from attending events organised by them and barred from sharing platforms with them, distributing or advertising literature and electronic media produced by or in support of them, and promoting events at which they are known or - in the opinion of the party leadership - likely to be attending.
(c) Proscriptions shall come into effect on publication in the National members' bulletin and remain in force until further notice. A full list appears on the party's website.
And finally, just in case anyone feels hard done by due to the decision taken “in the interests of the Party” as decided solely by the National Chairman, the National Chairman can prevent anyone from even contacting those expelled by proscribing them. This, of course, is again completely at the discretion of; you guessed it, the National Chairman. Possibly the reason that the Party website does not carry a list of all those expelled is because there would not be a web page big enough to show it!
In conclusion, I am sure that even the most ardent supporters of the current National Chairman must agree that this Constitution makes a complete mockery of natural justice, and needs seriously updating. How can complete power rest solely with one man? How can we convince the public that the BNP is a serious democratic political party when we have a Constitution that essentially allows for a complete dictatorship?
The current leadership challenger, Cllr Colin Auty, would revamp the current Constitution so that the Party would be much more democratic with a democratically elected Chairman, Party Manager, and Scrutiny Panel, and a separation of powers between them. There would also be a much fairer process in regard to discipline and tribunals so that people could not be expelled at will without any evidence being put against them.