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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BNP Leak

Someone leaked the 2007 membership list of the racist British National Party, it was published on a website then withdrawn, but not before others had grabbed it. It is being published by wikileaks (which appears to have gone down due to the demand) and is also rapidly spreading through bittorrent files.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the situation. Channel 4 news summed it up quite well:

BNP leak - a liberal's dilemma?

Should somebody exposed for supporting the BNP lose their job? It is your average liberal's nightmare dilemma. Do you defend the right to free speech and the right to privacy or smile quietly that those you find abhorrent are getting their comeuppance?

The leaking of a membership list by, it is suspected, disgruntled former BNP activists has caused mayhem. A police officer, prison officer, several teachers, nurses - even a vicar - are on the list. A radio DJ who freelanced for talkSPORT has been blacklisted.

A police complaints investigation is underway in Liverpool because police and prison officers are explicitly banned from belonging to the BNP. And the teachers’ unions have come out and said they think teachers who support the BNP should lose their jobs, even though there is no obvious mechanism to do so.

There are reports of intimidating phone calls to those on the list, and recriminations that Nick Griffin and his cohorts were unable to keep data protected.

So what should and will happen? If one of my children's teachers was exposed as a BNP supporter, would I accept their right to private political views or demand their sacking? Is it any different to them being any other kind of extremist?

Certainly, their actions in the classroom would be under severe scrutiny, and it is hard to see how there would be any trust that the teacher could be left unsupervised.

It is not that BNP supporters are necessarily monsters - just that their actions are likely to be influenced by their opinions, and their opinions are incompatible with fairness. The law seems to be way behind the reality. And BNP members could in theory fight for their jobs through the courts.

So as long as those memberships were secret there was no problem. But now everything has been exposed, employers will have to do something. Very few people are prepared to debate with the BNP on television. They don't want to encourage us to give them a platform.

But we think there are questions to ask Nick Griffin so we will have him on tonight. And we'll also be hoping to get on one of those people who think BNP supporters should lose their jobs - especially in frontline public service posts.

I'm watching Nick Griffin on the programme now, describing others as fascists!

Looking at the leaked list, it's quite intriguing, especially the extra little snippets of information which appear alongside some of the members' details, for instance, "activist - Makes kites with BNP logos etc.", "ESOL teacher" (who could be worse to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages than someone racist?!), "Willing to give teaching re. BNP home-schooling" and "Resigned 17/9/07 (confused re. Party policy on ethnicity)" (confused how? If there's anything that is clear about the BNP, it's their policies on ethnicity!).

The information in the file consists of names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and other information such as profession, date of joining, reason for leaving. have produced a map of the UK with indications of member numbers in each region.

There are children listed in the file, with their ages, and that makes me very uncomfortable indeed. Other people on the list are reporting receiving threats by email or by phone, and of course that can't be condoned. But then I do also find it difficult to have sympathy for people who are active members of a fascist political party.

We can't have racist people working as teachers, as doctors and nurses, as police officers and prison officers. Their attitudes would be way too likely to affect how they taught black kids, how they treated black patients, how they dealt with black offenders. I can totally understand the unions and employers being concerned - I would be, too, and hope they take action quickly and effectively.