BNP to consider admitting non-whites

LONDON (Reuters) - The far-right British National Party (BNP) agreed on Thursday to ask its members to amend its constitution to allow non-whites to join, in a bid to fend off court action from equality campaigners.

British National Party (BNP) leader and Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Nick Griffin poses for photographers inside the Kimberley hotel, where his party are holding a victory celebration following their success in the recent European Parliamentary elections, in Blackpool, northern England June 20, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble

The Equality and Human Rights Commission launched legal action against the BNP earlier this year, arguing the party’s exclusion of potential members on ethnic grounds broke the Race Relations Act.

BNP leader Nick Griffin had warned the party faced potentially crippling legal bills if it fought the case, and the commission said he had now accepted its demands to change the party’s stance on membership.

Under an order issued at Central London Court, the BNP agreed “to use all reasonable endeavours to revise its constitution so that it does not discriminate ... on any ‘protected characteristic’ -- for example on the grounds of race, ethnic or religious status.”

“We are pleased that the party has conceded this case and agreed to all of the commission’s requirements,” said John Wadham, the commission’s legal director.

“Political parties, like any other organisation, are obliged to respect the law and not discriminate against people.”

The BNP, which campaigns for a halt to immigration, voluntary repatriation of immigrants and Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, has no seats at Westminster.

However its popularity has grown in recent years and it now boasts a number of local councillors and in June enjoyed its greatest electoral success when it won two seats to the European Parliament.

“We have got to comply if we want to stay in the game,” a BNP spokesman told the BBC.

“Of course it’s not right,” he said of the court case. “It’s an infringement of our rights.”

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison