LONDON - Police are investigating complaints about a British National Party (BNP) election leaflet depicting Polish people as monkeys campaigning for the Labor Party.
This is just one of several recent controversies involving the BNP, an assortment of neo-fascists, nationalists and xenophobes, whose members have been accused of verbal and physical attacks against ethnic and national minorities. (Since last week's machete murder of a British soldier by two Muslim radicals, the party has been particularly virulant in its anti-Islam rhetoric.)
BNP leader Nick Griffin, who is a member of the European Parliament, has already been convicted for distributing racially inflammatory material. Among other things, he is a known Holocaust denier, having once said that the Holocaust was “the hoax of the 20th century,” and that “the ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter day witch-hysteria."
But the far-right party seems to have a particular obsession with natives and descendants of Poland. The latest BNP flyers were distributed in the streets of Maryport, Cumbria County in Northwest England, the region that elected Griffin to the European Parliament in 2009. Cumbria County is the third largest county in England and Wales, with a population of just under half a million people.
“Our kids’ houses...”
The flyer says Poles are being paid small amounts of cash to deliver Labor Party leaflets. In a variation of its usual slogan, “British Jobs for British Workers,” the BNP flyer says: “Labor has given the Poles our kids’ houses,” referring to social housing allocated by local authorities.
Barbara Cannon, the Labor Party representative in Allerdale, the borough where Maryport is located, notified the police about the leaflet. "I do not want Poles to think they are not welcome in our region," she said.
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The Cumbria police confirmed they were investigating the complaint but had not made any arrests.
When prompted by Gazeta Wyborcza, BNP spokesman Simon Darby denied the leaflets existed and said that the depiction of a monkey in election material was not a hate campaign against Poles, but only a reference to the English proverb: “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” The BNP alleges the Labor Party hired Polish canvassers to distribute election flyers on the cheap.
"The leaflet was not racist, because we have very similar roots and would gladly change 500,000 Muslims for 500,000 Poles," Darby told us. "Mass immigration into the UK is not the fault of Poles but the fault of British politicians, who stopped taking care of British citizens," he added.
He went on to say that "Poles who agree to work overtime without overtime pay are taking jobs away from British people."
“New tactics doubled our vote”
Polish embassy spokesman in London, Robert Szaniawski, called the BNP flyers a “scandal.”
"This is not how you treat national minorities in civilized countries," he said. The Polish embassy said that they would decide what steps they would take against the nationalists after reviewing the matter.
The BNP’s anti-Polish campaign did not help it win the Cumbria local elections. That didn’t stop Griffin from tweeting: New BNP tactics tested in Maryport more than doubled our vote to 40%.
New BNP tactics tested in Maryport more than doubled our vote to 40%. #byebyebnp ? Jog on
— Nick Griffin MEP (@nickgriffinmep) May 3, 2013
The Cumbria incident is not the BNP’s first attack on Poles. In 2009, they launched an anti-immigration called “The Battle for Britain,” which was largely directed against Polish immigrants. The poster of the campaign was illustrated by a picture of a Polish World War II Spitfire.
However experts identified the plane as being flown by the Royal Air Force 303 Squadron, made up of expatriate Poles rescued from France before the Nazi occupation. Furthermore, thanks to a “Donald Duck” painted on its cockpit, the pilot of the plane was identified as Polish war hero Jan Zumbach, who shot down eight enemy planes during the Battle of Britain in 1940.