Stories reach the Common Man of negotiations at a high level between the BNP and UKIP. Of scurrilous e-mails from anonymous sources being sent to the membership. Of shenanigans in the MEP selection process. Of attempts to rig NEC elections to favour certain candidates. Of tapes of NEC meetings.
UKIP 2009? No, UKIP 2004, when almost the same scenario was played out. On the BNP team, the players were the same: BNP leader Nick Griffin and his motley band of convicted criminals and failed businessmen. On the UKIP team at that time were BNP mole Andrew Edwards, standing in for Greg Lance-Watkins, and the Abbott/Edmonds double act of their day, Damien Hockney and John De Rook. UKIP substitutes included one-time Yorkshire chairman Michael Cassidy-Scutts, Tory agitator Martin Cole and the BNP treasurer, John Brayshaw, parachuted into a defunct UKIP branch in Yorkshire as chairman to lend credence to the plays. The BNP's gameplan? Exactly the same as this time around: an e-mail campaign calling for truth, honesty and integrity, which accuses the entire leadership of more debauchery than Nero's court, culminating in an attempt to fiddle a list of BNP sympathisers, self-promoters and 'don't care who helps as long as we win' want-to-be's to the top of MEP lists and onto the NEC.
Luckily in 2004, the plan was forestalled at the last minute. The Common Man hears that Hockney managed to suppress the details by issuing a writ for libel, despite using in his writ extracts from a tape of the NEC meeting where the plot was exposed. The same tape would have defeated his own libel action, because it was clear that the presenters of the NEC report into the affair (then chairman David Lott and then communications director Mark Croucher) did not accuse him of direct links to the BNP, only of being so desperate to gain control of the party that he didn't care who was helping him. Edwards was thrown out of UKIP, as was Brayshaw, Cassidy-Scutts left, and Cole disappeared without trace once his usefulness to the Tories in heading off a UKIP advance ceased. Interestingly, Cole had worked with Alan Duncan MP at the time his oil brokerage was breaking UN sanctions by selling oil to Yugoslavia. The involvement of senior UKIP members was hushed up by the terms of the politically expedient settlement of the libel action.
The present day play bears an uncanny similarity to the 5 year old one. This time, Mr Lance-Watkins' is the Mr Edwards, with his wide ranging leaks of NEC material supplied by Misters- Abbott and -Edmonds. In a refinement of the BNP gameplan, which made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in originality, long term infiltrators such as John West and Martin Harvey were used to lend credence to the idea that there was a problem with the MEP selection process. On this foundation, Lance-Watkins used his extensive e-mail database, built up over many years interference in UKIP's internal affairs, to sow the same rumours that were used 5 years ago without success, all leading to the appearance of Buster Mottram at UKIP's NEC meeting yesterday. Mottram was brought along by Martin Haslam, UKIP deputy treasurer, to defend himself against charges of leaking information to the press, and admittance for Mottram was gained by Misters- Abbott and -Edmonds using this pretext. The trio then sat back and waited for the show to begin, having all been party, with Mr Lance-Watkins, to the negotiations. Following earlier experience, both Abbott and Edmonds taped the meeting, and immediately provided the tapes to Lance-Watkins.
The BNP's offer was straightforward: ditch UKIP Leader Farage, and enter an electoral pact, splitting the country between the two parties. In 2004, it was the same except that the condition was to ditch then UKIP Leader Roger Knapman. Then, the new leader would have been Damien Hockney with Mr De Rook as deputy, while the current plan would have seen Mr Edmonds heading up the remains of the party, with Mr Abbott as deputy.
It all began to fall apart when Mr Lance-Watkins proved unable once again to keep quiet over the details and insisted on issuing an ultimatum at the end of the previous week. In 2004, the end was very similar when Mr Edwards was caught out in a similar way over John Brayshaw, allowing UKIP to expel them both before the trap could be sprung. It is there that the similarites end, unfortunately. This time, the BNP did have negotiations with senior UKIP figures in the persons of Misters- Abbott and -Edmonds, and all those involved were aware of the others and exactly what their game plan was. The ad-hoc nature of 2004 was replaced by a much more determined approach with a concerted plan which, even though based on the earlier version, shows that even the BNP can learn from their past mistakes. The branch chairmen and ordinary members who fell for it this time were as always in BNP plans expendable cannon fodder and useful fools. The real changes were at the top. In 2004, Mssrs Hockney and De Rook were simply used because they displayed enough naked ambition to not care where their help was coming from. This time, the senior UKIP people were already closely linked to the BNP, and were made aware of the other BNP pieces in play to avoid repetition of earlier mistakes.
Although the BNP appear the losers they have not really lost that much. Abbott and Edmonds were about to be expelled as details of the negotiations surfaced over the previous week or so, while Lance-Watkins BNP links have become increasingly obvious in recent months to the point where even his supporters are distancing themselves from him. The trick for the BNP now as in 2004 is to try and turn the cleaning up process around, and make the subsequent expulsions from UKIP of those who were involved in the negotiations seem unfair and a part of a wider witch-hunt. If the game continues to play as it did in 2004, UKIP members will see through such troublemaking.