The British National Party and the Holocaust

The far-right party admits that it is a tricky subject for candidates.

The British National Party, whose leader, Nick Griffin, is standing for parliament in Barking, has made great efforts to present itself as a legitimate political organisation. But what other party would give media training to its election candidates on how to avoid questions about the Holocaust?

Alby Walker, a former BNP councillor in Stoke-on-Trent who is now sitting as an independent, has told the New Statesman that he received the training before last year's elections for the European Parliament. "We were given advice on answers and the kind of questions you'd be asked. BNP candidates had previously been tripped up by questions about the Holocaust."

The training consisted of practice interviews with a panel of three party officials, Walker said. "For example, they would tell us to say there wasn't just one Holocaust but that there were left-wing ones, too. Or [to say]: 'Yes, it was a terrible thing that happened, but it's not relevant to the modern day.' "

When asked by the New Statesman about Walker's claims, the BNP leader Nick Griffin initially dismissed them as "lies" and said: "We have media training on a whole range of subjects." But, asked if that training specifically covered the Holocaust, he admitted: "That subject does come up, yes."

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "The Holocaust is a historical fact, and if it has any relevance to the current election, it is as a stark reminder of where bigotry and intolerance can lead. Perhaps that explains the discomfort some politicians feel in talking about it."

You can read a full report on the BNP's election campaign in Barking in tomorrow's New Statesman.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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